I like how I wrote the saddest post ever, left it up for a a bit, and then I completely disappeared and the blog shut down.
It made everything seem so much more melodramatic than the actual truth.
The truth was I forgot I needed to renew my blog, spent the money elsewhere, and remembered too late to do anything other than wait for my next paycheck to turn the lights back on.
I suppose I could incorporate the renewal and hosting and other boring background stuff for this blog into our regular budget, but this blog is mine.
It’s not an ours/married thing, it’s mine, all mine, and it’s not to be sullied by practical, accountanty things like budgets and schedules.
Of course, it’s also the only bill that’s regularly forgotten about and regularly goes overdue and gets shut off…. but let’s not focus on that.
Anyways, the blog hosting is back, for another 3 months or so. If it suddenly disappears again in late April or May, you’ll know why.
I’m not in the mood to be sad today, so in reference to my post about Caspian all I’m gonna say is that I read every single one of your words, multiple times, and that I wish everyone had people like you in their lives to help them heal when sad things happen. You helped more than you know.
Moving on, before I get maudlin.
Monday morning I tried to use my windshield wipers to clear the snow off of my windshield. It worked – sort of.
I mean, technically it worked – the wet snow went sliding off the sides of the car with soft plopping sounds, but when the windshield wipers tried to return to their normal position, they couldn’t. There was too much snow built up at their base.
Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. The wipers sounded whiny, almost petulant as they tried to click back into place.
I sighed, and got out to scoop the snow with my hands. I thought it would be a quick affair, but there was more of it than I had thought. We had about 3-4 inches come down over the weekend, but Sunday night’s rain had turned everything into a heavy, sodden mess. It looked like snow, but it acted more like a half-melted slushy without any syrup in it.
We were promised a Snowmageddon up here near Portland, but unfortunately for us, it was just a few degrees too warm. A couple hundred of feet more in elevation or a couple hundred miles north, people were trapped with almost a foot and a half of snow.
Alas for Bean Acres, every time we built up any inches, the rain would swoop in and melt it.
I It made for a couple of cute pictures, but overall it was a bit of a letdown.
The next morning the snow was rapidly getting melted by the rain, but not fast enough for my morning commute. It took several minutes of scooping before I was finally able to replace the windshield wipers to their normal position, and by the time I opened the door to huddle in the driver’s seat and blow on my frozen hands, my fingers were an angry red.
“BRRRR. BRRRR, it’s COLD out there,” I complained, to nobody in particular. I alternated between blowing on my stinging, clumsy fingertips and trying to fumble my seatbelt on.
“You putta onna da hat,” came Magpie’s slightly disgusted tone, floating up from her car seat in the middle row.
She’s not quite as verbal as Squid was, but she was so unintelligible for so long that her sentences still startle me when they come out so clear.
Of course, clear is kind of a relative term.
Half the time she sounds like she’s pretending to be Italian, with her random “a’s” she tends to stick on the end of words.
The other half, especially when she’s angry, she sounds like an irritable Russian grandma from a cheesy 80’s film. “Vat? Vat you vont, Feen? Vhy you do dis to me?”
Today she sounded Italian, and also slightly put out that she had to explain something so simple to me. There was something so sensible, so practical in her tone. If I was cold, why hadn’t I bothered to put on my hat? She had put on her hat. Her head was warm, nice and snug beneath her pink and blue Paw Patrol knit cap. Why couldn’t her mother follow her good example, rather than sit there and complain about it?
“It’s not that kind of cold, Magpie.” I tried to ignore the feeling that I shouldn’t have to defend my actions to a toddler.
“You cold. You putta onna da hat.”
“No, it’s not that kind of cold. I was scooping snow with my hands. That’s why I was cold – my hands are cold from touching the snow.”
“Mama putta onna da snodoves.”
“I don’t own any snow gloves, or I would have.”
“You putta onna da pockets.”
“You cold,” she said in weary disapproval, turning her head to stare out the minivan window.
Life is an exhausting affair, especially when you are saddled with a mother who can’t manage even the simplest of tasks without constant reminders.
“You cold,” she repeated in her world-weary voice. “You putta da hands onna da pockets.”
“Fine,” I conceded, having been verbally outmaneuvered by a knee-high person who still goes peepee in her diaper. “You’re right. Putting my hands in my pockets would have kept my hands warm.”
“Yah,” she said, her tone turning to something a little less condescending. “Pockets.” At least her mother understood that she was right. The world would run so much smoother, if more people just listened to Magpie’s good sense. She stared out the window, content with the wisdom she had imparted, and began singing quietly to herself. “Tinkle, tinkle, widda stawr… How-a I a-wonda…whewr you aaaaahhh…”
She’s not even three yet, guys.
Someone hold me. I have a feeling I’m in for a looooooong teenagerhood.
I feel like I should warn you of that ahead of time, in case you don’t want to read sad things right now. It’s totally fine if you don’t.
But it is a sad post. I dunno. I’m probably going to regret posting this in such detail. The internet horse community is not known for its kindness.
Oh, it’s known for its kindness to its horses. It’s just not known for its kindness to each other, and while I try to be open and honest on this blog, there are some things that are just too sore for me to let strangers poke at.
Not while it’s still so raw.
I’m sure that someone out there is going to really disagree with the choice I made for Caspian. That’s the nature of horse owners – you give them anything, and they’ll argue over it. I’ll probably get some Anonymous post telling me I’m a horrible human being.
It’s just…. writing has always helped me process things, and I feel like I need to talk about it. Maybe my choice will help someone with their choice, in the same way that Aarene’s blog post helped me with my decision.
Maybe I’m just inventing reasons, and I just selfishly need to let this spill out of me before it tears me up too bad on the inside.
I put Caspian to sleep yesterday morning.
I did it out of kindness.
I don’t know. There’s just no magic 8 ball for things like this. Maybe I chose wrong. Maybe I just took a horse that only needed a quick surgery and a different medication to have pain-free decades left to him, years he could have spent grazing in the lower pasture I would finally fence in, swishing his tail in easy contentment. Years where the boys crawled up on him and rode him around, and years when I rode him in the summer evening twilight in the field across the street. Years where Magpie and Finn sat up there with their legs sticking out sideways and encouraged him to shamble forward.
Or maybe he would have just had uveitis flare up after uveitis flare up, and migraine after migraine, as he slowly went blind. Maybe I just saved him from years of trying to hide pain before I finally gave in to the inevitable.
I don’t know. I. Just. Don’t. Know.
I wish I did.
The internet is full of people who threw tens of thousands of dollars after their moonblind horses only to do the same thing I just did and put them to sleep, after years of pain.
The internet is also full of people who did simple eye removal surgeries and medicine changes and never had another issue.
I kind of hate myself for not reading more about uveitis earlier. Maybe I could have avoided this path if I had. The bad eye just kind of came with Caspian. We were told it was an eye injury. I suspected different, but it never seemed to cause too much of problem, so I never looked into it any further. I didn’t realize *how* painful it was for him on his rare flareup days. I kept his fly mask on, and I kept him sheltered on windy days. Once I realized he actually had uveitis, and what that was (basically, like rheumatoid arthritis of the eyeball) I treated it more seriously and put atropine in his eye and used up my stores of banamine. He always got over the flares pretty quickly. Maybe if I’d done preventative stuff from the beginning, he never would have had another one.
I don’t know, and it sucks.
I wish I was independently wealthy, and I could have tried eye removal and surgical implants and every single herb and fancy cutting-edge technology available. Maybe I should have had more of a financial cushion, so that when we got hit with a bunch of vet bills in a row, it didn’t hurt us so dearly. It didn’t help that every time the horse got sick the kids also got sick, so I had vet bills on one side and doctor bills on the other. We finally have amazing medical insurance, but even so it adds up fast when there’s 6 people in the family.
In my darkest moments, I think that maybe I shouldn’t have bought Reverie. If I hadn’t bought her, my finances would be a lot better shape and I’d know for absolute certain that lack of money had no impact on my decision today. If I had a savings account, I’d *know* I did it out of kindness, instead of worrying that I justified a bad decision to myself.
It’s so hard to figure everything out, when it’s all tied up in grief, and sadness, and confusion about whether the road you chose was the right one.
If I’d had endless finances I could have thrown every drug known to man (horse?) at Caspian and made sure he was totally drugged-out and blissfully comfortable until early summer, and put him to sleep on a day when the sun warmed his back and the grass was up to his knees. I know he would have liked that.
If I’d been able to wait until summer I think I would have buried him on my property, too. The problem is that right now it’s January, and the ground is so wet that it makes squishing, suctioning sounds against my boots even through the grass, even on dry days. I could have hired someone to dig a hole in the lower pasture to bury him, but it would be a muddy, messy affair and the tractor would leave giant muddy tracks in the yard.
It’s not the aesthetics that bother me.
It’s the fact that for weeks and months afterwards I would have to stare out at those tracks, like scars across my heart, and I don’t think my wintertime depression could handle that. I didn’t want my backyard and barn area to become a daily reminder of a friend that I’ve lost.
And ultimately, it does feel like I lost a friend.
And that’s the crux of it, isn’t it?
