My horse Robin had to be put down this weekend because of acute laminitis. He was twenty-six years old and had worked for many years for the Forest Service with his buddy Hawkeye. He and Hawkeye were retired five years ago and when they were auctioned off R. bought Robin for me – my first horse – and he and Hawkeye came to the ranch to live out their days. Hawkeye went to sleep one night a few months ago in the pasture and never woke up. I think that maybe Robin had a broken heart besides laminitis.
I started horseback riding just nine years ago and Robin was the most gentle and patient guide. Not only patient with my amateur riding but also with my displays of overt affection. I’d race out to the pasture to see him when we arrived in Montana and he - surrounded by Hawkeye and his other buddies in the pasture - would remain calm and dignified as I hugged and kissed him. He was magical. I guess maybe all horses are magical but I never really knew a horse before Robin – it was like he lived in another universe and somehow standing out there in the pasture with him, or when we rode up into the mountains, our two universes connected.
You know that your animals have short life spans and yet the end always comes as such a shock, a sudden unfairness. Their short lives, your relationship with them, begin and end a time of your own life. You grieve for your own happiness with them. Maybe what animals teach us is that after grieving we can still love and cherish, still hold in our hearts what we’ve lost and be grateful. But it’s a hard lesson.
This morning I’ve been reading Mary Oliver’s beautiful poem about the death of her dog called “Her Grave” These are the final lines: Finally,/ the slick mountains of love break / over us.