Good Girl

The air was cold. Not cold like it should’ve been on the 9th of February, but cold. Sort of crisp, like fall. The whole winter had been pretty mild and the day I’d decided would be her last to suffer, was no different. I was grateful the bitter cold had held off as I stood in her stall, running my hands over her face and neck, fluffy with her winter coat. My horse stood with her head down, her nose pointed into a corner and I wasn’t sure if she even knew I was there. One week had morphed into what felt like a moment that would both never end and end too soon.

It started like colic. She didn’t eat her supper one night and began pawing and stomping. After walking her around for a bit she seemed to have interest in her hay again and started to eat. I was mistakenly relieved. By the next day, it was apparent that she was sick enough to call the vet. After treatment for colic and bloodwork, it was concluded that her liver was failing. Without sending her to the state hospital, two hours and several thousand dollars beyond my reach, there’d be no way to really know what was happening to her. And I had to take into account her age. She was going to be 25 in March. It might’ve been easier to accept if she’d been in poor health along with her advancing age, but up until the week she fell ill, she’d always had the energy and attitude of a much younger horse. I’d read that Appaloosas often lived to be 30. I felt like she was being ripped off. That I was too. But I was also glad it was happening quickly and she’d never have to face the physical breakdown of growing old.

Scribbles

Warm tears streaked over my chilled cheeks, chapping them. I rested my forehead against her neck, my arm draped over her spotted back. My heart ached listening to her grinding her teeth so hard it sent chills up my back—a sign her liver had given up, left her brain to swim in a sea of toxins and robbed her of her mind. Over the last few days, I watched her put her nose into the feed bucket, not to eat but only to go through the motions, and steadily lose weight. My heart began to tear as I tried to see that putting her down was the right thing to do. But, there was no amount of rationalization that was going to make it alright that my friend, my confidant, was losing her life. I’d cried so much that week that it felt like my natural state of being. I breathed in her scent and sobbed. Then, she moved. Her face came out of the corner and her neck bent around me pressing me against her with her ever-soft nose. And my heart broke wide open. Her hug could’ve been just another odd reflex but to me, it was everything. She did it again and was done. Somehow, even with her body failing, she found a way to give me some peace.

Scribbles under saddle
So many memories had battered me as I struggled for that week, and came to terms with the reality of my impending loss.

I remembered the first time I saw her at the boarding stable where I cleaned stalls, pulling the cross-ties tight, the whites of her eyes gleaming. She’d injured herself running through her owner’s fence and had nasty slices on her front and back legs. She was there while her owner repaired the fence. The weeks passed and instead of fearing her, like I probably should’ve, every time I cleaned her stall, I grabbed a soft bristled brush and carefully brushed her between the eyes. I offered her the ends of carrots from my other job in a restaurant kitchen and though it would be months before she would take them from my hand, I felt a connection to her.

Scribbles

I remember how she got her name when friend/co-poop-shoveler called her Scribbles, because “she looks like a kid drew her.”

I remembered the excitement I felt when that same friend offered a place to keep a horse so I could realize a life-long dream. Then, the giddiness when I offered to take Scribbles off her owner’s hands and she agreed.

I remembered the first time I sat on her back, after months of ground work and trust building.

I remembered when she took a carrot from my palm for the first time.

I remembered the way she’d be completely calm as I sat on the built-in feeder in her stall and scratched the place where her rump met her tail. How she’d often back herself gently toward me, suggesting that it was time for another scratch.

I remembered every fight, lie, and betrayal that she helped me through just by standing in her stall while I brushed her.

I remember the debilitating depression and how sometimes, the only thing I looked forward to was barn time.

I remembered how after every ride, she tossed her head excitedly in her stall, waiting for her apple.

I remembered the day she broke my arm, the day I learned the value of not skipping steps just to get to the fun part.

I remembered how nearly every time I came to the stable, America’s “Horse With No Name” would play on the barn radio and it became something of an inside joke with Husband and me.
Most of all, I thought about that soft nicker she gave when I came into the barn and how much of a hole its absence would leave in my heart.

