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This is Maisey.
She’s been on our radar in the pasture for many years. She’s a shy old girl, always on the skinny side.
Of all the horses in the pasture, she was the least powerful. Everyone picked on her. She was always at the edge of the herd-a loner. She’d hang out with the Golden Girls, but always on the outskirts. She knew us and would come round for hay cubes if she thought it was safe.
I constantly worried about her.
You know how I am!
Then this summer, something wonderful happened.
She found her own herd.
And not just any herd.
She became part of Amigo’s herd. The very same Amigo that was Bud’s best friend. Good old loyal, reliable Amigo. I was thrilled. After all these years, Maisey had a family. A good family. I think she had a great summer. The pasture was greener than I’ve ever seen it. And she wasn’t alone. She had a protector.
A couple of weeks ago we noticed that Maisey wasn’t in Amigo’s little herd. We searched the pasture, but couldn’t see her. I asked Amigo, but he had nothing to say. Later we learned that Maisey had been shipped to the east coast to be with the girl who owned her. Apparently she’d graduated from college and now wanted her horse with her.
That makes me really happy.
Goodby sweet Maisey.
Thank you for letting me get to know you and being part of my herd.
May you live out your last years fat, happy and smothered in love.
When we first decide to invite an animal into our life, it’s usually more impulse than conscious choice.
Oh sure, we may tell ourselves that we’ve thought it through, weighed the pros and cons, been reasonable about it, but in my experience that’s mostly a line of hooey. We are naïve to think anything else.
We animal lovers are suckers for a ball of fur stumbling across the floor to us on shaky, new legs.
One look into those big, wide eyes and we’re goners. We’re hardwired to react to eyes and faces, so don’t be tough on yourself, if you can relate to what I’m talking about.
Or point us to an animal in need–one that’s been abandoned or abused–and pros and cons fly out the window. All we can think about is rescuing the sweet thing and giving it a good, loving home.
Most of the time we fail to take into consideration the externals.
The hundreds of pounds of food you will run through your bank account and then lug into your house. The vet bills. Arranging for care if you ever want to take a vacation. The times you leave meetings or parties early because you need to get home to your animals. The hair on your clothing, the pile of toys in a basket in your living room, the poop scooping or litter box cleaning, the chewed up shoes or scratched furniture, the endless walks in inclement weather, early morning potty calls, late night potty calls, interrupted sleep, cleaning up accidents, grooming, and on.
And on. Be honest with me. Do you think of any of these when cuddling that adorable kitten or puppy?
I thought not.
Those may be the cons, and any reasonable person would agree that they are considerable, and worthy of second or even third thoughts before making the commitment to an animal.
But then there are the pros, which crush the externals into oblivion.
Because here’s what happens: You start out feeling enchanted with your new puppy or kitten. “Isn’t he adorable?” You ask everyone that you meet. “Want to see photos? I have them you know.” And then, you fall down the rabbit hole. With every day you love your animal more. They suck you in and then stick to your heart like they were super glued to you.
In a way, they are.
Professionals call it bonding, and it is powerful, powerful stuff.
We come to rely on our animals. They become our cherished companions, giving us something we humans yearn for with every fiber of our being: unconditional love. They don’t give a whit about what we look like, how much money we have, what we do for a living, what our spiritual beliefs are, our politics. They simply and utterly accept us for who they know us to be.
And that is healing salve to so many of us.
That tail-wagging greeter at the end of a hard day is pure magic. To have a purring cat snoozing on your lap is better than anything big pharma can concoct to alter your mood.
Our animals help us be better humans.
They require little of us, but the few things they do need, make us organize ourselves. We become routinized for them. We have to get out of our own buzzing heads long enough to remember to buy food, take them out for those walks, tend to their needs.
And if we’re lucky, they remind us about other very human traits that we sometimes forget.
Things like joy and playfulness; loyalty, commitment, tenderness, compassion, and trust. We learn about aging–how to go into that twilight time with grace and courage.
Then because their lives are much shorter than ours, they teach us about saying goodbye.
We learn about loss and grief when it’s time for them to leave us. We learn that even though it may feel like we are drowning in sadness, we will recover. We will swim to the other side of sadness and find that the sweet memories remain, and they sustain us.
What a gift that is!
Goodbye Bear and safe journey. Your people are missing you terribly right now. You were a much-loved part of their family.
If you get the chance, will you say hello to Bud when you see him? We’re thinking of him this week as the anniversary of his death is upon us. And thank you for walking Rebecca’s mom to the other side.
And you might give a tail wag to Pete Seeger. You left this earth in good company dear one.
Mitakuye Oyacin (Lakota)
“We are all related”
I’m finding that there is a big downside to loving other people’s horses.
For one thing I have little to no control over their wellbeing.
And for another, I’m out of the decision-making loop.
Owners feel no need to inform me of their plans. Most have no idea how crazy I am about their animals.
Others might just stop at the word crazy!
I’ve created a story about our two old sweeties and their Herd of Oldsters.
And I’ve brought you into their world.
But truthfully, the owners of the other horses have no idea.
They don’t know about this blog.
They don’t know about the Herd of Oldsters.
And yes, I do believe that a few of them think I am more than a little weird.
