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“Death ends a life, not a relationship.”

~Mitch Albom

Tuesdays with Morrie

Bud-and-Friends

One year later, we are able to remember our sweet old boy with gratitude for allowing us to share his time on this earth. Bud was a horse with a lot of friends.

As with most experiences of grief, it is the sweet memories of life that sustain us.

With fond memories of times past.

Gone but never forgotten.

Postcards From the Pasture

As you may recall, each Wednesday for a while I’m opening up our family photo albums to give you a peek at our lives with our two old sweeties.

Bath Time for Bud-PM

This picture was taken around 1993 – bath time for Bud (and Pepper behind him.)

And who is that handsome man?

Lucky me 🙂

It’s been six weeks since Bud, our sweet Appaloosa gelding died.

And now we’re coming up on his birthday. On Sunday he’d be thirty. Things have changed since his death. Things that I couldn’t expect.

For one, the Herd of Oldsters is different.

Amigo

Amigo

Earlier this week when I was out feeding Pepper, I had a conversation with one of Amigo’s peeps. She was brushing him down after a ride. She asked how the three of us were doing. I told her we were okay.

“The herd seems lost since Bud died,” she said.

I nodded.

“And I so often see Pepper by herself,” she added.

I nodded again.

“It’s as if they don’t know what to do without him.”

I agreed, a lump forming in my throat.

Grief is sneaky like that. One minute you’re fine and the next, you can’t speak.

She went on to tell me that she’s finding places on Amigo where he’s been kicked or bitten. “I think he’s trying to find a new friend,” she said.

I know it’s the horse way – all that power and posturing – but I don’t like it. I hate thinking that Bud’s best friend is getting beat up.

We stood for a moment or two, tending our horses and enjoying the silence.

“Bud was the glue,” she said. “He held the herd together.”

“I think you’re right,” I said.

This surprised me, but in hindsight I know it to be true. That sweet old Appy was the alpha horse in the Herd of Oldsters. And with him gone, they are struggling to re-group. They will figure it out. I’m confident of that. A new leader will emerge.

It got me thinking though about my own glue.

Who is it that holds me together? How do I re-group when the world seems to be nibbling pieces of me until I’ve lost my center? We all have times when we could benefit from a little glue.

Or a lot of glue!

My glue usually consists of spending time with friends and family. I have a core group of “glue dispensers”. I also find that certain routines help put me back together when I’m feeling like Humpty Dumpty.

One thing I’ve learned as a mosaicist is that all glues are not created equal.

You must find the right glue for each project. And if I may extend the metaphor a little, I think it’s true for us as well. I have many people in my life who each provide a unique kind of glue for me. And there are many activities/routines that offer the same gathering up of my assorted pieces and parts and holding them together.

The key is finding the right glue for the right time.

I would never have thought of it in this way, without my conversation about Bud being the glue in the Herd of Oldsters. I love it that he continues to be one of my teachers.

So I offer this question to you as well: Who’s your glue?

P.S. I’ll be lighting a candle for Bud on Sunday. A few years ago, I acquired a special memory candle for birthdays and other special occasions, to honor those who are no longer with us. It has become a meaningful tradition for me. One tiny way to be mindful.

Happy Birthday Bud!

Bud-Rick-1

One of the true gifts of sharing your life with an animal is the way they model for you how to be present to your own life.

Animals are masters at living in the moment.

They aren’t multi-tasking, or making to-do lists, or missing out on a glorious sunset because they’re replaying that conversation with the boss. They are front and center for the sunset, the freezing wind, the fresh green grass, the herd politics – front and center for their lives.

Their here and now, in the moment, all -we- have, lives.

 

Over the years that I’ve spent with our two old sweeties and their pals, the Herd of Oldsters, I’ve noticed that when I simply allow myself to be with the horses at the pasture and let go of everything else that usually clutters my mind, I come away more grounded, more relaxed, and more present to the rest of my life that day.

It’s a powerful experience.

And one for which I am so very grateful to have had these two wise old teachers.

 

Bud-Rick-2

Rick and I have done our darndest to be with our animals and have no regrets.

So now as we look back at Bud’s life, we are able to say, “Yes. There are no regrets.”

And I’m telling you, it feels good.

We did right by him. Took good care of him. Let him be a horse.

We’re big fans of pasture living for horses and for the majority of his life, we gave that opportunity to Bud. He got to graze when he wanted, spend his time in a herd, cavort and run, feel the wind in his face. And yes, he ran into some unpleasant situations now and then, but that’s the life of horses in the wild. And that’s what we wanted for him.

 

So no regrets.

And now as we close this chapter of our time with Bud, we comfort ourselves with the thousands of wonderful memories we have.

