Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My Horses Wish

March 2011 Agatha
It is not the kind of thing I want to write about but I think I owe it to a grieving horse owner and her horse to at least remember the few months we boarded Aggie at Fossil Ridge Farm. Agatha (her full name)was born in Germany. Her breeding was regal. She was a Hanoverian, a breed that carried hot Arabian blood as well as the blood of the cold climate horses like the Clydesdales.

In her time she had been a talented dressage horse, she may have also been a jumper, but I am not sure about that. More than that, she was a personable horse who nickered to you and was always friendly. A beautiful dark bay, she stood over 16 hands tall and had a lovely face and alert eyes. When she came to our barn she was 23 yrs old and had already had a bout with colic that almost took her life. We were feeding her supplements as well as a special oil to help prevent it from happening again.

But on the morning of December 24th 2010 we found her, waiting for someone to come so she could let go. She was leaning against the side of the barn, head down, covered with sweat and saliva where she had been biting at her sides. No telling how long she had suffered. We automatically got a halter on her and tried to walk her a few steps to see if it would relieve her. She collapsed in that spot and died within minutes. She probably suffered what is often fatal to a horse, a twisted gut or severe colic.

Now, more than two months later I grieve for her in the only way I can when I lose an animal who had such presence; with sadness but appreciation for the beauty she brought into my life. I came across this poem written by another horse owner who had lost her horse. This is for Aggie and for Kayla I wanted to share it with everyone.

Could you bed me down with kindness
on the soft sweet words of love?
Could you ride me in your finest
with hands light as a dove?

Could you teach me with old wisdom
by the laws of just and fair?
Could you be my friend forever
with a trust so true and rare?

Could you meet me on the morrow
with grasses green and sweet?
Could you free me without sorrow
on the plains of loam and wheat?

Could you say farewell with honor
on the day my life is through?
And remember me forever
as I shall remember you?
Barbara Dun-Reeves
(From Mary D. Midkiff on the loss of her horse, Theodora.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Sun Spot

Mookie and Lily. An unlikely pair, not by looking at them because they are both white and black Tuxedo cats. Lily is my oldest cat and Mookie the youngest. Lily lost her litter mate Callie several years ago. She and Callie were close buddies. But Callie got out one day soon after we came to the farm and did not come back. Lily grieved for a long time, hid under my bed for most of a year. She really was not pleased when I moved Taffy and Cookie in from the barn when they were kittens. She intimidated them so much that now when Taffy and Cookie are bigger she still does.

After we got the 3 new barn kitties Lily would growl and glare out the window at them and also at any neighbor cat that wandered by. When Lily saw them she would stage a huge hissy fit. But one day our barn kitty, Moonbeam (Mookie), sneaked up to the house and sat under a window and meowed. I observed an unusual sight. Lily just stared out the window at her. No growling, no hissing. When Moonbeam disappeared around the corner of the house Lily jumped down from the window and tried to follow her to the next window to get another view of her.

I’d never know if she thought it was Callie but her behavior made me think it was possible. Then it ended up that I had to bring Moonbeam into the house because she was the last barn cat. I hoped Lily would remember the initial experience. It was not to happen. But eventually I noticed that Lily was not hissing or growling at Moonbeam while she still did occasionally toward Taffy and Cookie.

Then one day I was reading in the room where the sun came in onto the bed in a welcome warm spot on a cold day. Lily had not allowed another cat to be in that sun spot with her unless I intervened. Mookie came up and gingerly stretched out in a corner of the sun. Lily watched her lie down but there was no hissing or growling. Mookie was alert but didn’t move a muscle. Lily relaxed and in a minute, so did Mookie. As Lily relaxed she stretched out her back legs till one touchd Mookie on her leg. I held my breath. Lily was quiet. As they laid there together I realized it was the first time Lily had quietly touched another cat since we lost Callie. I was thankful.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mookie Moves In

      The days after Polka Dot disappeared were dark and cold for me. But I wasn’t the only one. Moonbeam was by herself in the barn. More than once I would go out just to make sure the heating pad was working in her ‘warming house’. It was more important now that there was no other cat for her to snuggle up with. The temperature had dropped to 10 degrees and would probably be below 0 before this cold snap was through with us. When it was this cold I didn’t see her very often. She stuck close to the barn.
      But she was alone. All the time now. I know it has ben said that that cats are by nature solitary, but I don't believe it.  Little Moonbeam with only one eye was vulnerable with her gregarious sister no longer helping her.
     So after mulling it over in my mind I casually mentioned to John that if it got down to 0 degrees I would have to see if I could bring her in the house. ( I knew it would not be just for a visit) I knew I could probably pick her up and carry her in a carrier. I had been able to pick her up in the barn to doctor her once  but if it didn’t work it would be hard get her to come in again. She had actually come into the house a few times on her own, poked her head around and then run right back out.
     So I planned this elaborate plan where I would bring her into the house in a carrier and let her out while I kept the other cats in another room She very graciously went into the carrier where I had placed some treats. I closed the door and picked her up. I didn’t hear a sound. I got her to the house and let her out and she sat hunched over for a minute and then started slinking across the kitchen, belly to the floor.
     That first time she was comfortable for only a minute and then loud protesting meows came out of her small body. When I opened the sliding door she darted out and headed for the barn. She found her own way. Over the next few days as the temperature dropped more I brought her in several times. Only now she would follow me to the house from the barn. No need for a carrier. After a while she stopped protesting and was able to explore the rest of the house quietly.
     The day came when it was time for her to come into the house. I set up a wire kennel in the walk-in closet so she would have a relatively small area to observe her suroundingd. I kept a towel over the cage too, for the same reason.
     The first night I kept her in the kennel all night. She quit meowing after a while. In the morning I let the other cats into the room. It was mostly a non-event for Cookie and Lily. They walked by with hardly a notice. But Taffy, the laid back, more social kitty walked up to the kennel and gave it a good sniffing over. No hisses or growls. And then the next thing I saw was Taffy lying down beside the cage. She was Moonbeam’s first friend. I added a nick-name to her, it was Mookie, and since it sounded so much like her old name she responded to it instantly. She had taken the first step well, we would see how the rest would go. And even I was starting to feel better.