June 7, 2019
Help in Unexpected Places… For the Love of Animals
I arrive at the barn and sit in my truck gathering my stuff, gathering my emotions, gathering… I am overwhelmed with missing my Glen. There are moments where it seems slightly more distant but those moments are far and few between. Even when I sit in my counselling room there is still a part of me that thinks he is sitting upstairs in his chair watching sports or in the bathroom. He couldn’t do much else for years and when he could he did. When I need some administration thing done or computer thing done (the kind of stuff that rarely goes well for me) my first thought is that I will just ask Glen for help…and then remember that he’s not here. Strange, I barely turn on the television now probably because it reminds me of Glen. When Josh turned on the Raptors basketball game I watched with him because I am excited that Canada is in the finals but it was also etched with deep sadness because Glen would have loved it. He’s probably got front row seats in heaven beside an American – that picture makes me smile.
I hear dogs barking as I sit in my truck and pluck up the bit of energy that got me here to get out of my truck. I genuinely smile because I know those barks and whinnies from the horses I hear are for me. Animals have a special way of knowing who loves them, and who is in pain. I open my door and instead of going straight to say hi to DeOrro I walk to the barking dog tied to the other barn. It’s Lexi. Lexi is a boxer who I assumed just loved on everyone because she loves on me. I walk straight to her and bend down to her height. She immediately climbs up my body and wraps her front legs and paws around my neck in a strong embrace, licking my face as I try to turn my head away a bit. I can’t help but laugh. She loves me so much and honestly the feeling is mutual. Lexi belongs to my friends who lost their son and Lexi and Kahlua, their other dog who is a lovely labradoodle (I think) always greet me warmly. Lexi, especially warmly. Almost always with a doggie hug and kiss. My friend tells me that she doesn’t actually do that with just anyone, only special people and people that she senses pain. She is trying to help. It blows my mind.
Then there’s Aussie. Aussie is a shepherd cross and is just lovely. She is shy and when she trusts you she loves to be pet. She is so purely loyal to her owner, who is also just lovely. They all come to say hi.
Quincey is there that day too. I know she has blue heeler in her but can’t remember the rest of the mix. Super hyper and super affectionate when she holds still long enough but always comes to greet me. Her owner is another one I am especially fond of…like all my friends at the barn. I get so much love and support there I feel incredibly blessed.
I slowly make my way into my barn and am greeted by the cats Molly and Sally. They are extremely unusual barn cats. These cats will not let me just pass them by. They literally seek me out if I’ve walked past so that they can love on me too. They will try to climb up my leg if I don’t pick them up and cuddle them. They will cuddle right in and hold on just a tad too tight with the result being mini cat scratches all over my shoulders and legs but the love they give and receive is worth the scratches.
As I make my way down the stalls to the end I say hi to every horse in there. Shorty, the pony, is always super excited to see me. Most of them are but I’m pretty sure Shorty is especially happy because I will often come at the time that it’s ok to let him out to pasture so I have become special to him. He’ll poke his head over the stall door – no small feat for a horse of his small stature – and perk his ears up ready for a kiss. Adorable.
Finally I make it to my big D – DeOrro. By this time he is waiting expectantly with his head looking over at me, ears perked forward, looking handsome as ever. He is a beautiful palomino and quite the ladies man. He has a long flowing white mane and a beautiful straight nose. He has a way of looking innocent, though I know he isn’t always innocent. I greet him and he nods at me. I open his stall door and step in, first holding his face in my hands, trusting him to not bonk me in the head, which he doesn’t – he is very cautious of my head as per our agreement! I told him early on that I have constant headaches so he needs to be very careful of my head. He seems to honor that, which amazes me. Horses understand so much more that we give them credit for. He rests his head in my arms this day and relaxes that big heavy head, trusting me with his own health and well-being. I step in and give him a big hug. He stands very patiently while I linger. He wraps his head around me for a brief moment, then lets go. He has been very patient and wants into the field but he knows I need his love. He has been there every step of the way through Glen’s cancer journey and Glen’s journey from this realm to the next. I know he understands.