He was a horse of great heart – all try. He had that Appaloosa stubborn streak that worked both for and against him at times. But he was the one we trusted to give a first ride to toddlers and new wary riders because he was steady and sure. He was as “bomb proof” as any horse can be.

 

Rick and Bud had a special bond. Rick could always comfort him, calm him, help him settle when he needed to. And I think he did the same for Rick.

Bud-Rick-3

Even at the end, when Rick arrived and knelt beside him, Bud relaxed. He died with his head in Rick’s lap.

No regrets.

 

Farewell sweet boy. May you spend the rest of your days with the wind in your face, the sun on your back in a pasture of knee-high sweet green grass.

 

We are all better having known you.

Bud-Pepper

Some years ago our young friend Bryn was accompanying us to see Bud and Pepper. I don’t remember exactly how old she was, but somewhere around eight or nine. In the car on the drive she posed this question to us:

“Are Bud and Pepper married or just living together?”

It surprised us a little and we weren’t sure how to best respond.  After an awkward moment I got my wits about me. “Horses aren’t like people,” I said. “They don’t get married.”

“Oh,” she replied, completely satisfied with my answer.

I think Rick was majorly relieved that he wasn’t going to have to explain even the tiniest version of the birds and the bees. Even if it was just the horse version!

In truth though, we’ve thought of Bud and Pepper as being married.

With my proclivity to give human traits to animals, (I’m sure you’ve noticed!) it was an easy assumption. They’ve been together since 1991, when we added Miss P. to our family. Twenty two years is a long time for any couple to be together these days.

For the most part, they were a herd of two.

I remember when Bud was in training for the Northern Colorado Mounted Patrol. An all day Saturday event was held at the same facility where Bud and Pepper lived at the time. Rick took Bud out early in the morning, leaving Pepper to pace the paddock until he returned.

It was a long day for our Bud, loaded with many stressful events. He had to endure having bicycles rolled toward him, hear firecrackers explode around him, keep his cool even with all kinds of noise and uproar going on. He passed all the tests with flying colors, but at the end of the day, he was one worn out Appy.

When we returned him to the paddock where he was living with Pepper, she greeted him with a nose nudge. And then Bud collapsed on the ground, too tired to do anything but take a nap. And Pepper settled in right beside him on the ground. It was clear she’d spent the day worrying about him and was just as tired.

Providing Comfort

Pepper provided Bud’s security, especially as they got older. We wouldn’t dream of doing work on Bud with our farrier or vet without Pepper accompanying him.

She kept him calm.

In many ways, it was a good thing that Bud left us first. We’re not sure how he would have done without Pepper.

They were like eggs and bacon, salt and pepper, peas and carrots – they just went together. Oh sure, there were a few dalliances. Those of you reading the blog for a while know that Miss P. is  a bit of a flirt. She’s had her boyfriends, but has always returned to Bud.

And he always accepted her.

Loved her really.

Sometimes Bud would nose into Pepper’s feedpan. And without fail, she’d get a little huffy and walk away, not the least bit interested in sharing. On the other hand, when she might stick her nose into Bud’s feedpan, he would scoot over and allow her to eat with him. Ever the gentleman, our Bud.

On this Valentine’s Day I’m remembering these two sweet horses and what they taught me about love and being in a committed relationship.

And my wish for you is a relationship that is as safe, trustworthy, dependable, and loving as that of our two old sweeties.

Hug someone special today.

Tell them you love them.

Be grateful to have them in your life.

It goes fast.

Bud at two weeks.

Bud at two weeks.

For the first five years of his life, Bud lived with a buffalo. He actually thought he was a buffalo, though it was more like the children’s story, The Ugly Duckling.

You see Bud wasn’t a very good buffalo.

He was built wrong. He had no huge shaggy head, no massive coat of fur, no barrel-chested physique. He wasn’t the right color either. And then there were those spots. There was no such thing as an Appaloosa buffalo.

He didn’t fit in, and yet, in his horse way, he thought this was who he was.

 

So when Rick adopted him, beginning a friendship that lasted a quarter of a century, Bud had some hard lessons. He was put into a small herd of horses.

Friendly horses really, but horses all the same.

And there are rules about herd behavior – dominance and survival of the fittest and all that.

In the beginning, Bud got the you-know-what kicked out of him. The current herd boss ran him around until he was exhausted and wishing he could go back to his buffalo friends.

A handsome five-year-old.

A handsome five-year-old.

 

Then something happened.

Bud figured out that he was bigger, younger and stronger than the horse that was chasing him.

Big lightbulb moment for Bud and not such a great moment for the other horse.

All of a sudden, the tables were turned.

While I wasn’t there, (this was BJ in Rick’s life – Before Jean) I can imagine it was quite a sight – our Bud coming into the fullness of who he was. He quickly established dominance and led that small herd. He went on to be the herd leader in several other places where he lived. He and Pepper made quite the royal pair as the two dominant horses.