I firmly, firmly believe in that whole “better a month early than a day too late” line. I see so many videos of little ponies with dead eyeballs hobbling around on prosthetics, of people who keep little dogs alive until they’re covered in bedsores. I never want to be that person.
But it’s one thing to say you believe in something.
And it’s a completely different thing to send that email to your vet, because you don’t trust your voice, while your horse trots around happily in turnout.
It’s another thing to call the renderer – the renderer – to make arrangements to pick up your friend’s body. You know that’s what was left was not Caspian…. But still.
You have to go to the hardware store to get a tarp to cover him up after it’s done. It’s not a good idea to try to have the vet come at the same time as the renderer – it’s too sad when the schedules don’t line up, and you are stuck there waiting. Better to put the horse to sleep, cover them up, and then have the renderer come a little later.
You sit there and hate the idea of a tarp. It should be a shroud. It should be maroon silk with gold filigree. It should something as beautiful as Caspian was on the outside, because nothing could really come close to how beautiful he was on the inside.
I mean, when will you find anything like him ever again?
Maybe he wasn’t your once-in-a-lifetime heart horse, because he was too dignified to enjoy your hands-on affection in the stall, That didn’t make you love or appreciate how special he was any less. Heck, maybe it made you appreciate it more, because you weren’t blinded by anything. Where will you ever find a horse that moves like Arwen’s Andalusian, all fire and grace and smooth collected athleticism, but who is also kind enough to heave a deep sign and lower his muzzle inches from the ground so the kids can learn how to put on a halter?
Caspian was just good, through and through, like milk or vegetables. Steady. Dependable. Unflappable….and he looked like he was straight out of a magazine. Horses like that don’t exist in real life.
You mention the need for a tarp to your husband, trying to sound cool and collected. He is drinking his coffee and doing something for work on his computer, so he buys your act and responds without looking up.
“Try to get something big enough that we can use it afterwards to cover the burn pile.”
You stare at him, wordless, motionless, and think that maybe, just maybe, you could kill him. You could, if you could move past the cold numbness in your heart long enough to feel hot rage.
Some primitive sense of self-preservation alerts him to your stare, and he looks up.
“I know you’re not that good at comforting people, but you can do better than that. You can do better than ‘get one big enough for the burn pile.’ “
He has the grace to look horrified at himself. “I wasn’t thinking. That was wrong. I’m sorry.”
You nod, because that’s all you have left in you, and you leave the room.
You vacilate between wanting to avoid the barn at all costs, and wanting to live in there. Caspian makes it easy not to distance yourself, because suddenly, in his final few weeks on earth, he has turned into Houdini. He breaks out of his stall with an alarming regularity, snapping chains on his gate, using his mouth to open horse-proof locks and untying multiple sets of halters you looped around as a last ditch effort. He roams the property at night. He wanders into the feed area and eats a two month supply of LMF products….. a two month supply for all three horses. You replace it, and he breaks out and eats it again.
You replace it, and he eats it again.
At this point, he’s more vitamin than horse, and you have no idea how he hasn’t foundered or colicked.
You stop buying supplements, so the next time he gets out, he eats the hay. Not some of the hay, but ALL of the hay. You’ve been buying it a few bales at a time from the feed store because the ground got too muddy for a big supply delivery. He devours the entire bale and a half of alfalfa, and pees on the few remaining strands that are left. He upends every single trash can and food container to make sure he gets every last bite of food.
He spills out the last of the rice bran pellets, eats most of them, and then poops on the rest.
When you go out in the morning, he’s nibbling in contentment on the grass, and the other horses are looking at you with pricked ears. “Breakfast?” they ask.
You stare at the empty destruction of the feed room, and shrug helplessly. “I’ll stop and get food on my lunch. I’m sorry.”
Caspian leads to his stall easily, ready for a nice big drink of water and a nap before breaking out again the next night.
You send your husband to Ace Hardware to get an actual lock, and he comes back with a metal carabiner combination lock. You snap it shut over the metal chain at the top, twist the dials to make sure it is totally locked, lock the metal chain at the bottom, and grin at Caspian. “Beat THAT,” you say.
The next morning you look out the window. “The damned horse is out again,” you say to your husband.
“He can’t be.”
“Well, he is.”
“Did you forget to lock the stall?”
You give your husband a withering look. Dumb questions don’t require answers.
When you go out there, you find the lock is in pieces in front of the stall. Caspian literally chewed it off and then unhooked his chains and set himself free.
He also ate all the hay again.
His monthly feed bill for December is already well over $500. He looks good, and his coat is shiny, so there is that.
His “good” eye also seems more and more weird. There’s nothing you can put your finger on, but it just seems…. off. Plus, his bad eye is so sensitive to light that it really should come out at this point.
You do more research. And then more. Some people have the eye enucleating done and that solves everything.
But…. but there’s the way he flipped his head all over the place when the vet approached his good eye. And the way he stepped on your foot. And the way he spooks at things in the sky more than he used to, and doesn’t quite focus on you, and all the other signs.
And when the vet comes out and sedates him to look at it, there’s red inflammation…. In his *good* eye. It’s not definitive, but it’s there, and as close to knowing as you’re gonna get, short of a too expensive trip to an equine opthalmologist for a series of more invasive tests.
The vet recommends removing the bad eye at the very least. You’d already warned him that if it was in the “good” eye you would be considering euthanasia. He walks you through the entire process, step by step, in his calm, no frills voice. You’ve never had a vet you liked this much.
It helps. Sort of.
You hint around for a recommendation, but he’s vague. You can go the med route, or the euthanasia route. It doesn’t seem like he thinks either is a wrong choice. He does repeat that uveitis is a painful condition, and that Caspian would feel better with the bad eye out.
You start haunting horse uveitis orums, reading up on what worked, and what didn’t. You start reading veterinary medical studies. One figure said it only goes bilateral 20% of the time. One study of an experimental trial had 96% of the horses ending up with it in both eyes.
The people on the internet seem to end up closer to the 96% than the 20%.
You take pictures in the sunlight, and realize he’s squinting…. On both sides. You think. Maybe you’re imagining it?
You’re not imagining it.
You can’t do it. You can’t put him through painful surgeries and adapting to only having one eye, just to have to face the same decision in a few weeks or months or at best, years.
Besides, if you can visibly see Mr. Stoic squinting, how bad must the pain actually be?
Still, you hold off, until you see a picture you happen to take. In the picture his leg is held crooked to the side, bandaged from his recent bout of cellulitis, and his head is lowered. He’s squinting, and he just…. he looks like a horse in a lot of pain. He looks tired.
You make the appointment by email, because what choice do you have? Who can trust their voice with a phone call like that? “I’ve decided to kill my friend before he starts hurting nonstop, because I don’t think that any amount of money I dump into this will end up with any different ending, so why not do it now, while he’s fat and happy and not in too much pain?
The internet is full of “the horse will tell you” cliches. You don’t think that applies to you. You know in your heart that for Caspian, who is a stoic, that if you’re waiting until he “tells you”, you’ve waited too long. If you wait for him to tell you, to let you know he’s ready to die, it’s because he’s been in pain so long that he’s given up on the inside.
You don’t want his dying to be a painful thing that takes forever. You can’t make this better for him, but you can at least do that. It’s a gift he deserves.
You still have to go to Ace Hardware for that stupid tarp. You’ve been putting it off, but the vet is coming tomorrow. You have to wander those beige aisles with the too-quiet beige linoleum tile, and you have to look at the selection of tarps. Nobody every teaches you these things – how big of one do you get? You’ve never been very good at eyeballing things. Eyeballing distances is how you ended up with a barn on one side of your property and a paddock on the other. You thought it was 2-3 inches of slope to put the barn on the right hand side. It turns out it was a 7 foot retaining wall worth of slope. So, eyeballing won’t work.
Do you guess at it, and have legs sticking out because you were wrong? What’s the alternative? Can your heart handle going home and taking a tape measure to your living, breathing, soft-furred, warm-hided friend as he calmly munches his hay, measuring him for his temporary plastic coffin cover, and then coming back to the store?
You eyeball the prices and are a little horrified. Who knew tarps were so expensive? Do you get one big one, or two small ones?
You do the math, and realize maybe your husband wasn’t being such an ass after all. If you’re going to drop $40 or $50 on a piece of reusable plastic, maybe you should get one big enough to cover the burn pile after all.
You buy it, and try not to meet the cashier’s eyes, lest she ask you about your project. When you get home, you leave it in the back seat of the car. You can’t stand to look at it.
The boys are leaving to their grandparents early in the morning, hours before the vet is due to arrive. You drag them out to clean stalls with you, and break the news you’ve been putting off. You tell them that it’s in both eyes, and that you will have to put him down while they’re gone. You don’t mention that you’ve already set the time and date. It’s hard enough for you to live with. You can spare them that at least.
You have a long conversation with them, and they take it surprisingly well. They are not surprised, because you’ve hinted it’s coming in the past. Kids hear more than you think. They’re sad, but they understand.
“I wish we could have one more ride on him,” one of them says.
“Yeah,” says the other one, quietly.
“Me too,” you say, and try to not let your voice get too choked up.