This horse has been a huge part of my best therapy. I have learned much with him about the ways of horses and the ways of people. He struggles with pain too. He is lame with navicular (degeneration of the navicular bone which is located in his hoof). I knew that he was in pain before I bought him but it was too late to turn back. The horse had won my heart. I love to gallop and so does he but he can’t. When he does even a canter there are many times now that he will give me some bucks because it hurts (and probably a bit of attitude but I truly believe most of it is pain). I don’t ask him for a canter anymore. If he wants to give me a canter I will often tell him no because I know it hurts if he continues and it will lead to bucking and really, let’s face it, I’m not exactly twenty anymore!
The other day he looked especially in pain but I needed some therapy so I cleaned seven stalls. I was stiff by the end but as I scooped poop I meditated and prayed. With each scoop of poop I scooped I was giving God the “crap”. By the end I finally grabbed DeOrro, put on my helmet and his bridle and hopped on bareback, which lately is how I prefer to ride. There are various opinions on saddle versus bareback but I happen to enjoy bareback riding and believe it gives the horse less pain too. I could be wrong but that’s where I stand. It was going to be a short ride as I had spent most of my allotted barn time cleaning stalls. I was simply headed down the 200 or so feet stretch of road to get to the small riding ring. Halfway there we encountered a tractor barreling at us at full speed. Any horse would be afraid but DeOrro seems especially terrified of tractors. He worked on a ranch and perhaps he had a bad encounter with tractors before but I really don’t know. I stopped him and held on knowing this was not going to end well. I spoke to DeOrro trying to calm him. I held out my hand and yelled at the tractor driver to slow down all to no avail. Just like everything we did for Glen seemed to be all to no avail. There was no stopping the disease that stole my husband from me and there was no stopping the tractor. As the tractor was about ten feet from us DeOrro whirled around on a dime and galloped the fastest he’s ever taken me. There was electric fence two feet to my left and tractor about four to five feet to my right. Hanging on and praying was literally my only option. “God, please don’t let him buck!” “God, please don’t let him veer to the left or the right!” “God, please don’t let him jump the fence!” DeOrro continued to bolt in a straight line. I made a quick decision and made a half second pull on the reigns to the right in the direction of the tractor just to distract DeOrro a bit and slow him down. By the grace of God my horse slowed to a stop and the tractor, who by now had finally clued in and slowed down, continued on his way. I was angry! Raging mad, which is completely unusual for me. The man had put me and my horse in mortal danger. This was a life and death situation. If DeOrro had bucked; if I had fallen off in his quick turn; if DeOrro had veered to the left into the electric fence or the right into the tractor – we would have been dead or very badly injured. I shook my fist at the driver and yelled, “Slow down!” He looked remorseful and sheepish and kept driving.
Slowly we turned back and had a little ride in the riding area. I thanked God again for a horse that calmed down fast. I thanked God again for my years of riding bareback that gave me the muscle memory to not even be dislodged in the least. I thanked God that it was me encountering the tractor and not any of the other ladies at the barn who have been trying the bareback thing…it could have ended so badly yet God gives me extra angels and takes care of me. I am reminded now that if I get hurt it’s just me. Glen is not here to come and pick me up. Glen is not here to hug me with the amazing enveloping presence that was Glen that made me feel so…safe. So loved. So secure. Yet God, in His great love for me has given me extra angels. Angels in the form of real angels from heaven. Angels in the form of dogs, cats, and horses. Angels in the form of people who come into my life along the way. I thank God for my horse, my therapy in the form of DeOrro, who even in his pain, walks me slowly back to sanity and life here on earth with the clippity clop of the hoof beats that lull me to peace when I feel that all around me is insanity. Though I still don’t understand the plan or like the plan of Glen not being here, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is watching over me and loves me. He has a plan. I surrender to the plan of God who sees the world in greater detail than I ever could. May my thread in this tapestry reflect the majesty of my Creator, even in the midst of my intense pain.