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This is a tough one...

Everyone has to say goodbye to a beloved pet at some time or another. I've said goodbye to a few cats, a dog and a horse so far. With small pets, in all cases, it was pretty obvious that it was time to ease their suffering. Abigail was fourteen-year old cat suffering from failing kidneys, and she was shutting down. Murphy was a joyful golden retriever mix that had bad arthritis, and at eight years old, something affected his nervous system and he suddenly couldn't hold hiimself up. Maizy the cat died suddenly and mysteriously. With a horse, it is very different. Sometimes the decision is out of your hands...a bad case of colic, or a life-threatening injury forces the decision on you to ease their suffering. It happens suddenly, and then you grieve, and move on.

Tomorrow, I'll be saying goodbye to my most beloved horse. Unique has been with me since she was eight years old. She's now thirty. The two of us have thoroughly explored the trails of Arcadia Management Area in Rhode Island. We've done judged pleasure rides, hunter paces, and the Ride for the Cure twice. I spent countless hours training and working with her to make her softer on the bit, to yield to my legs, and back up willingly. She has gotten us out of a few scrapes on narrow trails, and has willingly endured bicycles, traffic,

and ATVs. In recent years, she has been diagnosed with Cushings Disease, and yet the only real symptom of it was that she didn't fully shed her winter coat until June. I've evaluated her the last few autumns, and decided that she was healthy and strong enough to brave another winter. But the last few months have marked a change. I see the subtle signs of constant discomfort in her hind joints. A tiredness, a lack of interest in the other horses. She still stoically eats and drinks and to the untrained eye, she looks fine. But I see the effort it takes her to get up after lying down, I'm afraid that one day, she won't be able to get up, and I don't want to see her get to a debilitating point. As the worst of the summer heat and biting flies come upon us, she will finally be at rest, in the pasture where she has grazed the last eighteen years.



As an artist, she has been my muse for many paintings. Even the face with the star is her---the star was added by artistic license. My favorite piece is the one drinking from the stream. It was my favorite stopping point off of Brook Trail in Arcadia, where we rode for miles and miles, when we were both much younger and fitter.

© 2016 by Alecia Underhill. 

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