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Ah, spring…after this winter, the tantalizing promise of warmer weather seems to be making a lot of critters—humans included, just a tad bit crazy. Spring means the changing of the season of hibernation and death into one of awakening and new life.
We have a very old horse. He is literally on borrowed time after last year in the fall when he choked three times in four days. When a horse is pushing thirty (as he was), losing most of his molars (as he had), choking is almost always a death sentence. Fortunately, even after posting a blog about having to say goodbye, The Old Man wasn’t ready to give up, I wasn’t ready to say good-bye, and my DH refused to give up on The Old Man as long as he was willing to keep fighting.
Fast forward a year and three months to this Monday morning. We were woken up by our neighbor beating on the front door. He’d been on his way to work and saw The Old Man in the neighbor’s front yard and he was down on his side and couldn’t get up.
I literally leaped out of bed when DH came into the bedroom to tell me what our neighbor told him. I pulled on my robe over my night clothes (a pair of cut off sweat pants and a tee shirt), grabbed my barn boots and raced out the door, hopping into my boots as I did. I found The Old Man exactly as the neighbor said, and The Old Man wasn’t trying to get up. He was breathing shallowly, in obvious extreme pain, and when DH examined him, said that The Old Man didn’t have any abdominal sounds. Anyone who has horses knows this is a very, very bad thing. The Old Man also had a massive hematoma over his right eye, swelling along his head on a line from his right eye to his ear and there was blood in his right ear. The Old Man was also profusely sweating in 20 degree temperatures. All of this added up to a horse that was not going to ever get up again.
DH insisted that I go to the house and get something warmer on and we needed to get The Little One ready for school and get her on the bus. I screamed at him that he was not putting The Old Man down while I was within ear shot, because he didn’t have enough euthanasia solution at the office to put The Old Man down. The only way to put The Old Man out of his misery would be to shoot him.
DH promised me he would not do that, and he would come to the house as soon as I came back in warmer clothes. He would get The Little One onto the bus. Unfortunately, The Little One saw me sitting on the ground with The Old Man’s head on my lap. It’s a lousy way to start the school week.
After the school bus went by, DH came back. I kissed The Old Man on the muzzle, wished him God speed, promised him I would see him at the Bridge and ran to my van and drove off.
When I got back, fifteen minutes later, DH’s pickup was in the driveway, so I knew The Old Man was gone. And little things started to nag at me. Like where was his blanket? He’d been wearing it when I checked on him and all the dogs in the kennel the night before. And, where in the sam hill was his halter? He didn’t have either on. I got to thinking that if he had gotten hung up on something so that he fought enough to get out of his halter and his winter blanket, he might have riled the collies up and I needed to make sure that the dogs had gotten into fights and torn one another up.
So, I went out to the kennel to check dogs and from the kennel I have a perfect line of sight into the barn. We leave the barn open so our free roaming chickens can wander in and out as they please. Standing in the barn, in all his ancient, aged glory, blanket and all, was The Old Man.
I turned around, ran into the house, grabbed DH, dragged him out to the kennel, pointed into the barn, and said, “Tell me I am NOT seeing a ghost.”
DH looked at me and when he could speak again, he demanded, “WHAT DAMN HORSE DID WE JUST PUT DOWN?”
The only thing we could figure was about two years ago, we boarded a horse that everyone who saw him said he was The Old Man’s twin by different parents. Sissy Boy and The Old Man are both Arab crosses, both are flea-bitten greys, both have identical snips on the ends of their muzzles, both have black leggings, both were born within months of the other in 1984, and both have a habit of sucking on fingers when they are scared, confused, or needing comforted. (The Old Man was a bottle raised baby and from what we knew of Sissy Boy, he had been weaned very young when his mother died of colic when he was about seven months old.) DH and I thought that it was Sissy Boy.
DH recovered enough to realize we still had to bury this dead horse, so he called someone we know with a back hoe. This person said he would be there between 11 and 11:30 that morning. At 11 AM, Mr. Back Hoe shows up and I showed him where the horse was. Five minutes later, he’s back, telling me that the
horse isn’t there.
Nope. Dead horse is not where we left him. The tarp DH left over him was neatly folded up, the four large rocks DH put on the tarp to keep it from blowing off the dead horse were put on top of the neatly folded tarp.
When the neighbor who told us about The Old Man that morning came home from work, he stopped at our house to offer his condolences. DH told him there were no condolences to be offered, because The Old Man was still alive and fine. Neighbor Bob asked the same question DH did that morning. “What horse was that?”
We offered that it was Sissy Boy. Oh, no, it couldn’t have been Sissy Boy. He died last winter.
So, the mystery remains. . .One thing is clear. There was an animal in distress, he needed help, and we did the most humane thing we could for that horse.
Spring is the season of renewal, rebirth, and resurrection. The Old Man may not have died, but he certainly has been the recipient of several miracles.
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