I’ve written about The Little Prince on this blog before. I wrote about how Tim’s crooked path led me to discover the book (as many other things I’ve discovered), and how it helped grieve the loss of him. The words in that little children’s book gave a different meaning to death, and I needed them at the time. I keep them with me, but that’s not all I took from the book.
There’s a passage in The Little Prince with the prince and the fox.
“I am looking for friends. What does that mean — tame?”
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties.”
“To establish ties?”
“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world….”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Reading that section, my mind immediately jumped to all the animals I’ve met in my life. There are a million dogs. Thousands of horses. I’ve met hundreds of each myself, but I’ve only tamed a select few. No, that doesn’t mean that I’m picking up feral creatures off the street (except for Pascale, ha)… but I have loved so many animals. They became unique to me in all the world, and I was to them. We tamed each other. Of course, you can stretch this context to people as well, but for me personally it’s always been about animals. My long history of beloved animals.
At the end of this exchange, the fox gives the little prince a warning about what it means to tame someone.
“People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about that quote, and what it means to be responsible for what you’ve tamed. With my animals, that has meant a lot of different things to me.
Being responsible meant selling Elvis for maybe a little less money than I could have gotten, but to an excellent home where I still know how he is and can check on him regularly.
It meant handing Beckett, the horse of my dreams, over to my trainer when I knew I was too scared to give him proper rides and eventually selling him to someone without such severe baggage.
It means managing my neurotic, aggressive spaniel to the best of my ability so he isn’t put in situations where he can cause harm to himself or others.
It meant giving Teaspoon back to his original owners, even though I was out thousands of dollars, because his health problems prevented him from having a healthy life as a sporthorse.
It meant releasing BT from her pain at a time when I didn’t think I could take anymore heartbreak.
It meant selling Roman to someone who could love him, when my mental state couldn’t handle a green horse.
It means trying to fill Pascale’s life with as much happiness and joy as she’s given me.
And for Simon, it means giving him the best I can afford, whether it’s time or money or both. It means that I try to make sure he knows just how he unique he is to me — more than any other in my life. Hopefully we have many more years to need each other.
For all these reasons and all these animals, that little bit from The Little Prince spoke to me. The decisions I’ve had to make with my animals have been hard. There isn’t a creature on that list above that didn’t make me shed some tears, but they gave me so much more… even the ones that were around for a brief period of time. I have loved these creatures so deeply, these animals that I’ve tamed and have tamed me.
So I knew I wanted proof of this. A permanent mark. Something I could look down at anytime and remember how I’ve been touched by the animals of my life.
The tattoo is on my inner forearm so that the fox faces me when I look down. I love his face. I love his quote. I love the bluebonnet in his mouth. I love everything about it, and this is the first tattoo I’ve gotten since my first tiny horseshoe that isn’t about Tim. This one is for me. Tim touched it, because he touches everything in my life. I used his favorite tattoo artist. It’s a quote from the book he introduced me to, but it feels like something that is wholly mine.
And I love it. I just love it.