Charlotte had flown in from Vancouver to give her respect one more time. With an apple and gentle pat on Satin’s chestnut colored neck she said goodbye. We stood in the barn, Michelle, Charlotte and I as George led the horse to the veterinarian standing next to the big hole that had been dug by a back hoe.
Satin’s eyes were bright, her hips and belly nicely rounded. She was a healthy 23 year old horse with a slight limp. It was October and the weather was still warm during the day, but at night a thick frost would settle on the ground. In the mornings you could see Satin’s breath and ice crystals on the whiskers around her mouth.
Tears began to slide down Michelle’s and Charlotte’s cheeks.
“Why are we doing this again?” Charlotte asked me.
“I could give her supplements.” Michelle said.
I thought about Dr. Chart with his needle and the solution that would be injected into Satin’s vein. And I thought about the cold mornings and Satin’s grunts as she shuffled with frozen joints, the heat emanating as I slid my hands over her puffy legs.
We shook hands when I greeted the vet as he climbed out of his truck. He looked at my sweet little mare, the one who arrived in my life when I was pregnant with Nicholas in 1987. She was just three years old then, gentle, trustworthy and the best kind of horse that comes along once in a lifetime.
He said, “She’s in a lot of pain. There are drugs we could give her but this arthritis is only going to get worse.”
I had watched her suffer in the heat that summer, the flies irritating her ears and eyes, the barn a mere few steps up a short ramp, but she was in too much pain to make the climb. Michelle and I had pulled on Satin’s halter to help her when she had laid down in the shade of a tree and was unable to use her crippled hind legs to stand. I couldn’t let that happen in the dead of a winter’s night if she slipped or laid down and no one was around to help her stand up again.
He told me, “You’re doing the right thing.”
Later that night his crying woke me up. Memphis, Satin’s ten year old son, had been watching from the fence line as his mother’s legs gently folded underneath her and she laid herself down on the ground, her beautiful heart stopped. He spooked and ran a short distance, turning to watch again. His ears flicked back and forth as the backhoe fired up and began to cover her body.
I got up and went to the window. The barn light threw elongated shadows. He was standing by the freshly turned soil, his head hanging.
The next day I anticipated an ordeal to load him into the horse trailer. He was new to the experience having been in one only a few times, but he didn’t hesitate and climbed in. It was as if he knew a page had turned. He rode all that day and is usually an impatient fellow, yet he stood quietly, even while we waited for the ferry at Galena Bay to cross the Arrow Lake.
I think he was grieving.