As my meandering days shorten and sleepy nights lengthen, Iím thankful for mere comfort. The spring-fed stream trickling through the lush green pasture, the shady maple trees and cool barn, my bedded stall and daily grain - what more could an old gelding ask for in his dying days?
The illnesses that come with aging are overtaking me now. My shorter, stiffer steps and wheezing gasps of breath bring the veterinarian and the blacksmith around more often. Iíve suffered from Cushing disease, laminitis and have running eyes from allergies, but my caretaker Becky administers medicines and nourishing supplements, rubs in balms and ointments and protects me from flies and ticks.
I would much rather be yanking mouthfuls of grass instead of enduring all of this handling. Thankfully, country and western tunes from the barn radio soothe me through it all. Whatís more, Iím revved into a state of ecstasy when Becky brushes my coat. She scratches every scratch, curries out my shedding hair and rids the specks of dirt and dust from my tender legs and heavy belly. In between slight grumbles over manure traces here and there discovered upon my rump, I receive long caresses of soft brushes and sweet nothings whispered in my ear.
I know not how Iíve come to receive these genuine last gestures of love. Even the house dog and cat come to visit me now regularly. While itís getting harder and harder to follow my bossy barn mate Stellaís daily roundabouts in the field, Iím even thankful for her. I take solace in our companionship. We protect each other from the whistling wind, lightening crashes, roaring thunder and coyotes that howl through the ravine at night.
I have been strong, bold and happy these past 30 years of life. I have carried sporting men through endless fields and meadows, withstood the sounds of gunshot, and barking dogs running in and out of my legs. With my comrades by my side, I have sloshed through mud up to my hocks and woven through prickly woods. I have trudged up and down valleys following English setters in search of birds, and learned to jump ditches, halt on a dime and stand silently still while the dogs pointed and then flushed their fowl.
Children have hugged me and hung on my neck. Young girls have jumped and climbed upon my back. Screaming boys have thrown sticks and stones at each other across my pasture and steered their 4-wheelers in circles around me. Through it all - though they often never knew - I neighed and squealed in delight. The slightest amount of attention invigorated me.
I gave it my all, but my walking days are now over. The trials and events on my calendar all crossed off. There will be no more saddles slung on my back nor reins to guide me, yet I fear not. I have acres of green to feed me, a loving family to protect me and memories of a well galloped life to ponder.
What more could anyone ask for in his dying days?