Sunday, 8 December 2013


It's been a while. I'm not usually inclined to post about difficult times because they are just part of life aren't they? We all have them and I'm pretty sure no-one wants to read about mine. And I try to focus on the positives in life because they are there, even when it seems they aren't. But sometimes they drop out of sight for a while and when that happens I find that I need to withdraw until  I feel like facing the day again. Usually that's a day or so. Maybe a couple of hours. It's kind of lingered this time.

  For the most part I find my animal companions to be one of those positives in life. A blessing. Loving animals and sharing our lives with them is such a privilege. My beasties make me laugh and feel thankful every day. But what when it all goes wrong? What then? Life and death is an accepted fact of living with animals. They tend not to last as long as we do and, sad as it is I can accept that. Withdraw for a while, retreat, regroup. Reappear.  I've found myself stuck in retreat for months. Regrouping was a slow process but at last I think I'm ready to reappear.

   Back in October I was grieving the loss of my beloved dog Tess, and keenly missing her presence,

  finding solace in spending time with my other animals.  Quite out of the blue, catching me already vunerable and unprepared,Pongo,  that sweet, cheeky, spotted pony died, very suddenly and unexpectedly. In a hideous period of twelve hours that I hope I never experience again he went from well to poorly to collapsed to dead. The subsequent post mortem showed that he had ulcers and, unusual in adult equines, one had ruptured. That was a death sentence.  The agonising peritonitis, the collapse and convulsions during the vet's third visit following a second pain killing injection, the unutterable horror of trying in vain to help him, the false hope of the apparent improvement, the final collapse. Kneeling in the stable at midnight, his lovely, lovely old head on my knees as the vet administered the final injection. Little Prince standing by throughout, then coming and lying down alongside Pongo's lifeless body. The utter heartbreaking desolation and despair.

The previous day the vet had examined him and taken a blood sample from him to check for Cushing's Disease. I'd had a vague feeling that all was not right since his arrival, although he masked it well and I'd wondered if Cushing's might be the cause. There wasn't anything specific we could find and he seemed contented and comfortable. He may well have had Cushing's, I never followed up the result, but tragically he also had undiagnosed ulcers which in his case proved fatal.

    It's taken a while for me to surface this time. Pongo's death, coming so soon after Tess's was a shock. Both were sudden and traumatic deaths. Exactly what you don't want for cherished companions. For the first time ever I questioned whether the joy of animals was really worth the pain. And for a short time there the answer was no. That twelve hours is burned into my memory and replays like a horror movie that I don't want to watch, but can't switch off. That poor, poor little pony did not deserve such a grim end.

   As is the way of life though, we learn from such experiences. I learned to be grateful for the amazing support and consideration of people. Those who helped. Friends. My Dearly Beloved, although so distressed himself, was constantly there to lean on.  The vets were brilliant, concerned and professional, attending rapidly each time they were needed and so caring afterwards. The animal sanctuary that owned Pongo were fantastic in their support. I'd informed them at the first sign of Pongo's illness, and repeatedly throughout that fateful day, each time the vet came. Yvonne, who had initially assessed me and suggested Pongo and Prince for me,  was at my house before going to work the next morning and was wonderful as myself and my Dearly Beloved sobbed all over her. In my case that continued for the next three days, every time I tried to speak to someone it came out as a choking, sobbing load of drivel. Me, who doesn't cry. 

There is something soothing in spending the aftermath of hard times surrounded by animals.  Their gentle silence. Soft breath on misty mornings. Velvety muzzles and cold noses nudging. Feeling the heartbeat in a warm furry cuddle.

 Moments of quiet stillness shared.  Life goes on and is full of moments of comedy and pleasure brought about by small furry creatures intent on making you laugh again.

Some are more intent than others...

And their simple joy of living is contagious.
Then there are the everyday needs of feeding, watering, grooming, cleaning out/up.  These things keep us going and bring us back. They know you know. Animals know.

  Later, Yvonne brought out Litchen, another little shetland friend of Prince's, to keep him company and to show her faith in my shattered confidence. The photo shows them at the animal sanctuary shortly after Prince's arrival, when Price was an eight month old furry, half starved bag of bones. They were pleased to see each other again, and Prince picked up where he'd left off, tugging at Litchen's wonderful beard and exhorting him to play. It was good to see Litchen oblige.

 Litchen is a timid little pony who needs gentleness and understanding. We don't know about his history but he's about 15 years old and is scared of gates and sticks. He won't go into a building even for food and even if the others go in and leave him outside.Who knows what he has seen and experienced. He needed me to stop being self absorbed and to focus on him. He, like Yvonne, has helped tremendously. 

   Then a few weeks ago Amber arrived. A young female German Shepherd who has been badly let down by humans. Skeletal, unwanted, with a string of behavioural issues and a big, honest broken heart she bumbled in to fix mine.

I say bumbled. Exploded is probably more accurate. She's doing a good job. I only hope I'm doing the same for hers. Together, we're on the up.


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