Monday, June 20, 2011

Long Term Relationships

Our neighbor and friend Connie had to put her sweet old horse Skip down over the weekend. Skip was 30 years old, and got down on the ground and couldn't get back up. Connie had owned him since he was a baby, and loved him dearly. I know that Skip lived a long, good life, and yet, that really isn't a good consolation in the immediate time after his passing. It is devastating to lose a horse that you have had that long, no matter how great they had it while they were alive. Knowing that putting them down is the right thing to do isn't a consolation either; they are still absent from your life and the pasture. Even in their old age, it is comforting to look outside and see them standing there, nibbling grass or napping in the sun, or go out and scratch them, and give them kisses.

The fear and anticipation of losing one of my own old horses isn't far from my mind ever. My Jake will turn 33 in July, Jazz is 28, Brandy is 25 and Bam Bam is 20. Obviously, you can lose a horse at any age, but the likelihood of health problems goes up significantly after the age of 20. How does a person prepare their heart and soul to face the loss? I am trying to figure this out. I want to take comfort in the fact that we take good care of them, that they could all easily live well into their 30s, and that they have had so much love while in my care. But the fact remains; I will have to say good bye. I may have to make a tough decision to put them out of misery. I will have to explain to my kids what happened to them. I will wake up one morning to a pasture that looks empty in their absence.

One thing does give me comfort and strength. To love is to risk the pain of loss. I know that by feeling the deep pain of losing each of my horses, that the capacity that I have to love is deepened, broadened, made more crystalline. My capacity to love and sacrifice for them is what defines my humanity, gives me character, and connects me to other animals, and humans too. I know that the experience of owning a horse for so many years makes me a better person. So, when the day comes that I have to let one go, if you ask me,"would you go through it all again?" the answer will be a resounding, "Yes!! Yes, of course!!"