Friday, January 29, 2021

Saying Goodbye

The Golden Girls (L - Penelope, R - Dancer)
We had to let one of the golden girls go last night. Dancer was a 30 year old mare who was the queen of the pasture in her day. A rescue from a kill pen, she arrived a known victim of futurity abuse, but unknown to her new owner...pregnant. She soon delivered Raindee, who is now our horse. Dancer was not our horse, but she shared a pasture with a herd that includes our 32 year old golden girl, Penelope. Pene and Dancer were tightly bonded and as Dancer's enfeeblement increased and her vision faded, Pene became her guide and to a certain degree, her guardian.
Last summer I witnessed the rest of the herd fleeing toward the barn at the sudden onset of a violent east Texas thunderstorm. Pene stopped in mid run, turned, and ran back to Dancer who was standing stiff, unable to keep pace with the others. The pair slowly walked at Dancer's stiffened pace towards my barn whereipon I let them in and they rode out the storm together. The two were almost inseparable these last few months with Pene sticking to Dancer's side day and night.
Raindee Says Goodbye to Mama
After months of joint and pain meds to ease her stiffness and food supplements in an attempt to keep her weight up through the winter, we all resigned ourselves to the fact that it was time and that we had to let Dancer go. The vet came out and gave her the shot and as we and her owner looked on, the rest of the herd (including her daughter Raindee) tentatively approached Dancer as she lay motionless, snorted, and slowly wandered away. It was as if they all came to say goodbye and it was just what her owner wanted. Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part, but I believe they know and that they grieve and need and deserve closure like we do. Dancer's owner buried her near the tree where she would stand alone on the rare occasions she wasn't at Penelope's side. It was her spot in the pasture she once ruled as queen of the herd.

I went to bed checking the barn camera to see if Penelope was in her stall. It's been our routine to bring she and Dancer into our barn overnight when the temperature dips into the 30s and they were always there on time, abiding by their routine. They would stand side-by-side, head to tail, sharing the same 10'x12' stall, even though there were two and plenty of other open barn space. The barn was empty last night as Penelope chose to sleep with the herd. I suppose she needed them more than I needed her in my barn.
Baby Raindee, 2008

I awakened this morning to find Penelope, standing alone at the barn, and the sadness of it all hit me again when I realized I only had one bowl to prepare. As I stood watching Pene eat, I wondered if she will find another bonding companion from the herd. At 32 years old, she's still very healthy and spirited, but she's over the stupid games the "young ones" play and lives a quiet, routined existence as a pasture ornament. I wonder if Dancer's daughter Raindee fully understands. At 13 years old, she was at her mother's side almost as much as Penelope.
Perhaps I'm overthinking this whole thing. I realize it's easy for us humans to project our sentiments onto our animals, but the bottom line is the herd will do what horses do. Nevertheless, I remain grateful to be around to observe it and humbled to have earned their trust.