 

There is something important here for me, a lesson I sometimes forget.

Grab onto life with everything you’ve got.

And remember that the people (or horses) you surround yourself with will influence you. So we better pick the good ones; the ones that help us be gloriously who we are.

There’s so little time to waste trying to be a buffalo, when what you are is one big-hearted, strong, amazing Appaloosa.

 

Be you. It’s the only one there is in this world. And we need you!

Friend-to-the-end

Bud and Amigo were friends.

Pasture pals.

Good buddies.

Guy friends.

They usually hung out together in the pasture.

Where one was, you’d find the other close by.

 

So last week when I walked into the pasture to find Bud in distress on the ground, unable to get up, I also found Amigo close to him. All the horses of the herd, not just the Oldsters were loosely organized in a large circle around Bud, watching.

Pepper and her friend Chickadee, eyes laser focused toward Bud, but from a slight distance.

It was Amigo who remained by Bud’s side.

He and Rick tended their old friend,

Offered comfort

Offered love.

 

I took Pepper in to feed her while we waited for our vet to arrive.

At that point, some of the other horses let go of their vigil.

But not Amigo.

He stayed.

And stayed until our vet was able to get Bud on his feet so that Rick could walk him in.

Amigo was the escort.

He stood at the gate and watched.

By and by all the other horses returned, gathering at the fenceline.

They stood, ears pricked, faces alert, muscles tense.

And they stayed until Bud took his last breath.

Only then did they disperse.

And finally Amigo too walked away,

knowing somehow that he’d done all he could.

He’d lived up to his name – a friend to the end.

“Grief shared is half grief; joy shared is double joy.”

~Honduran Proverb

Bud-icy-gate

One of my favorite photos of Bud. Peeking out through the gate on an icy afternoon.

Dear Blog Friends,

Your kindness and support for us as we deal with the death of our sweet Bud has been wonderful and so very touching.

When I began this journey of blogging nearly three years ago, I had no idea what this community would come to mean to me.

But we have become a family of sorts in this newfangled digital world.  And it’s a family I treasure.

Thank you for your comments, your warm wishes and your love of animals.

Thank you for taking our two old sweeties and their pals, the Herd of Oldsters, into your lives and hearts. Thank you for laughing with us and crying with us.

Thank you!

 

Choosing to welcome an animal into our lives means that at some deep level we know that sooner or later we will lose them. It’s not a  thought that’s out there front and center, but it’s there.

We know.

Each and every one of us knows that change is a part of life.

It doesn’t make our love any less sweet. In fact, it probably makes it sweeter, this knowing that our time together has an endgame. I’m not suggesting that we dwell on it, or grasp and clutch at life. Knowing is enough I think.

And in between those moments of beginning and ending are such glorious experiences. Animals help us become more human, if that’s possible.

They help us learn to experience joy in it’s purest form.

They help us learn to love unconditionally.

They give us so many opportunities to revel in the beauty and wonder of life.

They teach us to live in the moment and appreciate each other.

They teach us to laugh and not take ourselves so seriously.

They teach us to extend ourselves past our familiar comfort zones.

And at last, they teach us to befriend our grief. We learn that grief doesn’t kill us; that we will get through it. And that life awaits when we’re ready to step back into the flow.

And that my friends, is the most amazing gift of all.

 

If you’ll indulge me, I’m going to spend this week, sharing stories and favorite photos of Bud. I’ve been looking through photographs, and Rick and I have been laughing and talking as we remember our life with this sweetest of beings.

 

Thank you again and many blessings to you for being here with us.

 

Jean, Rick and Miss P.

Goodbye Bud

 

Duffs Real Luck

AKA “Bud”

March 24, 1983 – February 7, 2013

We have no words right now except goodbye.

To our sweet boy and most wonderful companion: We miss you already!

With great love,

Jean, Rick and Pepper

Bud-new-shoes-4

Bud has brand spanking new shoes.

Doesn’t he look sharp in his black coat and new black shoes?

Bud-new-shoes-1

These gel-cushioned Soft Ride Boots have made a remarkable difference in Bud’s feet. The bruising is healing and (crossing fingers here) there are no new abscesses. We’re sighing deep exhalations of relief because around Thanksgiving time we thought sure he was on his last legs.

Literally.

Of course a few “issues” still remain.

Bud-new-shoes-2

With his feet enclosed in these shoes all the time, he’s developed some kind of infection on the frog (v-shaped section on the underside) of his hoof. Our vet suggested spritzing on Clorox every day, which of course, we’re doing.

Oh the things we do for our animals!

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done for your animals?

I know there’s something.

So come on, fess up.

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