You don’t want to lie to them and pretend it’s a happy thing, but you know if you break down, they’ll break down. Crying is perfectly acceptable, but you want them to do it on their own, not because they’re unnerved by you.
You discuss pets in heaven, and the idea of heaven in general.
You claim first ride in heaven on Caspian. It’s probably not a biblical concept, and besides…. if there’s a heaven for horses, it probably doesn’t involve being ridden, but you claim it, just in case.
It makes it feel less like goodbye, and more like “see you soon”.
Eventually the stall is as clean as it’s gonna get. You give him three bags of shavings to roll in. You clean out his dinner-plate size hooves one last time. That front right is getting thrushy – you should grab the medicine and…
You put the hoof back down. It doesn’t really matter, does it?
You and the boys feed Caspian a stupid amount of food, and turn out the lights as he quietly chews.
You go to bed, but you don’t sleep. You buy a new book and read it until you get drowsy, and turn off the lights, but the second you do, reality comes crashing back. You start doing the math of how many hours until the vet comes. You try to ignore it, and think of anything else, but it doesn’t work. You start to cry, and instead put your glasses back on and turn on your Kindle and fall back into the book to keep the tears at bay.
It helps it’s a good story.
You repeat this several times throughout the night.
The boys leave with their grandparents early, and as soon as they’re gone, it becomes real.
You want to be out there with Caspian, but he’s still happy in his stall, knee-deep in hay, nose to nose with Reverie, and you shouldn’t make yourself feel better at his expense. Horses are kind of empaths, and the last thing he needs is to have you bringing him down with your mood those last few hours.
You think about turning him out, and letting him roll in the mud like he likes…. but decide against it. Maybe it’s what he would like, but there won’t be time for him to dry off and get groomed again. It shouldn’t matter, maybe it doesn’t matter, but leading a mud-caked horse out would just make you feel so much worse.
You do everything to make time slow down, but it won’t. Eventually it’s a little over an hour to the vet. It’s time to go outside.
You glance at the screen door and note the way the sun is making the frost glow in the backyard. It’s a beautiful day. Is that better, or worse?
Better, you decide. Caspian never liked the rain. Better for him to enjoy the sun one last time.
You open up the back door and Carrots nickers at you, prompting Reverie and Caspian to come to the front gate. You stop, and take a picture, realizing it’s the last time you’ll see those pricked white ears looking at you from his stall.
You take another, and another. And another.
You stop. Why are you torturing yourself like this? Caspian doesn’t need you sobbing. Who knows what he’ll pick up off of you, if you can’t get your emotions under control.
The Bean had offered to hold him for the vet, but you turned him down. Maybe it would have been the kind thing to do for Caspian, not having your emotions leaking all over him. The Bean would have been calmer….but you couldn’t do it. You couldn’t not be there.
Your breath catches in a sob, so you stand by Carrots and take a deep breath. One. Two. You fall back on your old trick and start mentally naming things as your glance falls on them. Chestnut. Forelock. Grass. Sky. Mist. Hoof. Tree.
That calms you down enough that you can conjugate Spanish verbs in your head. Yo corro. Tu corres. Ud. corre. Nosotros corremos. Uds. corren.
Deseo. Deseas. Desea. Deseamos. Desean.
Emotions stuffed back down, you approach the barn and clean the stalls.
You tie up Caspian as you lead Carrots over to his stall. Her stall? His stall.
From the tie post he squints at you in the sunlight, even though he’s not in the middle of a flare. You wonder if it’s your imagination that he’s squinting with the good eye. You zoom in one photo and realize it’s not.
Maybe the sunlight was a gift, to make the whole thing easier, to prove you’re doing right. No prey animal who is based on flight should have to spend the rest of their life squinting painfully every time they’re out of the barn.
Still. He looks so good. Would it be easier if he looked sicker? You can’t help but think that it would be easier.
Carrots ignores Reverie and settles in to eating, which is a relief. You were pretty sure she was over her hatred of the filly, but this is the first time they’ve been penned next to each other. You’re glad it’s going smoothly. In another day or so, they’ll be best friends. You scatter sweet feed on the floor to keep the girls busy, and fill an entire bucket with grain for Caspian. It’s not like he’ll founder.
You lead him away from the barn, stopping near the electric fence to let him eat You want to move him away gradually, so Reverie doesn’t start screaming for him. You want to give her a chance to get used to him being far away.
Caspian eyes the bucket, flapping his lip at it the entire way, but he waits respectfully until you give him the signal before he lowers and dives in. He’s such a good boy, through and through.
He looks good, too. How can such a young, healthy-looking horse be irretrievably sick? It seems so unfair.
You take some pictures, so you can remember him like this, nose deep in the bucket, content, moments before he’s gone.
This is your gift to him, even if it’s tearing you apart. He’s worth it.
He’s shining in the sunlight, which makes you feel proud. It’s hard to get a shine on a grey horse. He always has the most beautiful shine.
Had the most beautiful shine?
His neck looks good with the roached mane. You had such grand plans for it – you were going to shape it as it grew out, but instead it’s just kind of lumpy, since you used scissors.
Still – his mane was never very good even when you completely babied it, and he really rocks the roached look. It shows his neck off to its best advantage. You’ll probably never own a horse with a prettier neck.
It’s 20 minutes to the vet’s arrival.
You unhook the gate and lead him through to the front yard. Reverie calls a couple of times, pacing her stall. It’s not as frantic as it would be without Carrots beside her, but it still makes your heart wrench.
You lead him to where the vet suggested it take place, near the driveway and where the ground is level, and let him eat some more. You want him totally relaxed in that area before the vet arrives. You’re trying not to cry, but it’s hard, really hard. You bury his face in his broad side, hiding your head there, breathing in his scent. He’s so warm, and solid. Your breath hitches. Maybe this is a really bad idea. Maybe this isn’t the right decision at all.
The Bean comes out, face looking quiet and sad. “You need anything?”
You swallow, hard, so your voice comes out only half choked. “Can you get the … the tarp….ready…”
“I’ll take care of it.” You know he will. You can tell he wants to do something to comfort you, but that he’s giving you space to just be with Caspian alone. His ability to give you space has always been your favorite part of your marriage. The tarp is one less thing for you to worry about right now, and it will also give him something to do.
Caspian has eaten half the bucket of grain and gotten bored with it, so he moves on to the grass. He’s eating it with a steady determination, barely chewing, as if he’s half starved. You run a hand down his side, where there’s not a rib to be felt, and give a choked laugh. Your feed bill is going to be less than half of what it used to be, once he’s gone.
You feel guilty for even thinking that.
Behind you, you hear the crunching sound of the vet’s truck pulling into the driveway. You glance to confirm it’s who you think it is, and everything rears up inside you, angry and ugly and savage. You turn your back on him, and curl your fingers into Caspian’s coat.
Go away. Go away, go away, go away, go away.
Instead, you wait till you hear truck door open and then close, and then you turn around and give the vet a half-hearted wave before giving him your back again. You don’t think he minds. After a few moments, you find your voice.
“Hey, Doc.” It comes out pinched, and way too high.
“Hi, Becky. You want to do the paperwork first?”
No. Go away. “Yeah.”
He heads back to his truck, and you realize you can’t. You just can’t. Thank God the Bean is here. “Bean, you can do that part,” you say, and he obediently walks over to join the vet at the truck. The two of them talk in quiet voices. You hear snippets of it – the vet’s explaining the process to the Bean, just like he did to you. He has such a kind, steady voice. It helps, but you still try to block it out. Go away. Go away, go away, go away.
You lean your face into Caspian’s hide and conjugate verbs like your life depends on it. Correr. Brinkar. Nadar. Morir. No, not that one. Not that one, Becky. It’s not helping. Cantar. Ir. Esperar. You glance down, and see that Caspian is back in the bucket of food, but now he’s eating with a worried expression.
Well, it is what it is. You’re doing the best you can.
The vet comes over, and explains the steps to you again. You nod, and look off in the distance, at the sky, the hills, the trees. He talks you through ways it might not go smoothly. Your fingers are buried in Caspian’s coat. You keep wiping your nose on your sleeve, or shoulder. It’s probably gross, but it’s a Carhartt. Carhartts are ranchers jackets. They usually see worse. So do vets and husbands. You don’t think they mind.
You hold the halter while the vet gives him the sedative.
“Just hold his head. He’s going to get nice and sleepy. Go ahead and let him get nice and calm.”
Caspian stops chewing his mouthful of grass long enough to brace himself for the shot, and then continues.
He chews it steadily, and then his head gets heavy. He chews it again. Once. Twice. He stops, his eyes half-lidded, his breathing deep. The grass hangs forgotten in his mouth.
The vet approaches again and shaves the neck area, and then circles back to the truck for the meds. He’s already explained the next part. Caspian’s a big boy, so he’s going to give him three full syringes of the juice. It’s a big needle, so he might startle when it goes in.
Your job is to hold Caspian’s head, hold him steady, as the three syringes go in. Once they’re in, the vet will grab his halter, and help ease him to the ground.