Scribbles

That afternoon, as the sun was looming just over the horizon, I led her from her stall for the last time. She was very weak from not eating all week and we moved slowly through the grass. Her stablemate, Bo, was placed in a pasture near the place that had been chosen for her. They didn’t do well apart and there was hope that if he saw her fall, he would understand. As we approached the spot, she lifted her head high, her nostrils pulling in the chilled February air, and she called out to him as he grazed in the pasture they’d shared. For a few seconds, the light that her eyes always held came back and my breath caught in my throat. Then the burst of energy was gone and her head drooped again.

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It was suggested to me that I might not want to be there for the euthanasia, or that I might at least want to turn around. There was no doubt in my heart that I would hold onto her as long as I could. There was an inner conflict like I’d never experienced before, as I watched the vet put the needle of the catheter into her neck. My heart was screaming “STOP” but my mind held my tongue. I grudgingly handed over the lead rope when the vet said the first injection, a sedative, would cause her to collapse and he didn’t want me to get hurt. I stepped back.
He held her head by her halter as his wife and fellow veterinarian administered the first syringe. While the visual of Scribbles’ eyes rolling back in her head and her body going limp is an image that will likely stay with me forever, I couldn’t have left her. She went to her knees first and as she fell like a marionette whose strings were abruptly cut, the vet dug his boots into the soft ground and maneuvered her to the ground. Her eyes were open but there was no life behind them. I sank to my knees at her head and stroked her face, my tears falling into her hair. The vet administered the unbelievably large syringe of pink liquid and I continued to pet and murmur that I was there and she was a good girl. And then she was gone.

Scribbles headshot
But she was a good girl. She was flighty and clingy to her stablemates. She was too lame to ride sometimes, thanks to poor care from the owner that had her first. She was as sloppy as any pig when kept in her stall. But she was my friend. It wasn’t about her perfection or her usefulness. It was about love.
The vet removed his stethoscope from her ribs and stood to let me have my time with her. While I’m not religious at all, I am spiritual. I imagined her energy leaving her broken body, flowing through me and running through the nearby field.

Scribbles running

As if my feeling was reality, Bo, who had been grazing in the pasture a few feet away, seemingly ignoring us, suddenly jerked his head up. He let out a high-pitched whinny and took off across the pasture. He ran, screaming, from fence to fence. It was several minutes before he stopped, and even then, he was alert, snorting as he looked around.

He didn’t stop looking for her for months and neither did I. I never got used to her stall being empty. Eventually, I didn’t need to come to the barn to help out anymore. And a few months later, when I felt like I could handle it, I returned for her tack.

Scribbles tack

As I entered the barn, I heard the song. “Horse With No Name” was on the radio. It felt like she was letting me know that she was still there for me, even if it was just the result of a radio station with a limited playlist. A tear rolled down my cheek and I couldn’t help but smile.

Scribbles in the barn

~L~

A Lesson in Friendship

It’s no secret, I like different and I would love to start a new and unpopular way of thinking that praises the vast differences of the human race. I would love to think we could be a world where people would truly learn to love blindly. I want to share a story with you about my son with special needs and how he might know the very best way to love.

I normally would not go into a debate about social issues and I do not want to with this post. I only want this story to be one to ponder the next time you see strife over various differences in our country.

I believe I have the freedom to believe and the free will to choose my own personal convictions. I also respect the beliefs of others and their freedom to choose their own convictions. That is what our country is all about, right? Freedom? The problem is the inability people have to respect the differences we are all allotted. It can also be difficult to find a middle ground that satisfies an infinite number of beliefs. Here is something that could make the conflict a bit easier to swallow; if your opinions or beliefs differ from another, you have the option to choose kindness. It isn’t likely the debates and arguments will ever end and we will not likely satisfy the millions of varying beliefs, but we can always choose to be kind.

Kindness is something I didn’t have to teach my disabled son. He cares nothing about the differences everyone else is fighting about and he most likely will never fully understand the complex moral debates that have been going on for decades, he’s just nice. He knows how to make friends even though he can’t communicate like a typical child. He calls everyone he knows his friend. Here is a story about my little boy making a new friend.

Last week my aunt came in from Arizona. It has been a long time since she has returned home for a visit and this time she didn’t come home alone. My aunt is gay and she came with her wife. It is the first time we met the woman she has devoted her life to. I hope they enjoyed their time with family. We played games, sat around a campfire, and ate lots of food. My aunt’s wife also made a friend, my seven year old disabled son. She didn’t flinch when he brought her his iPad and wanted her to play. He was rather insistent but she didn’t seem to mind. She sat and played, talked, and made funny videos with him as long as he wanted. He didn’t care that she was new to the family, he could care less about how she dressed or who she married, he liked her for who she was and she liked him the same. She may have noticed that he was different but she didn’t withdrawal from him any of the numerous times he wanted her attention.

