Stride by Stride

Stride by Stride

I hear “one day at a time”, “one minute at a time” and “keep putting one foot in front of the other” very often. It’s one of those obnoxiously cliche things to say that is both annoying to hear but also extremely accurate. With something like this, sometimes it really is the only way to go forward.

For me, the saying has morphed into something more like “stride by stride.” All my life I’ve been very conscious that I’m the person responsible for giving my animals a peaceful ending, but I always thought that decision would be based off of purely physical signs instead of mental ones. Is she eating? Is she getting around okay? Can she control her bowels? With BT, it was evaluating a quality of life using an entirely different measurements than I was prepared for. The bomb of knowledge from my vet happened so fast, that when I came home seven days later without a dog… I fell apart.

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I was hoping after it was done I’d feel a sense of peace and doing the right thing, but instead all I felt was guilt and confusion. Laying out all the facts in a logical matter told me that I made a good decision for her welfare. Emotionally I was all over the place and wishing I could have had some help from Tim making the decision with his dog. Knowing him, he would have thought it was too soon. That doesn’t say it was or wasn’t, but I wish I didn’t have these clouds of “too early” around.

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After a lot of moping and crying, I drug myself to the barn early Saturday evening. When I walked up to Simon’s pasture, he whinnied and trotted to me across the field – a first. We had a quiet, relaxed ride which included our first day of cantering. The minute I swung up in the saddle, I felt immediately better. Simon’s swinging, happy walk to the field felt like home. Having to balance him in left turns so he didn’t fall in was comfortably familiar. His right lead canter felt like it had the potential to be amazing, and to the left he was just as heavy and gross as I expected. It was nice to know what to expect out of life for a change.

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These days my horse is less my athletic partner, and more of my friend. When the barn is quiet, I will put my arms around his neck or lay my head on his thick shoulder to feel his horseyness. This time of year his coat is thin and slick, like fabric stretched over his warm muscles. Simon feels sturdy and dependable when I lean against him. He makes a very good friend.

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The world is a sad place for me right now, and some days I have difficulty navigating it. When one foot in front of the other gets too difficult, it’s good to know I can hop on Simon and let him go forward for me awhile.

30 thoughts on “Stride by Stride

  1. Promise always seemed to know when I needed a shoulder or a mane to cry on because she never really tolerated hugs unless I really needed it. Sometimes, she would even hug me back, squeezing me with her head and nuzzling my hair. She also knew when I needed to laugh, and would be at her goofiest on those days. My favorite was when she would shake her head around, smacking and swinging her lips and making this ridiculous sound that always made me laugh hysterically.

    I don’t know how they know, but they do. I remember instrumental Promise was in my healing after losing Harley and my grandmother. I’m so glad you have Simon.

  2. I have had to put a lot of animals to sleep over the years. Its always heartbreaking, but one thing I’ve learned is that a day too early is better than a day too late. I let my mare suffer because my mom couldn’t come to grips with putting her down and I will forever regret it. As time passes and the pain heals, you’ll see you made the right decision.

  3. The great thing about horses and the barn is that is always helps me forget about everything else for a while. I hope it is that way for you, too.

  4. I can’t even count how many times I have held it together all day and then burst into tears as soon as Tucker and I were alone together. There is nothing more comforting to me than a good horse friend providing a shoulder to cry on. Horses can just be “there” for us in a way that most humans can’t. Not to hijack your comments, but I wrote this after a sudden death of a family member a few years ago, you might like it: http://tuckerthewunderkind.blogspot.com/2012/04/tucker-and-terrible-horrible-no-good.html

  5. I know exactly what you are talking about. I stopped to see my boy for a quick treat on my way into the office this morning. Just giving him a hug and smelling his horse smell gave me a spring in my step that I will carry with me all day.

  6. I hug Moe every time I’m at the barn and feeling his velvety coat and thin little neck and smelling his horsey smell makes me feel like everything is right in the world.

    Gina is not huggable, and backs up quickly any time I try. 😛

  7. I don’t think there is ever a “right” time to put a dog down from the owner’s perspective. There’s never a right time to lose your best friend. Was it the right time considering BT’s state, yes. Was it the right time for you emotionally? Hell no. I’m very sad for you that the timing was so poor. I think leaning on your other fur kids is the best strategy, which you’ve obviously discovered with Simon. 🙂

  8. i’ve been hugging my horse a lot lately too. not sure why – maybe the most basic reason of all: it just makes me feel better. glad to hear Simon is doing well!