You nod. Your fingers are curled around the halter, fingertips buried in the soft fuzz of Caspian’s cheeks. At some point you realize your hands are shaking. You glance down, and see the three giant syringes in the vet’s hand. They’re pink – horribly pink, like the way poisonous things in nature advertise themselves with too-bright colors. They’re warning pink. Danger pink. You’ve seen the pink juice before, when you had to put your dog down, but those giant horse-sized cannisters are too much.
It seems really, really wrong to hold Caspian still for those, when he looks so good in the winter sunlight. There’s still time to say nevermind. You can still back out. You can still stop this idiocy.
Instead, you lift your good friend’s head up, cradling it high.
“Good”, says the vet in his quiet voice. “Okay. We’re going to start.” He inserts the needle, and blood drips out the bottom. He screws in the first syringe, and Caspian’s blood mixes with the godawful pink like smoke.
Your fingers are shaking, as are your arms. It’s not from the strain of holding him up. It doesn’t matter at this point – he’s sedated, so you let yourself feel. The tears run down your cheeks.
By the time the third syringe is nearly through, Caspian’s head has grown heavy, and he’s starting to wobble. “I got him,” says the vet, and you back away, grateful. The Bean comes up behind you, and his hand is on your shoulder, squeezing it.
The vet leans hard against Caspian’s head, and pushes him to an almost sitting position, and then helps him down. For a moment, one of those dinner plate sized hooves catches on the grass, and Caspian’s graceful descent is arrested. The vet tries to nudge it with his leg without letting go of Caspian’s head, but it’s hard. He’s no 800 pound Arabian.
“Do you need…. Do you want me to…” You raise a shaking hand to gesture, then cross it in front of you again, gripping at the sleeves of your jacket.
“I got it,” he says, and he does. Caspian is down on his side, stretched out like he’s deep asleep. It could be a nap, except his breathing is too shallow, and spaced too far apart.
You’d been warned there might be paddling, but there isn’t any. He’s just lying down. Sleeping. Except he’s not.
“You can go to his head now,” the vet says. “Just go to his head and give him some love. I’ll get my stethescope.”
For a second, you think about saying no. You don’t want to. What the hell are you supposed to say? “Good boy. Sorry for killing you. Thanks for not making this too traumatic on me, now please go to the light faster so I don’t have to hear the irregular sounds of your final breaths?“
But you go to him, and you kneel down, feeling lost, and stupid, and guilty. You have no idea where to put your hand, so you just place it lightly on the center of his forehead, where he liked being soothed the best. “Good boy. Good boy, Caspian. You’re so good. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry I’m so sorry I’m so sorry. Good boy.” You break off into a sob, and then realize that maybe, maybe Caspian can actually still hear you, maybe he’s not quite gone, and if he can, maybe he shouldn’t hear your keening as his final sounds. That’s not a peaceful sound. Maybe it will scare him. You can hold it together for a few more moments.
“You’re the best boy. Good boy. Shhhh, shhhh. Yes. Good boy. You are the best, and there’s nobody better. I’m sorry. You are so good.” Your voice comes out almost calm, almost soothing, although you don’t know how you’re managing it.
His breaths are gone now, and lips pulled back from his teeth. Steam rises from his mouth, but it’s from his heat, not his breath. His eyes are glassy. He gives a cough, like the vet warned he would. Once. Twice. Three times.
The vet is kneeling on the other side of that sloping rib cage. “There’s no heartbeat.”
“Good boy,” you say, and you run a hand over his long, furry ear. He hated that in real life, but what does it matter now?
The vet helps you get his halter off. You’re going to donate it to a nearby horse rescue. He asks if you want to save some of his tail, and you lie and say you already did.
The truth is that you don’t want the responsibility of it, or the memory. You’re scared that all you’ll see of it is his death, and how you should have been able to help him, but you couldn’t.
He deserved to be 33, not 13. What a stupid disease. What a stupid end for such a good, good horse.
The tarp you got is ridiculously huge, and it takes the three of you to get it right.
The vet gives you a hug as he leaves, but you suck at hugs in the best of times, so it’s a quick, awkward thing. You can’t decide if you want to fling yourself on the nearest person and sob into them or whether your skin is twitching at the intrusion of being touched.
The Bean has his hand on your shoulder again, as awkward at comforting as you are receiving it, and it makes you feel oddly better.
“I’m sorry, Becky. I’m really sorry,” he says, and when he does his voice has tears in it. You don’t know why, but it feels like a gift, and that helps too.
The vet backs his truck out of the driveway, and you sink on the stairs and hold your head and sob. It’s easier, now that it’s over, but it’s still so stupid, and just so useless. Why do we even have horses, if it has to end with impossible decisions like this?
That last night in the stall, as you picked through the shavings, one of your boys looked up at you and said in a quiet voice, “If we were rich… like, if we had a million dollars, could we save Caspian?”
“No,” you reply simply, and it’s the truth. The horse uveitis groups are filled with eye surgeries and implants, but you just don’t think it would have worked for Caspian.
You wanted to do right by Caspian, and spare him unnecessary pain, and you did that. It was quick, and oddly peaceful. Even the vet commented on it. He wasn’t hurting. He wasn’t scared. His friends were right there. Reverie was calling for him, and he felt so at ease with everything that he didn’t even bother calling back. He still had unchewed fresh green grass in his mouth when he went, and he didn’t fight it. He really did just go to sleep, with the sun on his back and a half-finished bucket of grain to his side, and expecting to go back to his stall at the end of another routine vet visit.
And that was the best gift you could give him, but you’re surprised to find that it doesn’t make you feel any better at all. Your brain can mutter all the cliches it wants, but it doesn’t make your heart hurt any less.
Because your friend is there, under a tarp in your yard, and it just really, really sucks.
“No, you can’t have Halloween candy for breakfast.”
“Why in the heck are you….no, you can’t eat cereal on the couch! Go sit at the kitchen table.”
“Aww, I love you, too.”
“GO STAND ON THE WALL!”
“No flossing…yes, I know it’s just a dance move. I don’t care. I’m tired of watching it.”
“Sure, you can ride your bike down the street. Look both ways before crossing…Hey! Come back and get your helmet!”
“GO STAND ON THE WALL! NO ELECTRONICS FOR A WEEK!”
“What are you eating? No, you can’t have those. Those are school snacks! I know you’re hungry- why do you think I’m standing in front of the stove, cooking? School snacks are expensive, and dinner’s almost ready. Put it back. I don’t care if it’s half-eaten, I’ll put it in a ziplock baggie and you can take it with you tomorrow.”
“Quit flossing. If you flossed your teeth as much as you flossed your butt, you’d never have a cavity.”.
“You had a bad dream? Go pee first, then come lay down. Yaaawwwwn. Night, sweetie. I love you, too.
Somewhere out there, in some magical corner of the planet, there is some woman who has a clean kitchen.
Her dishes are done, the counters are wiped, and the fridge doesn’t smell weird. Her kids are doing great. Oh, sure, they squabble some, but they all feel loved, and because she does such a good job meeting all their little emotional needs they are secure enough to show that love to each other. She’s firm but not so hard on them that they become anxious, and she challenges them just enough while also nurturing them just enough. She checked all their homework, they have clean school clothes for tomorrow, their lunches are probably packed ahead of time. I bet she even puts a little note in each lunchbox, so they know they’re loved.
She probably even wrote this post, because her kids never bring four bags of chips and a sandwich to school because she forgot to go to the store and that’s literally all she had to fill their lunch box with.
All of her kids take their bath, every night, and smell deliciously clean and have shiny hair. They dress in matching pajamas, because they actually have clothes in their drawers instead of piled on a bed in the spare bedroom. She spent time tonight with each of them. She hugged and taught and sang with the little ones, focused on the middle one and made him feel noticed and appreciated all his accomplishments, and worked with the oldest on his math until he understood it and felt empowered and intelligent.
She had to take away their books to force them to get a good night’s sleep, because those little scoundrels love reading so much they’ll read all night under the covers with a flashlight. They definitely aren’t addicted to YouTube or video games – not her kids! None of them are having any emotional crises this week, and they definitely don’t feel left out or ignored, because she gives exactly the same amount of time, attention, and love to each one of them. She definitely didn’t realize, just this exact moment, that one of them has a birthday in less than a week and she still hasn’t done a single thing to prepare for it.
The dinner she cooked tonight had a vegetable, and everybody ate it.
I bet she’s all caught up at work, too. I bet every email is answered, and every file is alphabetized, and she totally doesn’t have a bazillion post-it notes all around the edges of the computer to remind her of stuff she’s been putting off. Nobody is waiting on a callback from her. She’s caught up on processing every single permit, and she has updated every single form. She’s dependable like that.
Her house is tidy. It’s not spotless, because that would be creepy, but the entire thing is somewhat tidy all at once, instead of some rooms being super clean while other rooms look like a bomb went off.
I bet it smells really good in her house, too. I bet it smells like something lemony fresh, or maybe baked apples, and definitely not like dog, boy feet, the poop diaper she just changed, and cheap Wal-Mart scent wax that she’s burning in an attempt to cover the smell.
You just know her floor is clean. I bet you could sit down on it in white pants, and then get back up, and those pants would be the exact same color. You know there aren’t any piles of dog hair lining the walls, or giant mounds of clean laundry stacked next to the giant mounds of dirty laundry. She probably made time to exercise, and drink all her water, take a shower, pray, and read her Bible, and reach out to someone hurting and help them.