To understand this mother’s joy over this event is to know that I understand that it can be hard for some people to interact with my son. He doesn’t always ask to play and he often uses in your face tactics to engage playtime. I understand he can make someone who doesn’t know him very well uncomfortable. But what I saw was a new friendship between two strangers that could have been mistaken for one of life long friends. These two friends really liked each other and no amount of difference between them mattered.

The day after my son met his new friend, he sat with his iPad and watched the videos they made together numerous times. He even remembered her name. After he had his fill of videos, he stood at the door and asked to go to grandma’s house because that is where his new friend was staying.

Those two saw each other as each one of us should see each other, potential life long friends. Their friendship is blind, as it should be. Too bad too many people miss out on a great friendship because of differences. It’s a shame many can’t stand by their own personal beliefs while still embracing those who oppose them. The debate isn’t about beliefs, it about the condition of the heart. My little boy calls those who treat him with kindness friends, it’s that simple. Maybe this friendship has more to teach us than we know.

*d*

A Friend for Every Season

Winter is finally winding down and so begins preparations for spring. Since becoming a mom, spring cleaning means a little more than just cleaning house. I also have to spend a few hours putting back winter coats, gloves, hats, sweaters, etc. and dig out the spring jackets, short-sleeve shirts, and outside play toys. There are always old things to put away until next winter and others to be discarded as they have filled their use. I go to the store and buy new packs of bubbles and chalk. I also pull out favorite bouncy balls and bikes. There are so many things to do at the start of a new season.

Spring time is also a time when people start buying cars and looking at houses. In the three plus years we were trying to sell our home, my husband and I knew we had to wait until spring to see a fresh batch of homes hit the real estate market. There is something about being able to open up a window and let the outside come in after being shut off for so long that makes so many people ready to take on something more. Sometimes the fresh feeling of the new season can make a person make poor choices. For example, nice weather seems to bring out the worst drivers. Wait until the first sunny, fifty degree day ahead. The nutty people will be out cutting people off and driving like they just got their licenses (Yes, I have an issue with irrational drivers). Sometimes the spring fever hits and people go out and buy a new car because, hey, it’s spring. When winter comes around, they will realize it was a poor purchase. I admit, I have been there before. When life feels new and energetic, there are chances to be taken and adventures to be had and the consequences of which can be dealt with later. When the cold once again arrives, it is time to think of stocking up, being reliable, and preparing for the worst. There are always adjustments to be made and changes to be seen in every season, even with friends.

The older I get, the harder it is to keep in contact with those dear friends I had grown up with. Now over fifteen years have passed and I barely have a handful of those friends. I now have what seems to be a supply of seasonal friends. These friends are not always around but come out when the seasons of my life demand and they are not always meant to stay. Even those old friends I regret spending seldom time with are sometimes only meant to be in the early season of life. We all need a friend for the changing seasons of our lives. We all change and grow and are provided with just the right person to help us forge ahead. At a hard time in life, we may need that reckless and crazy friend that will do almost anything to put a smile on our face. Sometimes we need the irrational driver to jump in the front seat with us to test our boundaries and dare us to go just a little further. Yet another friend can be there to clean up and sort for the next season of life when a big change has happened. Most of the time, friends seem like those favorite bouncy balls my kids ask me to take out in the spring. They bounce in and out of life but are always so much fun when they come around. Every once in a while, a friend no longer fits in the natural rotation of life and we have to separate but there is always another on the horizon.

I have struggled with my own inability to make friends easily and I am often saddened by the sparse group I have left. I have cried and wondered how I needed to change in order to feel close to more people. The older I get, the more I realize the quantity does not matter. Who and when is what matters. Life has a good way of providing just what we need right when we need it, although we may have to look a bit harder. Those old friends may not be around today, but they were there when we needed them. Those bouncy ball friends, they are awesome to have when we need a fresh breath of air, and those steady friends, they are the best of all. The ones who are around for every season, no matter how many, are the ones truly worthwhile.

