WASKATENAU, Alta. — An Alberta horse that was rescued from a sewage pit has died, but its owner says she's thankful she was able to clean the animal off and be with him during his final moments.
"I was so glad my horse did not die in that hole," said Lynn Danyluk, in an interview Sunday from her home in Waskatenau, north of Edmonton.
"I would always have thought that somebody stole him or a cougar got him."
The horse, a 17-year-old Morgan stud named Digger, died early Sunday morning in Danyluk's yard where he had been recuperating after being hoisted from the pit Friday.
Danyluk said Digger was usually a therapy horse. She agreed to loan him and another horse, Chocolate Thunder, to a family with an overgrown farmyard with the idea they would munch on the grass. She said she thought everything was fine until she got a call Wednesday that Digger had escaped from his pen and hadn't been seen in three days.
For the next two days she drove around looking for Digger and was so worried that she couldn't eat or sleep. Digger, whose registered name was Sir William Barr, wasn't a horse that wandered, she said, and always liked to be near his friend, Chocolate Thunder.
Danyluk said she kept returning to the farmyard to see if Digger returned, and to reassure Chocolate Thunder.
"I pet Chocolate on the top of the head and I basically said, 'I don't know buddy, we're still trying to find him. He's got to be somewhere.' All of a sudden, a horse nickered, very coarse. And I knew it wasn't Chocolate Thunder because I was standing right at his head and he didn't nicker. I thought, 'Oh my god he's got to be here somewhere!'" she said.
Danyluk ran in the direction where she'd heard the horse crying out and saw the hole, which she said was a septic tank overflow pit. She looked down and could see the top of Digger's head and his back. She called to him and he looked up, but the animal was so exhausted he could barely keep his mouth and nose out of the liquid.
She said the hole had been covered with boards, but Digger had fallen through and had likely been standing, stuck in the muck, for five days.
Firefighters showed up, along with a vet, friends and a backhoe. Then someone arrived with equipment to safely lift a horse and Digger was hoisted from the festering hole. The vet administered an IV and penicillin, and when Digger was able to stand again, he rode in a trailer along with Chocolate Thunder to Danyluk's home.
Danyluk said the following day, Digger appeared to return to his old self.
Digger ate and drank, but Danyluk said when he lay down to sleep, his feet would start paddling and he'd crane his neck, like he was dreaming he was still in the sewage.
Then Danyluk said he got up like he was in a trance. He was trying to lean on everything and fell onto a patio swing set.
Danyluk said her husband took the swing apart from underneath Digger and the horse lay on the cushions. She called her vet, who told her to get Digger somewhere safe where he wouldn't hurt himself or anyone else.
Their trailer was large so they planned to lead him there as soon as Digger got another burst of energy. But it never came, and early Sunday Digger moved off the cushions and lay down one more time.
"We were petting his neck at 2 a.m. He took two deep breaths and his body quivered and he quit."
Danyluk said she's never cremated one of her animals before, but plans to do so for Digger.
"I had Digger since he was three months old. He was a rare horse — he had golden eyes," she said.
"He was a very important horse to us."
The Canadian Press