In Honor of Dolly

By October 25, 2018News

Our dear Dolly, who is 29 years old (soon to be 30) has been experiencing a decline in her health this year, which has recently turned more serious. Due to the serious nature of her recent diagnoses, the Agape team has come together and unanimously agreed that the kindest thing we can do for her is to humanely euthanize Dolly.  If you would like to read more about her condition, you may do so in the section below.

It is never easy when we lose one of our horses but it is much more difficult when it is a horse who has been here for so long and in many ways is irreplaceable. We all know that this is difficult to process, especially for a horse as dearly beloved as Dolly. She is one of those special horses that has served our community faithfully with her many gifts. Dolly has been part of our team for eight years, but it seems like a lifetime. She joined the Agape herd on Oct. 5, 2010, and has been faithfully providing joy and hope to everyone around her ever since. Dolly is a beautiful buckskin mare with dapples that shine in her coat and the most stunning hazel eyes. She is kind and patient and a favorite among participants, volunteers, and staff. That is because she is unflappable in nearly any situation, and so willing to please everyone who works with her. Volunteers have often shared stories about a stressful situation with a rider where any other horse would have been frightened and prone to spooking. But not Dolly. Never Dolly. This steadfast Quarter Horse would always stand stock still, never moving a muscle or flinching, and wait for the situation to pass. It was as if she knew that her calmness in the moment would be the anchor that kept everyone safe.

Words that we often hear describing Dolly are words like, “Calm, patient, strong but gentle, beautiful, and intuitive.” And these traits could not be more true about her. She is full of grace and beauty – power and patience – strength and stability. When someone has experienced pain, fear, or anxiety because of circumstances in life, Dolly has been…

Calm to the chaos

Space and pause for the sadness

Ease to the anxiety

Stability to the unpredictable and unbalanced

So how do you measure the gifts of a horse like Dolly? The greatness of her service and life? It is not easy to quantify but it is easy to feel. We want to take time to celebrate and cherish Dolly for the legacy she is leaving with Agape and we invite you to join us in cherishing her as one of the greatest gifts to Agape and to countless lives. To begin, we welcome you to leave your memories here in the comments section.

Additionally, we will have designated times for you to come visit Dolly, share your memories with her, and give her your love. She will be in her stall, with the back dutch door open so that you may touch her and stroke her. Dolly’s stall will also be decorated and we encourage everyone to leave notes about their favorite memories with Dolly.

  • Friday, Oct. 26 from 9:30 am to 11:00 am
  • Saturday, Oct. 27 from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm
  • Monday, Oct. 29 from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm
  • Tuesday, Oct. 30 from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm

After these times conclude, the team will gather around Dolly and stay with her until the very end, providing her the greatest love and comfort. Something Dolly truly deserved for her service to so many lives over the years. Janssen’s Veterinary Clinic will perform this service with the utmost care and dignity to ensure Dolly passes peacefully. They have supported us in every step of these diagnoses and decision, and continue to do so as we lay her to rest.

Our deepest thanks…

We want to thank you- our families, partners, volunteers, and champions- for making the last 8 years of Dolly’s life one of steadfast service and grace. Thank you for trusting us to care for her so that she could care for you. Thank you for being a part of Agape and allowing her the opportunity to teach you about patience, grace, contentment, peace, and stability. Thank you for being a part of her story – one that is now woven in your story, my story, Agape’s story. I know for me, and for all of us at Agape, the chapters of our story with Dolly are a rare and treasured gift from God that will be written on our hearts forever.

More about Dolly’s Condition…

Making the decision to humanely euthanize an equine team member is never an easy decision. In many cases, this decision is made because of a traumatic event that leaves only one clear resolution. In Dolly’s case, however, it was the sum of many things. At nearly 30 years old she has reached an age when health issues will compound and be difficult to overcome. We have been working together as a team to consider the right time to retire Dolly since spring, and we have reduced her workload and lowered her weight limits this year to ease her in that direction. However, in September, Dolly tripped and fell in classes twice. At that time we pulled her from riding classes and set a vet appointment to evaluate her condition. We expected to learn the arthritis in her legs was progressing. The vet did confirm this, but more concerning was her decreased range of motion in her neck. A horse requires full range of motion in their neck to reach pesky bugs and to communicate with other horses, but most importantly to balance and to feel safe. When a horse has drastically reduced range of motion, such as Dolly has, they are unable to rebalance themselves when they trip, they have difficulty getting up and down, and they experience a chronic, low-grade level of inflammation and discomfort. With this diagnosis, we knew Dolly would need to retire very soon and we were beginning to make plans to this end. However, before we could come together as a team to discuss her retirement options, Dolly experienced another health event. On Monday morning, October 22, Dolly laid down three times in less than an hour. This is unusual behavior for her or for any horse. Additionally, she struggled a great deal to get up. When she laid down the third time she experienced a seizure. We caught this episode on video and shared it with our vet, and they confirmed that it was indeed a seizure. They came out that morning, evaluated her condition, and drew blood to run some tests. They also gave Dolly a dose of Diazepam, a drug that can help animals recover from a seizure episode. Even with this drug in her system she struggled to recover from the seizure, falling down again while the vet was evaluating her.