Her dog probably got walked, or brushed, or… or… or something. I don’t know. At this point I don’t even know what you’re supposed to be doing with a dog beyond letting it out to go potty, telling it to get off the couch for the millionth time in a row and feeling vaguely guilty and hoping the kids are petting it enough. Whatever it is you’re supposed to do with a dog, I bet she’s doing it. I bet that dog is totally fulfilled with its doggy life, and just having a grand ol’ time.
She probably brushed her horses, and picked their hooves, too. She definitely didn’t try to sneak in a few minutes with her horses after literally locking her children in the backyard and tuning out the sounds of their sad wails at being unable to accompany her. She would never do that. She’s a super good mom. She treasures every moment.
Did you hear me?
SHE. TREASURES. EVERY. SINGLE. MOMENT. OF. SINGLE. DAY. She knows how much she’ll miss them once they’re gone, so even when they’re screaming at her from the backyard, or arguing with their brother, or toddling their way into the bathroom while she’s pooping and then getting angry when she won’t let them crouch down to watch it come out, SHE TREASURES IT.
And so she does. She’s never once told her kids “JUST GO AWAY AND LET ME BE BY MYSELF FOR A SECOND. SERIOUSLY. SCAT!” That would be so hurtful to their poor little psyches. Only a mean mom would do that.
I bet her hair is brushed, and her toenails painted, and her eyebrows plucked. She probably flosses twice a day, too. I bet her husband feels loved and appreciated and she never snaps at him because she’s taking her feelings of failure out on him. They definitely have a totally banging sex life that any teenager would envy because they’re both bursting with energy and in great shape and super flexible and never feel too tired or too fat or just too exhausted.
Yoga would be too much – with as awesome as she is in other areas, it’d push her over into pretentiousness. I think she probably just runs in the mornings before her kids are up does pilates from an old DVD at home, or something, and it must work because she is still really athletic and never grunts when getting up from a chair.
I bet she smells good, and I bet she’s not sitting on her sofa in really old plus size overalls that she put on to muck stalls and then got too lazy to take off. She would never sit on the sofa in overalls that smelled vaguely of horse pee. I mean…. ew, right?
She’s probably on her laptop, but she’s probably not writing a book. See, she’s taking a break from writing right now, because she just turned in the a finished draft of her latest book to her publisher and is enjoying her well-deserved break. She’s good like that – she sets writing goals and absolutely finishes them on time, and enjoys people paying for her books and the joy of knowing she’s a published author.
She probably has the best time on the weekends, too. I bet she does cool things like going to community events with her family, or impromptu road trips, or paint nights with friends that she still has because she’s great at reaching out to people and hanging out on a regular basis. She’s probably going hiking – wait, no, I bet she’s going backpacking with her kids this next weekend. She and her family definitely don’t spend too much time watching Netflix. I mean, what a waste of precious time that would be, amiright?
Pfffft, that woman doesn’t need Summer Sanders to tell her this, cuz she’s already out there doing it…. EVERY NIGHT.
She probably makes time to go camping with her family, and calls her parents regularly, and takes her kids to museums so they turn out well-rounded.
She didn’t volunteer anywhere today – she does that on Thursdays. She does that on Thursdays because she has a calendar, and plans ahead, and definitely doesn’t decide what she’s doing 45 seconds before she actually has to leave the house.
That planning probably comes in handy when it comes to budgeting. I bet she has a nice tidy little savings account, and knows when and where all her money goes, definitely doesn’t waste money she doesn’t have on expensive coffees she chugs to get through the day, doing her best to ignore the fact that while the money is there in the bank, it’s not actually there, you know? I mean, that would be really fiscally irresponsible. If she did that, she wouldn’t be able to afford her kids music lessons or the entry fees to sports, and they’d probably just hang out in her backyard all the time and grow up weird and socially awkward.
I bet she’s out there, being amazing, and just genuinely rocking at life.
I hope she stays out there, too, because if I have to see her in real life I’m going to feel really grumpy end up doing something I’d regret, like let my ill-behaved, too-friendly dog jump on her with muddy paws, or maybe sic my socially awkward, semi-feral children on her well-rounded kids, or maybe just leap on her and let my extra weight pin her to my filthy floor and demand to know where she’s finding all the hours in the day.
Lies! This image is pure lies!…. Okay, maybe not pure lies. There is only one person in that image, and that is kind of how I remember my early 20’s. being.
I have that rag-doll, boneless feeling I only get when I’ve been living on a giant adrenaline surge and suddenly it’s all over with.
It’s a little premature to be celebrating, but I’m gonna go there anyways:
Three cheers for Plaquenil! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! HIP HIP HOORAY!
It’s the miracle drug that keeps my rheumatoid arthritis at bay when I have adrenaline dumps like this (if you didn’t know, adrenaline dumps/stress does to rheumatoid arthritis what gasoline does to a fire.) I could feel my body trying all week to rev up into a GIANT flare, but it just never seemed to get any traction and by this morning the pain was dissipating.
Reverie is doing well – she’s settling in and grazing calmly next to Caspian in the stall beside her, and only occasionally leaving her food to pace at the front of her stall. Caspian acts like he’s in love – this is the second time this has happened, so I’m beginning to suspect that he just genuinely likes young horses more than he likes adult horses.
(UPDATE: I wrote the above on Wednesday. It’s Thursday now, and Reverie is already totally settled in.)
(ANOTHER UPDATE: Now it’s Friday. It’s like she has always lived here.)
(ANOTHER ANOTHER UPDATE: whoops, it’s Saturday. I forgot to proofread this last night.)
As far as how it went on the night she arrived…..
We’ll fast forward past me rushing home and running around trying to get everything just right – filling the water in the barn, making sure there were enough shavings, spreading a little hay, etc, etc.
We’ll fast forward past the sight of the truck/trailer pulling into the driveway and the way our yard exploded with cries of “She’s here! She’s here!” and “Quick, get that bike out-of-the-way!” and “Mom, she’s here!” and “Hey, quit yelling and move Magpie over there! NO, DON’T SIT ON THE GROUND RIGHT OUTSIDE THE TRAILER, DON’T YOU HAVE ANY SENSE?”
We’ll fast forward past the way she just calmly stepped off the trailer like she’s been doing it her whole life, and the way she led right into the stall with her mom, and settled right down….
….and we’ll start with the point where they loaded Sparkle up into the trailer and started to pull out onto the road.
See, although they did some separation leading up to the initial weaning, we decided to “pull the plug” on weaning here at my house. Sure, it might make ruin the whole first night romance of the arrival of my dream horse, but it was probably kinder to Reverie in the long run. When foals can hear their mom answering weaning takes a lot longer, so we decided to do the final separation over here.
I spent a lot of time going over the stall, making sure there were no loose bolts, or jagged wood bits, or anything that might hurt Reverie. I thought initially about letting her be in the big paddock, but immediately discarded that idea. I figured a panicked foal had no business running around at full speed – she’d just hurt herself. I knew she would flip out when she realized she’d be left behind, and I was right.
What I hadn’t planned for was the way she would be so darn athletic about her despair.
Even before the trailer left the property Reverie was whinnying and freaking out, but as soon as it disappeared around the corner, Reverie was all, “Welp. They’re obviously not coming back, so it’s up to me to follow”, and up she went on her hind legs…..
…and over she went, or rather tried to go. Right over the 5 foot tall gate.
She didn’t QUITE make it all the way over, but she was close….. DARN close. I had to run forward and push her back over the top of the gate so I could enter the stall and attach a lead rope.
The closest I can come to explaining what she did was to show this video, which is took after she calmed down, during one of my “is it safe for me to go inside the house for 30 seconds?”
The answer is no – no it was NOT safe. This was one of her less athletic attempts.
On a braggy side note…. man, I love how much of a thinker she is. If you’ll notice, she’s not frantic, she didn’t lose her head- she’s just bound and determined to escape.
I had the boys lead in Carrots and put her in the stall next to us. Carrots is always so steady – she rarely spooks, and she has a calming influence on both Caspian and Jupiter when he was with us. She’s low man on the totem pole, and the worst thing she ever does is to halfheartedly pin her ears at Caspian whenever he starts acting like an alpha jerk.
She’s so easy-going and friendly and placid, I figured she’d be the perfect stall mate to calm down Reverie. Caspian likes all horses, but he can be reactive, and the last thing I needed was a horse spooking whenever Reverie whirled around her stall. Carrots would be a good influence.
Boy did I think wrong.
Carrots – my sweet, innocent, never-pins-her-ears, never-has-anything-but-a-sweet-expression-on-her-sweet-little-face little pony face turned into the chestnut pony mare from hell.
“I’m scared and lonely, won’t you be my frien- WHOA I guess not.”
She pinned her ears and made horrible squealing noises every time any time Reverie stuck her nose through the fence for a sniff. She glared malevolently as she chewed her hay, and even rushed the fence a couple of times when Reverie leaned too close.
I would have told the boys to replace her with Caspian…..
But by that point, I was all by myself.