Early in the summer we noticed that our favorite bad boy Mustang wasn’t looking so good. Like our two, he’d had a rough winter. He’d lost weight and didn’t have his signature sparkle. He’s right around the same age as Bud, which means he’s twenty-nine years old. He’s definitely a senior citizen.
About two weeks ago we couldn’t find him. He didn’t come for snacks with the others. He wasn’t hanging out with his Oldster pals. We gave it a little time, thinking surely he was still around the pasture – that we just couldn’t see him.
But he wasn’t there.
We checked the barn and paddocks, thinking perhaps he’d been moved.
Red was gone.
There were no goodbyes. No opportunity for closure. Not a shred of information.
We still haven’t been able to find out what happened.
We desperately want to know that he’s okay.
Boarding fees are going up and maybe his owners felt the need to find a less expensive home for Red.
But who will tell his story?
Who will talk to him, and feed him snacks every day?
Not everyone sees his charm and magic.
Some may think he’s just a gnarly, old, over the hill Mustang.
His people are busy with young children. They don’t make it out to see him very often.
I worry that he is missing his friends, his herd.
I know this: I am better having known Red. He’s my first Mustang friend and it’s been a wonderful relationship.
Go with God you sweet old man. Thank you for being my friend. You will always have a place of honor in my heart.
You can be going along in your life completely oblivious to what may be lurking in the shadows – what may pop out in the neat blooms of your orderly life.
You may think you’re having a good day, a fine week and thank you very much, a dandy year.
Then grief creeps up behind you and completely unbidden, pokes you hard in the ribs. And announces, in a voice that can only be Jack Nicholson from the movie The Shining, “Here’s Grief.”
You’re not pleased.
“Hey, stop that,” you say in your most serious voice. “Stop poking me in the ribs. You’re making my chest hurt. Go away!”
Grief gives you a devilish grin and continues to poke with fingers that are long and pointy.
You walk away; find a new location.
You pick up your pace, hoping to outrun this annoying Grief.
It doesn’t work.
Grief matches you step for step.
You try not to think about it; you busy yourself with work.
Grief continues to poke at you.
Finally, exhausted, you turn and face Grief full on.
“What do you want of me?”
Grief retracts the pointing finger.
“I want you to stop running. I want you to acknowledge how you feel.”
Grief, it seems, has turned into Doctor Phil!
“Then you have to stop making my chest hurt.”
“No more poking?”
“And you’ll go away if I do this?”
“I’m already out the door.”
A Personal Note from Jean: Thank you for understanding my grief when I learned that Baby was gone. Talk about sneaky. I was blindsided by the depth of loss I felt.
I’m choosing to believe that Baby will draw the perfect people to her. She’s on a grand adventure.
And by the way, her real name is Skye.
I think you should know that.
If an animal doesn’t perform as expected: run fast enough, breed the right offspring, or win competitions, it is sold. Or sometimes put down.
For animal investors, it’s all about the money. You don’t keep paying to feed an animal that isn’t producing. It’s as simple as that.
While I have great respect for the art of business, I cannot be in any kind of animal business. My heart is much too soft. You’ve probably already figured that out if you’ve been reading this blog for any time at all.
Long ago my husband and I made a commitment to each other and our animals. We agreed that Bud and Pepper would live out their lives in familiar surroundings, with their herd. I know there are people who don’t understand this stance, or agree with it. But it is how we’ve chosen to be in relationship with these two wonderful animals.
It works for us.
For the last week I’ve noticed that Baby has been missing from the Herd of Oldsters. If you recall, she’s the little yearling that attached herself to Bud, Pepper, Red, Amigo and Chickadee. They became her family and provided protection when she was thrust into the large herd of young, aggressive horses. She was too young to fend for herself, so the Oldsters took care of her.
Love at First Sight
I fell for Baby in a big way. That first winter she was gangly, awkward, and totally endearing as she followed the other horses. She quickly learned that I was the snack lady and would nicker as she ran toward me. I loved that soft, throaty sound.
I only saw her people a couple of times, and frankly I didn’t like them much. The first time I commented how cute their little girl was, the young woman’s reply was, “I think she’s pretty ugly.” That ticked me off.
The second and last time I saw her was when she commented that she couldn’t figure out why Baby wanted to hang with the old horses. And that ticked me off even more.
Mostly Baby was left on her own. One other woman and I looked out for the now two-year-old. This was a hard winter for the horses, and Baby didn’t fare well. She was entirely too thin. As a young horse she needed much more nutrition than she was getting in the pasture.
Then she was gone.
A couple of days ago I saw the woman who was Baby’s other guardian angel and she filled me in. Baby’s owners were now in another state and planned to send her to auction. They weren’t all that invested in her day-to-day care and it showed. Baby was a little ragamuffin, but so darned lovable.
Apparently the people who run the boarding facility, took Baby into the barn for a few days to try to get some weight on her, but the plan backfired. She was so distressed to be away from her herd that she didn’t eat. They put her back with her friends for her last few days in Colorado.
That was the information that broke my heart. I keep thinking about how frightened she must be on that big truck, separated from her herd.
I sorted through my photos and put together this little slideshow, to help you remember this adorable little character.
And to help me grieve.
I hope you’ll join me in sending out a prayer that Baby finds a good home with people who recognize what a little diamond in the rough she is. This is a little horse that deserves to be loved.
Safe journey little girl…
|This free slideshow created with Smilebox|