Saturday, March 15, 2008
So Hard to Say Goodbye
**Warning: Tearjerk Alert**I remember the day 18 years ago when he came to live with me: so tall, proud, and terrified. "What an oxymoron," I thought, "just like me: he only looks brave on the outside." The first time I rode him off the property he got frightened by: the mailbox, a for sale sign, a field pump, a bunny rabbit, and a shirt hanging on a clothes line. When a flock of birds flew out of a bush as we made it back to the house, he'd had enough. He stopped, looked over his shoulder at me, and begged me to carry him home.
Impossible, not only because of his weight, but his height. He was 16-3. That's 16+hands -- so tall that getting up on him was not always the easiest.
And smart: I only ever had to show him something once. He never forgot it: side pass, open the gate, back or change speed on a voice cue. Smart, but stubborn too. He refused to take a right lead - no matter how hard I tried to make him. Personally, I think he thought he was Secretariat (who also refused to take the right lead). Damn race horses!
Yes, Rio was originally a racehorse. He did well enough his first year, that he raced for another year and a half. I've shared the story of my pounding victory over Voldemort, but Rio loved to run just for the sheer pleasure of it. Many a leisurely stroll through the grapes culminated in us streaking through a just plowed field: him, reliving some past victory, and me, just trying to keep the tears from forming in my eyes as we flew across the ground.
Each year became harder and harder on my friend. I stopped riding him about three years ago -- he just was too thin, and his legs bothered him too much. But we still walked: he would follow me around the property, help me when I gardened, etc. Friends and neighbors gawked, smiled, and laughed at the sight of this tall old man following me around like a puppy. A 1200 pound puppy.
During the Rogue, Rio suffered a minor stroke. He had difficulty moving, and lost interest in eating. Daily and hourly I agonized over what I should do -- finally leaving the decision to my vet -- who has cared for Rio the entire 18 years I've had him.
Yesterday morning, Rio and I shared our last breakfast together: an apple. I sat in the field with my old friend, stroking his face, smelling his neck, and nuzzling his ears. I thanked him for his friendship, his love, and his ability to make me feel as if I were flying. And then the vet came, and I kissed him (one last time), and said goodbye.
Sorry to leave you with such a sad one - but it needed to be written. Yes, I know I did the right thing, and I know he's in a better place. But I'm still sad. Thanks lecram, kien and katie for all your love.
I leave in the morning for my annual trip to Mexico to build a house. It is good for me to get away. I promise to write something more upbeat upon my return