I had locked the twins in the fenced portion of the backyard for safety before we removed Sparkle, much to their wailing distress. The boys weren’t much better. They were vibrating with nerves, running around frantically as they tried to help out and we tried to calm Reverie down, but they were only making things worse. Eventually I told them, “Look, just go inside. I have to hold Reverie until I can figure something out or get ahold of someone who can help me. Bring the twins with you, and get them some dinner. Turn something on the TV to keep them out of trouble.”
Since they are 7 and 9 years old, they interpreted that as, “Ask the twins if they want to go inside. When the twins OF COURSE say ‘no’, respect their decision and just go inside yourselves and watch your own TV shows for as long as you want.”
So there I was, stuck outside in the barn, holding a nervous weanling on a lead rope inside a stall, and literally no way to fix anything. Nobody was home. Nobody was answering phone calls, I had accidentally deleted my neighbor’s phone number, nobody was answering FB messenger, anyone who was home and had the knowledge to help me was too far away to be of any use, and I was quietly freaking out. If I let go of the lead rope and tried to go to a neighbor it was pretty much a guarantee that either Reverie would make it over the fence and gallop straight out onto a very busy road, or she would hurt herself trying. I was stuck holding her in the stall.
To make matters worse, I had two year old twins standing in my backyard, screaming like they’d been set on fire, with zero adult supervision. At first the twins were crying because they FURIOUS I had locked them in the backyard away from the fun….
….and then, as the minutes turned into half an hour, and the half an hour turned into an hour straight of me “ignoring” them while I was in the barn, they moved beyond furious to absolutely distraught. The sun was sinking lower in the sky, they were obviously abandoned, and the wolves were going to eat them. Worst of all, their cold, heartless, no-good mother was ignoring their screams for help.
It was a real, super good, super fun time standing in that stall with the screaming baby horse, listening to the screaming baby humans, and not being able to do anything about either situation.
I tried half a dozen times to call for the older boys, but it’s about 250 feet from the house to the barn, and either they couldn’t hear me over the sound of the TV, or they couldn’t hear me over the sound of the screaming twins.
I couldn’t leave Reverie. While she was fairly calm with me in the stall, the second I unhooked her, she would immediately try to escape.
Do you know what was even worse than her rearing up and trying to scrabble over? It was the way she thoughtfully eyed the gate. Whenever I would take off the lead rope she would approach the gate, rear up and consider trying to scrabble over….. and then she would drop back down, eyeball the gate thoughtfully, and back up slowly with firm, determined footfalls until her back end was pressed tight against the gate.
She was very, very obviously considering jumping the gate.
If she had about 10 feet more of running room (my stalls are only 12 x 12), or if that gate was about 2-3 inches lower, I’m pretty sure she would have tried it. She was not frantic at all as she assessed the gate height – she obviously thought it was within the realm of possibility.
The fencing in the paddock was no-climb horse fencing, but the idea of turning her loose in a large area seemed like a bad idea. I could just see her hurting herself in her frantic run around an unfamiliar area.
It was a long, long hour.
Now that it’s all over I’ve thought of a half a dozen people I could have called who would have been willing to come out and lend me a hand, but at the time I was just too stressed out.
Of course, I realized immediately that I could have called Kathleen back, and that was definitely in the back of my head as a last-resort. She’s the kind of person who would have shown up and helped. It’s just… my pride was in the way. There’s something a little wrong about “Hey, breeder, would you please entrust me with one of your precious babies?” and then thirty minutes later “HALLLLLP MEEEEE I’M OVERWHELMED AND INEPT!”
I almost didn’t want to share the whole story, because when you’re honest on the internet about messing up or struggling with horses (or kids) it’s kind of like standing on top of a giant hill with a megaphone and declaring “EVERYONE TELL ME YOUR OPINION, RIGHT NOW.”
Some days it’s useful, and people are kind, and I learn a lot.
Some days people are less kind, and it just makes a hard situation more overwhelming.
Eventually DragonMonkey came out to check on me, and to offer to make me dinner. I swear, I’ve never been so happy to see his scrawny, barefoot little self picking his way through the crunchy autumn grass. I could have kissed him – in fact, I think I did. I was able to direct him into gathering supplies for me, and eventually I figured out a fix.
It did the job immediately – with that barrier in place she stopped eyeballing the jump, and settled for pacing the front of the stall and sniffing along the bottom.
I sat down at last into a folding chair I’d placed inside the barn to watch her and make sure the fix was going to hold, and also because she seemed to really take comfort in me being near her. In that time period I also managed to get the boys to lure the twins inside and feed them some microwaved taquitos, so the whole affair became a lot less stressful.
At one point I noticed Reverie nosing the salt block I had tied between the stalls. Carrots rushed the stall and banged it with her chest, her ears pinned and her teeth gaping savagely, and Reverie sprang back and resumed her nervous pacing and occasional calling for her mother.
Do you know who deserves salt blocks? Sweet, orphaned foals, and not savage, stall-rushing, ugly-faced red-headed ponies.
I entered Carrots’ stall, and Carrots moved politely out of my way, turning to the side to return to her hay pile. Well, if Carrots wasn’t going to share, I was going to tie the salt block in Reverie’s stall. Maybe she’d find some comfort in licking it, in between nervous laps in the stall?
Carrots was standing diagonally to me, and I was right by her hip, in the “marginal sight” blind spot.
As I started untying the salt block, Reverie stopped her laps and crowded close to me on the other side of the stall, pressing against the bars for comfort.
There was a rush of movement as Carrots whirled, I caught a glimpse of orange, and then the next thing I knew my arm HURT and Carrots had bounded away to the complete opposite end of the stall with an OH CRAP, nervous expression on her face.
I don’t think she actually set out to bite me, I really don’t. I think she thought Reverie was messing with the salt block again, whirled around to bite her, and then when I was in the way just kind of mindlessly bit whatever was closest, which happened to be my left arm.
But you know what?
I don’t care. That’s almost worse.
She has one purpose on this farm, and that’s to be a steady, reliable, zero drama pony for the kids. She will never have to ride 100 miles in a day, or race barrels or ride dressage, or be yanked on with a curb bit or ride rollkhur. She has ONE purpose- be kind and patient with kids… and thus far, she’s done her job BEAUTIFULLY. She has yet to really spook, she leads along behind the twins one tiny, mincing step at a time, she lets the kids take FOREVER as they learn how to clean a hoof, and although she’s kind of green under saddle with an independent rider, she’s the best leadline pony I’ve ever been around.
I just couldn’t believe she bit me. She BIT me. How dare she?!
I felt like some kind of Jersey housewife that walked in on her husband of 20 years with a stripper in their bed. I say Jersey housewife because there was NOTHING classy about my response. I’m not even sure I was speaking English. I think I was trying to cuss, but it just came out in gibberish. I was channeling my inner Ralphie, screaming out my rage as I chased her around the stall and tried to kick her in the belly.
After a couple of seconds I realized that it was time to stop, even though I didn’t really want to. My rule is that any time a horse kicks or bites our of meanness (even if they only try to) you you have about three seconds to rain hellfire down on their soul with no holds barred, and then you are supposed to shut it off.
Of course, I say that’s my rule, but none of my horses have ever been ill behaved enough to do that. *I* would never own a horse like that, or be lax enough in my discipline that they would even try.
I stood there, panting, glaring, wishing I could throw a rock at Carrots, or maybe a brick, or maybe smash a broom handle over her stupid, orange, “I-think-it’s-okay-to-bite-people” head.
Carrots stood in the corner, tail clamped, poised for another lap around the stall as she waited to see what I was going to do next. I came back to my senses and glanced over at Reverie, who had stopped pacing her stall and was standing in the center, head raised super high, eyes wide. She looked like she just stepped off the cover of Morgan Horse news.
Awesome. Just AWESOME.
My dream horse, the horse I’d been waiting for my entire life, had just witnessed me trying to kill her stallmate.
I stomped over to the salt lick, untied it, and then stomped over to the gate to let myself out. Carrots slid submissively out of my bubble long before I got near to her, which was fine by me. If I’d had a pack of wolves, I would have happily fed her to them.
I went around into the hay area, tied the salt rock in Reverie’s stall and then threw myself down in a folding lawn chair and tried to stuff my bad temper back away deep down inside me.
I glanced at the bruise Carrots had left on my arm, but it wasn’t very big.
24 hours later, f course, it was much more impressive looking:
In one of those “Okay, I understand with my brain but will never truly understand with my heart” moments, screaming and cussing and trying to beat a pony to death caused both horses to relax.
I mean, if I’d adopted a child, brought them home, and then within a hour of bringing them home they watched me chase DragonMonkey around the house, trying to beat them over the head with a frying pan, it would not relax them.
But that’s horses for you. You could see them both visibly breathe out in relief. “Ahhhh, how comforting. There’s a horrible, witchy, alpha mare looking out for us.”
Reverie went from calling for her mom every few seconds to just calling every once in awhile, even stopping every once in a long while to snatch the occasional bite of hay or let me scratch on her before she resumed pacing the front of the stall, staring out to where the trailer disappeared with Sparkle.
Carrots turned her butt to Reverie and proceeded to ignore her for a long time before she finally resumed eating dinner.