  9. <3 Oh what would we do without our horses? Possibly not make it through the hard times, I think. This is the real reason they are worth all the $$$ and time – not the ribbons, but the neck hugs and shoulder leaning.

  10. “When one foot in front of the other gets too difficult, it’s good to know I can hop on Simon and let him go forward for me awhile.” I love this statement so much.

  11. “When one foot in front of the other gets too difficult, it’s good to know I can hop on Simon and let him go forward for me awhile.”

    Very well said!

  12. My best friend Rio has been super injury prone his whole life. And each time I would get to climb back aboard after a long time off, I’ve described it as feeling like coming home. I have the other tall kids to ride these days, but it’s not the same as when I could ride Rio. Miss that terribly. But he’s still around for all the hugs he hates. Sometimes he tolerates them 🙂
    Horse therapy is the best therapy. Hug your pony as often as you can. Let him be your rock for awhile.

  13. You made the best decision you could with the information you had. If Tim is aware, then he will know that you made the decision based in love, while doing the best you could for your dog. Grieve without guilt.

    “When you can’t run, you crawl, and when you can’t crawl – when you can’t do that you find someone to carry you. ” –Firefly

    I’m glad you have Simon to carry you when you need it.

  14. Sometimes, I really do think that our animals know things that other people don’t pick up on. Just when you absolutely NEED them, they’re there. I don’t know, maybe that’s just wishful thinking, but something about your cheek against your horse’s neck when things are really rough makes my emotions melt away a little bit.

    1. I 100% agree. I’ve ridden a lot of horses, but any time I’ve really needed a good ride, or a quiet moment, they’ve always been just what I needed, no matter what horse it was.

  15. When I had to put my dog down the vet asked if I was ready. The answer was no. I’d never be ready. Even knowing that it’s time doesn’t make the decision easier. You’ll always second guess yourself. You’ll always wish for just one more day. It’s easy to convince yourself otherwise but in reality you’ve made the best possible decision for BT. hugs.

  16. So sorry…it never gets any easier when it comes time to make that decision for our furry family. I’ve always believed it is better too soon than not soon enough. Working at a vet clinic for several years I saw way too many that had waited too long and they were so sad and miserable to see. {{HUGS}} So glad you have your dear Simon to hug on and lean against!

  17. It is never easy to put an animal down but like others have said, better a day too early than too late. I had to put my 5 year old dog down due to mental issues that were ruining his quality of life and the guilt of it almost destroyed me. I know that it was the right thing to do but it didn’t make it any easier. Just know you did the right thing for your girl. Hugs.

  18. The mental vs. physical decline is very, very hard. Physical declines seem so much more clear cut and I think we, as animal guardians, spend a lot more time talking about and planning for those declines and how they factor into euthanasia decisions.

    I euthanized my horse in Spring 2014 after his mental demons caught up with him and he became dangerous to himself and others. He was only 21 and his body was still kicking along just fine, which made the decision especially difficult. I worried about what the vet was going to say when I asked to euthanize a horse who was physically healthy. Thankfully she agreed with my decision and noted that we don’t talk enough about mental illness/dementia/mental issues in animals. But the guilt was really hard because there was no clear-cut physical pain or condition that I could use as justification for my choice. Immediately after he was gone I remember thinking, “No wait…I take it back. I’ve changed my mind!” It took me a few months to come to peace with it all.

    Hugs to you during this very difficult time. Perhaps the BT is grateful that she is freed from her “mental prison”. It’s tough.

  19. Lily is very good at snuggles if you even need some small dog love. So sorry you had to say goodbye to her. She was a weird one, but she was so special. Even if Tim isn’ t around to share the burden, I’m sure Eliot and Pascale feel her absence. It definitely sounds like BT wasn’t herself anymore and even if you’d kept her around for a few months longer, she wouldn’t be the dog you knew once. You made a hard, but kind choice for her.

  20. I wonder if we can ever get away from the guilt. I suffered horrible guilt after euthanizing my last dog, Tia. She was 18 (!!) super healthy but went downhill so fast I don’t think I came to terms with it. I am glad I made the right call for her from a humane perspective…but I was on autopilot, so the guilt was huge. I am glad my autopilot defaulted to the humane options.

    “When one foot in front of the other gets too difficult, it’s good to know I can hop on Simon and let him go forward for me awhile.” I love this. And don’t they just?

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