*d*

Silhouetted in the Background

I wrote a coming-of-age novel about guy and a girl who become best friends in elementary school but are ripped apart in high school by their very different personalities, outlooks, and plans for the future. Losing friends from your childhood is a normal, albeit sad, part of growing up. There’s a lot of gut wrenching scenes where they cut each other down while trying to protect their own feelings. It’s these fights that help drive the two characters apart.

It turns out, when you’re in your thirties, friends slip quietly away. There isn’t usually screaming or even scowls because it happens as subtly as time flying by, and everyone is so exhausted by life that even if they notice, they don’t speak up to stop it. There are children, spouses, jobs, and life in general that seems to drown out so much of what used to be in the forefront.

I’m mindlessly surfing Facebook and see my pal—we’ll call her Trixie—posted pictures of her kids. It reminds me that I haven’t seen Trixie in weeks, no wait, months. Someone I assumed I would always be close to now feels almost like a stranger. Almost.

If it weren’t for those tidbits of conversation, the random hilarious picture comments, the echoes of who we used to be, the thin threads tethering us to one another might finally snap. But it’s these moments that remind me that our friendship isn’t based on time spent or interactions had, but the fact that even after months, we could sit down and laugh like no time had passed at all. We’ll always have a connection, even if the ties finally break and we drift so far apart that not even an off-color joke over the internet can pull us back together.

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I guess that’s also what happens in my novel. I wrote about something I thought happened to other people. Not us. Trixie and I were solid. But the truth is people fade in and out of your life for any number of reasons. It doesn’t lessen their impact on your heart or their image silhouetted in the background of your mind. We’re all who we are partly because of the people in our lives, past and present. We shape each other and leave our marks and most times, our time together is fleeting. The truly meaningful relationships in our lives can fade, but they’re still there, waiting for a chance encounter, a long over-due phone call, to come out of the background and back into focus.

~L~

Reply by *d*

I had started my last post before you posted this one and it was so similar, I had to finish it. It is strange how we could be thinking along the same lines. It is sad to drift from friends but as you said, there is always time to reconnect and remember those good times. I am grateful for all my friends also, no matter when they drift in or out of life.

A Hard Pill to Swallow

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It’s hard to believe any of us ever catch on to the English language. It has a multitude of words with multiple meanings. For example, two of the many meanings of the word “trip” is journey and misstep. How do my children ever decipher what I mean if I were to ask, “Do you want to take a trip?” How do they know I am not getting ready to come knock them over? Or why are they not equally as confused after hearing ‘tennis match’? Is it a stick to burn a tennis racquet? Maybe a date between two tennis players? It is the frequent use of these words in real life that help us understand how we intend to use them. When that fails, out come the kid’s typical one hundred questions. Experience and knowledge help decipher the true meaning behind our words.

Words are very powerful. When the meaning behind a statement is misunderstood, it can cause havoc. When a statement is taken out of context, the same mess can occur. Then the problem would no longer lie with the person behind the words, rather with those who hear them. I get rather disgruntled when something I say is misconstrued or taken out of context so I try to make what I share verbally clear. That can be hard for a shy individual such as myself. I have to sometimes think very hard to make simple conversation, let alone a complex conversation that could change the way someone views me. Miscommunication can be a hard pill to swallow, or do I mean a pill that’s hard to swallow….. “Geesh.”

The only way we will ever know what others are trying to say is to ask questions and be knowledgeable. My biggest pet peeve is social media. There is no filter for the mess spread through social media. It is a great place to take one sentence of an entire forum and twist it to confirm the end of the world. People read, comment, or forward without finding out if there is truth behind what they are reading or sharing. I can laugh and pass off a good part of this, but when it comes down to respecting others, everyone should make an effort to find the facts and speak the truth. Maybe I am barking up the wrong tree, so to speak. Gossip isn’t a new problem and it has always spread like wildfire, long before the internet. Is it more important to form an opinion of someone based on what you want to believe about them or what you know? I know the easy answer, but what is the right one?

The solution is respect and love for eachother. Friendships should be based on what is inside and love above all. I may share my personal opinions on life with those around me but I do not anticipate them to change and follow my beliefs anymore than they can anticipate me to conform to theirs. It is mutual respect. Remember, when all else fails, the best advice is: BE KIND. Kindness goes a long way and it requires little or no understanding of another person’s beliefs so pass it on. It’s a shame when we miss out on the wonderful diversity of the human existance based on misinformation.

*d*