I remember my first horse so very well. I had waited and prayed for a horse for what seemed my whole lifetime- from when I was five to when my dad relented when I was nine. When Sam came to our barn, he was magic. It was as though a mythical being I had read about suddenly belonged to me, with a life of his own and magic that I did not possess on my own.
I practiced “running like the wind” on Sam like I had read in the Black Stallion series. I spent every moment I could with Sam. Every year, the horse trader who had sold him to us stopped by to try to get me to progress to a more advanced horse, and I declined. I taught Sam how to win at the county shows in both Western Pleasure and Speed Events. His only fault was that if he really started running full out, he never wanted to stop. In a world of biting, bucking, rearing and stomping, I did not see that as a bad thing, and just made sure no one was lollygagging at the exit of the arena when we ran our speed events.
When I went away to college, I still had Sam. He had gotten sick in the summer because he stepped on a nail, and the puncture wound kept healing up on the outside then reinfecting. Because of this, he lost a ton of weight. He was eighteen, and in those days, horses weren’t thought to be working into their twenties like they do today. I would have crying jags at college just thinking of him passing on. He was such a part of my life, which was changing due to not being home with him every day.
In the spring, the horse trader again asked if we wanted to sell Sam. The fact that he had been so sick with the puncture wound the year before panicked me. Even more than losing Sam, I was afraid of seeing him die before my eyes. A friend that worked on the farm said he didn’t want to be around me the day Sam died. He said that I needed to sell him, and then I could always have a vision of him out there somewhere, happy. That sounded good to me. I panicked and sold him.
“Worry does not take away tomorrows troubles, it takes away today’s peace.”
I have shared this story with you because I was doing something back then that I don’t do now, and you shouldn’t do. Instead of enjoying the moment, enjoying that I had a healthy sound horse, I was anticipating his future death to the point it paralyzed me. I was feeling his death before it happened, grieving before I had a reason to. Then instead of supporting my horse I bailed, worried that his death was going to be too tough on me, not thinking about how it would affect him.
I now know that I can’t live my life being being afraid of what will happen one day. It takes the joy, happiness and life out of the present moment. Those of us who are fortunate enough to keep our pets until old age get to see them age. We get to experience the joy of being with them in present time. That may mean that the dog you’ve walked with fifteen years now gets to go around the neighborhood in a stroller with you. That they may need steps to get in bed with you now. That doesn’t make them love you less, or any less important in your life.
When I talk to pets who are actively dying, many say they don’t feel that bad. They want to continue to do things with their human parents. They don’t understand why their pet parents are sad. Pets are really great at dealing with how things are, staying in the present moment and not comparing now to the future or the past. There is always a reason to be with your pet in the present moment, without fear. If there wasn’t more to love, they wouldn’t be staying. I firmly believe that animals come into our lives with a purpose. That purpose is still active for as long as they are alive and with you.
Grief is something that comes with loss. But we don’t need to invite it in early. It is the transient nature of joy that belies us from totally embracing it. We never know how the ending comes to a novel, but we know it is there. By just focusing on the end, you miss all the love that is in the pages before.
Celebrate the memory of a beloved pet. Hang a beautiful suncatcher in your window and watch the colors of the Rainbow Bridge fill your home with memories of your pet. Or plant a memorial garden in their memory. Know someone grieving the loss of their pet? PetPerennials.com has an array of thoughtful gifts. Let them know you understand their loss and they’re not alone.
“Fearlessness is what love seeks… Such fearlessness exists only in the complete calm that can no longer be shaken by events expected of the future… Hence the only valid tense is the present, the Now.”