Witnessing her struggle with the seizure, and piecing that together with her other health struggles, we felt that the kindest, most responsible choice for Dolly would be humane euthanasia. Her arthritis and reduced range of motion in her neck made it difficult and uncomfortable to lay down, get up, and protect herself. Stress and changes to routine can induce more seizures, causing her great harm and putting those around her in jeopardy. When we considered all of this we each realized that the best way we could honor Dolly was to surround her with our love in a familiar environment and lay her to rest here in her home.


  • Leigh Anne Downes says:

    My heart breaks for everyone who loved Dolly and those Dolly loved back. It’s such a sadness when a beloved team member can no longer perform her dutie but even greater when you know she won’t get better. My love and prayers to everyone

  • Rhonda Parr says:

    I’ve heard of Wonderful Dolly via my farrier, Cody. Such a horse with heart, a golden heart. Thank you Dolly and all who love you and support you.
    Rest In Peace. You will live on in the memories and hearts of many. To a life well lived.

  • Susan Kauffman says:

    Unfortunately I never got to meet Dolly, but my son did. It is with a very heavy heart that we say goodbye to Dolly. Rest in peace.

  • Keri Whitaker says:

    Dolly’s tribute was nicely written. I was only able to volunteer for a short time, but I was lucky to get to work with Dolly. It was “love at first sight”. She had all the qualities to make her a huge asset to Agape and to all that knew her. She will be missed by so many. I will miss her….

  • Cathy Gluntz says:

    We are deeply saddened with you at the news of Dolly’s condition and need to be laid to rest. Our son Noah was first paired with Dolly when he began riding lessons at Agape in September of 2014. They were a great team, and he really loved her. She truly was calm and gentle; predictably so. Although Noah loved riding, there was always the possibility that he would have a seizure, so Dolly was the girl to make that as safe a scenario as possible. When Dolly moved up to Cicero, he really missed her, but also understood that she had other work to do to be companion to another horse who was needed there. He adjusted well, but Dolly was always his first love.

    We have since moved away and are so sad that we cannot come by to express our love personally, but we are praying for the entire Agape family as everyone processes this very difficult time.

  • Deb Schleutker says:

    As a volunteer for Agape the last 4 years, and learning so much about horses, I’ve never been able to say “My favorite horse is…”, but Dolly was truly a favorite with everyone…all the volunteers, riders, staff, and even all the other horses. I feel privileged and will always be grateful for the opportunities and memories of you, so well described…”Calm to the chaos, Space and pause for the sadness, Ease to the anxiety, and Stability to the unpredictable and unbalanced”…your spirit will live on in the barn.

  • Shelly Siek says:

    I am so sorry guys. I know it’s been a while since I have served at Agape but the loss still stings. I did not work with Dolly as much as others did but she was still a favorite of mine. Just watching her from across the barn, in the ring, or in the pasture, she was always poised and ready. I hope you all can find some comfort in the fact that she had not already gone on to retirement elsewhere. As hard as this is for the staff, I’m glad she will spend her last few days being loved on by people she knows. Blessings to All!

  • Lauren Kalvaitis says:

    Oh Dolly…how I miss you so and learned so much from you while I was going through my teaching hours. I remember one particular time where a kid tried to get off and got stuck and she just stood there til he was safe.

  • Deb Usher says:

    I have been a part of the Agape family for 16 years, first as a volunteer and as an instructor for the last 12 of those years. I have learned from each of the horses who have come and gone through the years. We have been fortunate to partner with a wide variety of horse breeds with varying histories prior to joining our team.When Dolly first arrived for her trial period, I was very doubtful that she was an appropriate candidate for the job. She initially spooked quite easily and appeared very worried during the daily routines. School busses arriving would send her into a panic. Being the last one in the arena would cause her to nearly drag her leaders out by the lead rope.
    With time, patience and training, she became the model therapeutic riding horse we now honor. As she grew to trust her team, she adapted exceptionally well and became the wonderful partner that we have all grown to love. Perhaps her early concerns were based on her sensitivity to others. As she grew to understand her role, her intuition allowed her to give wings to many who wanted to ride independently. She has provided comfort to many who need to tell their stories in her ear. For students who required slow and safe rides with extra support, she moved carefully to provide stability for their bodies. Thank you Dolly for your unconditional love.
    We will miss you!

  • Kathryn Wolfert says:

    I’ve been a volunteer with Agape for the past three years, and I am deeply saddened by Dolly’s condition. She has brought so much comfort and solance to both volunteers and students alike in her time, and I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to learn from her. She is one of the most attentive, gentle, and patient horses I’ve ever encountered, and I’ll miss her greatly.

  • Chris Douglas says:

    To honor Dolly, I just wanted to said that it was awesome to be around her and also to work with her too but also I’m going to miss seeing her in the barn when I come in to volunteer as a Sidewalker or a horse Handler because she has been one tough girl ??❤.
    Chris Douglas

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