After about half an hour she decided enough time had passed and she was allowed to take offense again. When Reverie passed by too close she pinned her ears and snaked her head around towards Reverie.
“EHHHHHHHH-EH-EH-EH-EH. DON’T YOU EVEN *(&@*!!&$# THINK OF IT, YOU HORRIBLE LITTLE GREMLIN.”
And she immediately unpinned her ears and settled back down to her food.
Eventually I went inside.
When the Bean came home (it’s tax season so he’s rarely home before dark) he asked, “So, was it everything you dreamed it would be?…..What? Why are you looking at me like that?”
I slept poorly that night – terrified that my fix wouldn’t hold and that Reverie would break free and gallop into oncoming traffic.
Also, my arm hurt.
The next morning I switched out Carrots for Caspian, who immediately fell absolutely head over heels in love with Reverie. He snuffled her softly, ears pricked, oozing contentment.
This is the second time this has happened, and I’m beginning to suspect that Caspian just really likes young horses. I wish I’d put him in there from the start. Oh, well. Live and learn?
Reverie has already settled down. It took 28 hours for her to forget about her mom – I doubt it would be quite so quick if she’d been able to hear Sparkle calling back.
I called my stepdad, and he dropped everything to come out and help me install an electric fence. Of course, by “help me install” I mean I told him where I wanted to place it, and the ideas I had, and he installed the entire thing by himself while I was at work.
Kathleen sent me several follow up messages, along with some great advice, and her husband was even kind of to offer to come out and help me start putting up the electric fence.
It felt kind of empowering to be able to say “Actually, it’s already halfway done,” even if the empowerment came from, “because I totally threw all of my pride in the trash and asked my dad for help.”
The relief I felt as the fence went up felt almost like a physical sensation. It feels SO GOOD not to have to worry about her charging out into the street any more.
I’m looking forward to her first turnout, which will be tomorrow. It’s really hard to get a good picture of her in the stall, and I look forward to watching her move.
Reverie comes home today, which makes me excited enough that I’ve almost forgotten how tired I am.
About two weeks ago I put Magpie into a new, unwashed shirt and she ended up with a rash. It’s not surprising – she has the kind of skin that Victorian England women would have swooned to have, but that’s not very practical in real life. I gave her a bath and put her to bed.
By the next morning the rash had spread all over the place, and she had scratched herself bloody during the night. I called in to work and drove her to the doctor’s….
And discovered she had scarlet fever.
Pardon my ignorance, but I had no idea scarlet fever was still a thing.
Antibiotics and Benadryl made her comfortable. The doctor recommended we stay home and keep her out of daycare for 24-48 hours, and after reading about how serious scarlet fever can be if it doesn’t get treated, I opted for the full 48.
On Wednesday I was just getting ready to load everyone up into the car to head to church, when DragonMonkey broke down into tears, out of nowhere, over something really weird. With a sinking feeling I asked him to stick out his tongue… and yup. It was spotty.
One trip to urgent care later, I now had 3 of my 4 children down with scarlet fever. Sigh.
I stayed home and made it in to work on Friday.
I woke up with a sore throat on Sunday, and Finn was unusually tear-filled, and somewhere in the middle of church I put two and two together. I dragged my plague infested family out of church mid service and headed to the urgent care.
Finn was positive for the scarlet fever strep virus, but I was in the clear. I chalked it up to allergies, or just being tired.
I spent most of Monday home with Finn, but Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were spent frantically trying to catch up at work, at home, with the pets, with the cooking, etc., etc., etc.
Thursday I woke up exhausted. My sore throat had never gone away, and seemed to be getting worse. I felt ground down, empty. At lunch went to the Thai Food place next door and got myself a hot coconut Tom Kha soup. Whenever I have a scratchy throat or feel a little sick, there’s nothing quite like spicy Tom Kha to set everything right.
Only… only it didn’t work at all. Thursday afternoon dragged by, and the more the minutes went by, the sicker I felt.
By the time I came home, I told the kids to feed themselves and just curled up on the couch under a blanket. The Bean wasn’t home until almost 8 pm, and by then I had a fever of 102 and was feeling too sick to make the almost hour-long drive to urgent care.
By 2 am I really regretted not making that drive, because my “my throat really hurts” had morphed into “Yeah, this hurts as appendicitis, and I can’t think through this pain”. Gargling didn’t help, Tylenol barely touched it, and I spent the rest of the night just lying there in bed waiting for the sun to rise so I could go to the doctor.
I didn’t have scarlet fever – I had generic old strep throat, so I stayed home on Friday and waited for the antibiotics to kick in.
The thing is, I’ve never been sick like I was sick this time. I know it sounds all hand flappy, but I really think this was one of those illnesses that would have taken me down in the 1800s, without antibiotics. Usually after 24 hours on antibiotics, I feel great…. But this time I could actually feel the strep throat fighting against the antibiotics, and worst of all, almost winning. I’d take a 500 mg amoxicillin, the sore throat would get better… and then after about 3-4 hours, right before I was due to take another one, the sore throat would ramp back up, and I could actively feel myself getting sick again.
It wasn’t until Sunday afternoon that the antibiotics finally built up enough and I felt myself getting better.
Of course, as ALWAYS HAPPENS EVERY TIME I GET SICK, I was also contacted by more than one person and offered the chance to do some writing jobs. Normally when that happens I’m ecstatic, but I was sick…. And to top it off, a couple of months ago the twins had pushed our old Chromebook off the table and dashed it on the ground, so between then and now I’ve been doing all of my writing on my cell phone, which is about as much fun as a root canal.
Halfway through tip-tapping the project out on my phone aching with fever and strep throat, I texted the Bean. “Walmart has a sale on a cheap Chromebook for $149. I *am* buying it. Where is the emergency credit card?”
The rest of the typing went off without a hitch. It’s amazing how much better I can think with a keyboard under my fingers.
Yesterday was spent frantically running around like a…. well, like this year’s birthday card:
The boys missed the bus in the morning, I was late to work because I had to drop them off, and when the moment I got off a full day at work it felt like I was off to the races. I had to run home, feed horses, drop off my kids, and then head right back out to pick up someone else’s kids and and dash off to Portland, albeit for the best of reasons: they had a new baby brother to meet.
Babies never used to be my thing, but now that I’ve had four of my own, I really enjoy other people’s newborns, and watching the kids’ faces as they met their new sibling – the pure joy in their reaction, was totally worth the drive. Besides, there’s a chemical rush that happens in my brain whenever I smell that new baby smell, and I’m not just saying that. It’s an actual, proven, scientific thing in some people. Little bitty baby squeaks turn me into one of those mares that runs the fence line and tires to steal other mares foals. It’s only with the little bitty babies though – once they gain the ability to look around and sit up and crawl and be mobile, I don’t get any urge to steal them from people.
In addition to helping out a friend, one of the best parts about meeting the baby was what was waiting for me in a plastic bin in the corner of her room: Her placenta!
I know, it sounds gross. Trust me, I’m still not into eating them, even if I had asked her to give it to me. Also, in case you’re curious, there really isn’t a non-creepy way to ask for people’s used body parts, even if it is for a good cause.
I tossed the placenta, the umbilical cord, and her kids into the car, drove them back to her ex husband’s house, and then headed up to Rainier where I met up in the parking lot and traded the placenta for a brand new weanling horse halter.
I agonized over what color to get her. Don’t laugh.
Okay, it was less weird than that. Mika had offered to pick up the halter from the tack store before it closed, and I offered to transport the placenta so she could take it with her to train her (and other people’s) Search and Rescue Dogs for emergencies. I mean, if you’re going to train dogs to hunt for bodies, you need to train them with actual body parts.
If you are wondering what to do with your kids’ old teeth or any other body parts you have laying around, may I recommend contacting your local SAR dog group and offering it to them?
I drove back home, went to sleep, woke up, cooked a pound of bacon to start the day off right, fed the horses, got the kids off to school, came back inside……
Where I found The Bean completely immobilized, having thrown out his back. Together we managed to get him settled into a chair with a hot water bottle where he grimaced and stayed frozen until the pounds of Tylenol and Ibuprofen I poured into him began to take effect.
I put my foot down for the first time ever on him riding the motorcycle to work, so we transferred the twins’ car seats into our project car (The Bean fixes cars in his spare time… hahahahahaha…. “spare time”. That’s a good one. But seriously, he’s a crazy good mechanic.)
The twins were horrified. In retrospect, I don’t think they’ve ever been in any car but Jean Claude Damn Van. Finn was genuinely confused at the sight of his car seat in another car, and Magpie froze like a spooking horse and almost refused to go in. I was running late to work again, so maybe I could have led them through it a little nicer, but I was feeling frantic as I watched the minutes tick by. Eventually I coaxed them both into their car seat.
As I mentioned, the Civic is a project car so I drove it slowly and carefully, treating it like it was made of glass. It made for a very long, noisy ride. The car itself wasn’t noisy…. It was the twins.
“Finn, I’m not going faster.”
“GO FASSER, RIGHT NOW. PEASE. GO FASSER!”
“No, Finn, I’m not going faster. Don’t order me around with ‘right now’, either. It’s rude.”
