In life, there are moments where you’re torn between wanting something and being absolutely gun-shy about pursuing it again because you had been there before but, in the end, it came at an emotional cost.
I’m not talking about emotionally intimate relationships between two people. I could talk about that ad nauseum if I wanted to. But that would mean naming names and I’m not in the frame of mind to go and piss off some people… yet. I would have to be at a point in my life where I couldn’t give a fuck anymore, have nothing to lose and have an overwhelming desire to call people out on their shit. I’ve had people defend themselves by verbally going after me. Yeah, I’ve seen that tactic in action. At least, I own my shit. Can’t say the same for anyone else.
I’m talking about following your heart’s simple yearning. I’m talking about wanting a four-legged companion. Sure, it might seem silly or mundane or frivolous. I beg to differ. And I know animal lovers and pet owners would beg to differ. This desire popped up and started nagging me last week.
A few days ago, one of my colleagues was working on sports page carrying a story about a local jockey and a race horse who loves to run a good distance — anything over a mile. It spurred her to ask me if I missed horseback riding, missed being around horses. My answer was ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ After putting down my horse as a result of a hoof disease called founder, back in February 2009, I lost my desire to get back into the saddle. Didn’t think I would, but I did.
Chaplin and I had been together for almost ten years. He was sixteen years old when he died. Just past prime and entering old age. I had retired him from competition the year before. We were the horse/rider version of the Bickersons. We had our ‘discussions’ but I was committed to him and he needed me. He was never a mean horse. His good looks made young female equestrians stare at him in awe. However he was stubborn, smart and quite cheeky — ergo the numerous ‘discussions’ we would have during our practice rides, lessons, riding clinics and dressage competitions. But once he was in the mood to work and realized he had to work, we did some pretty cool things together.
I was a hands-on owner when it came to Chappy. For example, if he needed his legs treated with clay or heat-inducing ointment and wrapped overnight, I would do it every afternoon before I headed to work. The barn staff could have easily done the work for me but it gave me the opportunity to hang with Chappy.
I’ll admit he stole my heart the first time I ever laid eyes on him almost a year before we became partners. Even though it’s been four years since he died, I still miss him. Sometimes, the pain and ache comes barreling at me full force or it sneaks up behind me and wraps itself around my heart and gives it a firm, but gentle, squeeze.
A part of me would like to see how I would do if I got back in the saddle after all this time. I’ve watched some dressage clinics post-Chaplin. I’ve watched my clinician coach work with a horse and rider and vividly remember doing the same things with Chappy. The memories were and are quite powerful and visceral.
I know my dressage coach would love to see me back in the saddle, back with my barn family. I’ll have to wait until I’ve paid off my mortgage before I would consider a serious return to riding. I’m an all-in kind of person. If I decide to do something, I’m committed to it 100%. I loved being a horse owner. It kept me grounded.
The conversation I had with my colleague moved from horses to house pets. More specifically, my lack of a house pet.
Four months before Chaplin died, my cat, Otis, had to be put down. His health was failing and I couldn’t let him suffer anymore. He was the gentlest feline soul I had ever met. He was thirteen when he died. He came into my life as a one-year-old in need of a home. He took to me instantly. Snuggling with me in bed, the first night he stayed with me, it was clear both him and Chappy were very good at stealing my heart. It was also clear the three of us were meant to be together.
Aside from my blood relatives, I considered Chappy and Otis my family. Still do. Hell, I even had a family ring created two years after their deaths. Aquamarine, diamond and peridot make up the trio on my ring. It’s my small way of remembering them and honouring the impact they had on my life.
They came into my life at a time I needed them. I came into their lives at a time they needed me.They kept me sane. They always entertained me and I’m pretty sure I entertained them, too. I didn’t realize how we needed each other until much later.
The decisions to put them down were made fairly quickly. I always knew that if their quality of life would be greatly diminished no matter what kind of medical intervention was used, I would let them go. I always knew the moment I agreed to watch over them, to love them and be their human guardian, that was the course of action I would take in the end.
My colleague said despite the eventual heartbreak having a four-legged companion die, everything before that final moment was worth the experience and would always overshadow their death. The unconditional love and acceptance animals offer their human companions was, and is always something to cherish and appreciate. I know she’s right. For me, it’s about getting past the sorrow and resolving the self-created issues surrounding having an animal in my life. When I can deal with that, I can let a fluff ball or two run around the homestead.
The idea of a couple of fluff balls in my life is very attractive and comforting. But I need to be in the frame of mind to want that and to see it as a no-brainer thing to do. Right now, it’s not so no-brainer. I believe the time will come. When? Haven’t got a bloody clue.
Maybe the time will come when I’m okay with having my heart broken again. Without a doubt, losing Chaplin and Otis in a span of four months broke my heart, and the reverberations are still being felt.
To quote Elizabeth Gilbert, “This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something.”
I know I tried for something and found something with Chaplin and Otis. Now that they’re gone, I hope one day, I will do more than simply want to try for something again.