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A letter to my horse

In the Seattle Pets Examiner column, I have always written about the animals who share their lives with other people. I thought I'd share one of my own animal stories in my column today.

Misty at 31, happily grazing during a summer evening
Mark Campion
Misty the horse was a beloved family member
Mark Campion

This was written for my Arabian horse, Misty, who passed away in Sept. 2013 at the age of 32. She really was something special. Read her story in Pet Connection Magazine here.

Dear Misty -

When I first met you, you were frighteningly thin - but I could still see the beauty within you. You looked at me pleadingly for help as you stood shivering in ankle-deep mud. Your hip bones stuck out from beneath your dirty, almost-white coat and I could count your ribs. Your beautiful eyes were dull and hopeless. Your front hooves were so long that you could barely walk. Your frail body was covered with painful patches of rain rot. But I said, "Come with me, Misty. I will help you."

And I did.

Over many months, I fed you warm mash with vegetable oil and carrots. I told you all about my days and you cocked your head to the side as you listened, your lower lip drooping happily as I slowly brushed you. As your frame began to fill out, my love for you began to fill in the place in my heart that had long been empty. You see, Misty, I once had another horse who looked just like you. She was a sweet little gray Arabian who died in my arms one cold autumn day. That place in my heart had waited for almost a decade until I finally met you. One day, I was sadly reminiscing about my friend who had passed away and you looked at me as if to say, "Lean on me, and I will help you."

And you did.

When you were finally healthy enough for me to ride you, I laughed and cried with joy. Who was this amazing, vibrant horse who had been so frail only months before? As you took those first few tentative steps with me on your back, you turned and looked at me and cocked your head to the side. "Trust me, and I will help you," I said.

And I did.

Even when I was in a lot of pain and moving so slowly, you always stood patiently for me to get on, turning to look and see that I was ready. With your patience, forgiveness, and love, you helped me learn to love to ride again. You carried me for many miles with sure feet and a happy heart. Your sheer joy brings tears to my eyes, even now: How we loved the trails, two friends traveling as one! Once I forgot my way out of the woods and didn't know how to get home. As darkness fell, I gave you a loose rein and said anxiously, "Misty, please find the way home." You turned to look at me as if to say, "Come with me, and I will help you."

And you did.

When your bones began to grind together with arthritis, I no longer put the saddle on your back. I missed our happy rides and could tell that you did, too. So I took you by the halter and smiled and said, "Come with me, and I will help you." And I did. Side by side, we explored the trails, walking many miles together. Your feet danced so happily and your eyes shone bright with gratitude.

When I was sad, I would tell you all of my woes. You would listen patiently, touching my arm with your muzzle for reassurance. When I cried into your mane, you turned your head to me and breathed warm, soft breaths against me, as if to say, "Stay with me, and I will help you."

And you did.

When I realized that you could no longer hear me, I used hand signals to call you in from the pasture. To my delight, you quickly learned the signs for “come” and “eat,” responding with shining eyes and eager feet. And when I realized that those shining eyes could no longer see me well, I took you by the lead and let you lean against me for comfort. "Lean on me, and I will help you," I said with loving hands brushed along your shoulder.

And I did.

Someday far too soon, my dear friend, you will no longer be able to see at all. When staying, leaning, listening, and loving are no longer enough, I will say to you one final time, "Come with me, and I will help you."

But not yet, Misty. You turn 33 next year, but we still have a few adventures to share.

You have been my friend, my partner, my companion, my dear, devoted pet. Stay with me...just a little bit longer. And I will help you have helped me.

I helped Misty pass over the rainbow bridge on Sept. 27.

Have you or someone you know recently lost a pet? The AHELP Project can help.

AHELP can provide options for those whose animals have recently died or are nearing end-of-life, assisting with in-home caregiving for sick companion animals and those with special needs, palliative care when the focus has shifted from cure to comfort, and hospice, including end-of-life options like natural death and euthanasia.

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