“New car? New car? I wide new car New car? I wide new car? New car? New car? New car? New car? New car? New car? New car? New car? New car—“
“New car? New car? New car? New car? New car? New car? New car? New car? New car? New car? New car? New car?” Ne-“
“Yes, Magpie, you are riding in a new car.”
“Gank You, Mami. Gank you, wide new car.”
“You’re welcome, Magpie, for letting you ride in a new car..”
“GO FASSER? GO FASSER, PEASE?”
“No, Finn, I’m not going faster.”
“Magpie, that’s a sun roof. See? This car has a sun roof.”
“Yes, it’s beautiful, Finn. It is nice having a sun roof in a car.”
“Dis car have sun woof? Sun woof? Dis car have sun woof? Sun woof? Sun woof? Sun woof? Sun woof? Sun woof? Sun woof? Sun woof? Sun woof? Sun woof? Sun woof? Sun woof? Sun woo–”
“YESSS! YES, MAGPIE. YES, THIS CAR HAS A SUN ROOF.”
“Gank you, Mami. Gank you sun woof, Mami.”
“Great, now I feel guilty. Sigh. You’re welcome, sweetie, for the sun roof.”
“GO FASSER? GO FASSER? PEASE GO FASSER?”…..
Etc., etc., ad nauseum.
Guys, they’re cute, but sometimes…. Sometimes listening to two year old twins on repeat makes my brain feel like it’s liquefying.
Anyways, Reverie will be here in a few hours. I still need to finish my work day, stop by the credit union to empty it out for the final payment, drive to daycare and get all four kids, and then go home.
The plan is to trailer Reverie with her mom, load them into the stalls until Reverie settles in a little bit and we get the paperwork done, and then Kathleen will take Sparkle home and Reverie will be mine.
I’d like to say I’m relaxed and comfortable with the concept, but I’m kind of freaking out on the inside. I wanted to have the barn clean, and all the winter’s hay loaded up, and tons of shavings, and understand everything about foal nutrition and be a foal training expert and have all my tack lined up all pretty, and my barn scrubbed and shiny and ready and, and, and…
Well, I guess they say you should begin as you mean to go on, so….
It was more than a little bittersweet to me. This was the first summer in Oregon I didn’t spend home with the boys, and I feel almost like the whole season almost passed me by. When you don’t get home until 5:30 and jump straight into frantically cooking dinner for hangry children, bedtime and nighttime and getting up to get ready for work the next morning is on you before you know it.
On the other hand, Oregon did her best to make it feel as summery as possible to try to make up for it, so maybe fall isn’t such a bad thing. We had almost no rain from May on, and the whole state seems dry and crackly. Local parks lost quite a few older trees due to the overly dry summers, and the ground feels hard-baked beneath my feet.
I may not be ready for the return of the rain, but the land certainly is, and I can’t begrudge it the moisture.
Anyways, as I was saying, Tuesday was the first day of school which always makes me feel more than a little nostalgic. I remember lining up in front of my mom’s camera with its shutterclick sound, bright flash, and the roll of film that would wind itself up at the end of every spool. First day of school pictures are a yearly tradition.
As I dragged everyone outside into the nicer light to take my own pictures, DragonMonkey dutifully dropped his backpack on the ground and walked over to the designated picture-taking area. “Why do we have to do this every year?”
“Because….. because it makes a nice collage when you’re all done. I can see how you looked at the beginning of each year. I have first day pics of me, all the way up until my first day of college.
He lined up in front of the wall in front of our house, and reached for his yellow piece of construction paper with the hastily-written words in cheap marker. “If we’re… if we’re still doing this in college, do you think that maybe…. I mean, not to hurt your feelings, but maybe we could get nicer signs instead of paper?”
Present Becky is always willing to make promises on Future Becky’s behalf, so I was quick to agree. Future Becky would totally make one of those awesome, color-coordinated, sturdy Pinterest-style signs.
Future Becky is a chump.
I raised my cell phone, and DragonMonkey threw on his customary closed-mouth smirk smile that he always does for pictures, the one that makes him look disturbingly teenagerish.
After that it was Squid’s turn – I say Squid because that’s what I’ve called him on this blog since the beginning (when he was a Squidgelet), but he’s recently informed us that we are not to refer to him by that nickname anymore. In fact, we are not to refer to him by any nicknames. He will only respond to his full name.
I raised my cell phone, and he tilted his head back, looking at me with the heavy-lidded cool-dude expression he always likes to don for pictures.
“Squid, can’t you open your eyes a little bit more? I can barely see your eyes. You don’t have to smile if you don’t want to, but just open your eyes a little mo—“
“Bus,” intoned the Bean. “BUS!”
I snapped another picture in desperation:
And then kissed them as they dashed down the street, their backpacks rising and falling with each stride.
Like I said, first days of school always makes me feel nostalgic, and as I drove to work my brain rattled down familiar roads. Am I doing enough, as a mom? Am I being there enough, helping enough, loving enough, challenging and pushing enough, educating enough? Am I screwing any of them up? Have I already screwed them up beyond repair? Will they turn into adults I actually like, ones I am proud of? What can I improve on?
It was that last thought that trapped my brain. If you have multiple children, it’s not an easy answer. Every kid is unique. Even if I could wave a magic wand and change myself, each of my kids would want something different from me.
If DragonMonkey could reshape me, I think he’d turn me into the quintessential Pinterest mom. I’d rise before dawn in a wrinkle-free, coordinated outfit, and cook a couple of pounds of bacon and pancakes. I’d wake him with a hug and a tickle and invite him to feast while I washed all the breakfast dishes myself, and then he would get dressed and I’d spend the rest of the day chauffeuring him around to new experiences. Our days would be scheduled, right down to the minute, and there would be few surprises. Everything would be planned out (well in advance) with professional-looking calendars and well-packed gym bags for soccer games and playdates (are they still called playdates at his age? Probably not.) Upon returning home I’d miraculously produce a hearty, healthy, meat-and-vegetable dinner within minutes. After dinner we would play a light round of video games.
It sounds exhausting, but he would be so, so content.
Also, he would want me to have super long, super straight hair. I dunno. It’s just a thing with him.
What would Squid want?
Squid would want me to be Elsa:
only I’d be Elsa with a machine gun.
It be only me and him, no other siblings around, and we would have amazing adventures where we would shoot guns and rappel down walls and help people. At the end of each adventure he would heroically save us all, and most likely I would present him with a nightly medal he could hang on his wall. We’d feast all day on ice cream and sodas and candy.
My hair would also be long, and I would never cut it, because cutting hair is pretty much the same as ruining everything about yourself forever and ever. I’d be a crack shot with a rifle, and always have on fresh lipstick.
I’m not gonna lie, aside from the whole makeup thing and wearing a dress, I think I’d have a lot of fun in Squid’s World.
If I’m being honest, the twins would probably love to change me too. Finn’s imaginary mom is the easiest to understand – I didn’t even have to think very hard to know what he would want.
Finn would very much like it if I could stop being me, and just figure out a way to be The Bean, except with boobies.
He would be SO content if I could just figure out a way to make this happen. Also, my/ Bean’s boobies would still be producing copious amounts of milk that never ran out, and Finn would still be able to nurse all day. The two of them would live on a tractor, alternating all day between nursing and doing tractor-type stuff.
I’m pretty sure if Finn was in charge of heaven, that’s all it would be: Heavily-lactating, giant-boobed men on a variety of different tractors.
You can see why I’d rather be stuck in Squid’s world, right?
Magpie is a harder nut to crack, because she’s so quiet with her wants. I know she would like to have Mommy/daughter time without any pesky brothers around. In her imaginary mom world I would be a fashion diva, and we would both dress up constantly.
Please understand that by dress up I don’t mean we would wearing tasteful evening gowns with sensible heels – oh no. Magpie’s version of dressing up consists of layering accessories upon accessories… and also, do you know what makes an accessory really pop? Another accessory.
The two of us would adorn ourselves like real-life Fancy Nancies:
and then we would spend quite a bit of time just sitting around pointing out each other’s amazing outfits. Earrings. Yes, earrings. I am wearing earrings. You have sparkly shoes. Yes, yes you do. I do, too.
We would admire each other’s glasses, frequently.
Wherever we went each day, it would not be in a car pointed in the direction of home, because oh lawsie, “NOT DAT WAY. NOT DAT WAY. NO HOME… NOT DAT WAY.” She’s an adventuring sort at heart.
She’s not very particular about what we would do, provided we do it together, but if I had to come up with something I think we would spend the entire day swinging on swings at the park, trying on different pairs of shoes, and maybe riding a pony. We’d have a collection of items we dragged around, from Purple Bow Dog to Rattle Elephant, and we would very systematically rearrange them around ourselves wherever we went.
We would hold hands, a lot. We’d practice number facts, and sing the ABC’s and “Tinka Tinka Widdah Stah” over, and over, and over. And over.
And over, and over, and over, and over.
Also, we would feast on .99 cent bagged salad from Safeway, because she’s kind of weird that way.
Maybe it’s for the best that the kids can’t rearrange me to suit their desires… It’s exhausting just imagining it.
In other news: Reverie isn’t coming home until closer to the end of the month, which I’m thrilled about. I can definitely use another week or so to get things ready for her.