NOTE: This is a post about lost cats and dying horses. It's about mercy killing and free will. If you grew up in an un-horsey area, you may not understand that this is not a sick or deviant post. It's just about life and kind decisions... and the fact that everything that's born dies eventually.
Today was one of those days. The cat hasn't shown up (not that I expected it to...) The more I think about it - I really should have thought this whole cat-sitting thing through... It was a stray, and therefore ferrel cat, who went from living outside, to living in a house - to moving to another house, to, through no will of its own, got moved to my house... I might leave too.
When I told my boss about this, he kind of laughed at me. "That's pretty funny. You take a wild cat in - and it bites you and escapes your house." Somehow, this makes sense to all men - and none of us girls, who just want something in life to rescue (whether it wants rescuing or not).
So while speaking with the boss, I inquired about his horse. The horse had West Nile Virus, and was very very ill. The last I asked, the horse came home from several days at the vet, and was doing better. I assumed that he pulled through.
"Um, Kelly. The horse died. Didn't you know?"
This is the SECOND time this week I felt crappy. The first was when I found the cat's escape route in the screen. I felt like a heel. I could, in my mind, envision my legs, hips and torso morphing into one huge and calloused heel...
I don't know if any of you are horse people, but the death of a horse a really sad thing - one that's happened to me a couple of times with horses I knew well. It's more sad than an escaped cat - although I would never mention that to Oreo's owner.
The first horse I ever knew who died while I knew him was Old Budweiser, a dear old Roman-nosed black horse who lived at the riding stable I worked at in high school and college. He was sick, old, and indisputably ready to die. He was sweet, and despite his frat-boy name, all the kids loved him the best.
I marvelled at how easily my boss could take him up to the pasture and shoot him. It was a very solemn day at the stable.
NOTE: Before you freak out - shooting him was a kind thing to do. (and if you knew my boss at that time, you'd understand that it wasn't at all out of character - or even one of the nastiest things he's done... but that's another expose' for another day...)
The second horse death still haunts me. When I was an 8 year-old camper, the first horse I met was named Blaze. Later, I was a staff member at the same camp, and worked with Blaze every day. Years after my camp days were through, I rented the apartment above the same camp's office (I never left Camp! Either did Blaze).
The kid hired to take care of the horses one summer wasn't paying attention, and for some cosmically strange reason I will never understand, didn't notice that Blaze wasn't eating. Cardinal rule of horse care number one: If a horse isn't eating, something is very wrong. Eventually, Blaze's disease progressed to a point where, mixed with the weight loss, he could no longer function. He couldn't stand up - he could barely lift his head.
I wasn't around much that summer, and wasn't around the horses at all. I wish I had been... but that's how it goes sometimes.
One morning in early September, my friend, Donna (the camp program director) walked into my kitchen and knocked on the bathroom door. I was in the shower. "Kelly. Can I see you a minute?" I grabbed a towel and opened the door.
"Do you think you could shoot Blaze for me?"
"No, I couldn't possibly shoot Blaze." Despite the fact that I had grown up in a houseful of mighty hunters, I've never shot anything stonger than a BB gun in my life - and even though I knew it must be really bad, I couldn't bring myself to do the good and kind deed. Donna couldn't either. She called another friend.
I got dressed and asked if I could say goodbye. "Brace yourself," Donna warned.
I headed out to the barn - and completely walked by Blaze, skin and bones, lying by a tree. When I found him, I started to cry. I sat with him awhile - and told him I would miss him - and that I appreciated his sense of humor. He always found a hole in the fence, and frequently waited on the outside of the paddock gate around feeding time.
I never really got on all that well with the camp director... so it was fun to watch Phil continually grumble as he had to mend yet another hole in the fence... I'm pretty sure "Heavens To Blazes" (as I affectionately referred to him) understood - I don't think he liked Phil all that much either.
The third horse was poisoned by a freak incident, where he ate some bad grass (I'd explain the details, but it's pretty gross - and very, very rare). Scout was a horse I knew very well. To eulogize a bit, you could say Scout brought out the best and worst in me... We had many pleasant hours on trails together, but he could get me very angry with his stubbornness.
The disease left him semi-paralyzed in the back legs - With no cure, the kindest thing to do was to put him down.
I don't know why I'm telling you this - I guess I'm just thinking about loss... But you know? Having relationships with animals is such a complicated thing - We're responsible - and we love them - but we're never really in control. I guess their unpredictability - and the fact that they actually pay attention to us - are some of the things we love most about them.
I guess in some weird way, our grief is our memorial...
Ok. That's it. I promise the next blog will be about something more cheerful... For now - and just so you know, I still smile when I think about Blaze, Scout, and that adorable old Budweiser.