Today is a sad day.
Or maybe it isn’t.
I’m not really sure, because I have a horse on my hands who is 35 years old.
His name is Mr. Fudgie, and he’s my first horse.
He’s chocolate brown, which is no surprise, given his name. His mane is black and his eyes are walnut brown. His ears curve in like devil horns, which works for him. He’s unbelievably fit, what horse people call an easy keeper.
He retains muscle mass better than I do.
As for his personality, he’s feisty. We call him the Fudgemaster General.
But he shows signs of age, like the new white hairs sprouting on his forehead.
He’s not old, he’s sugar-frosted.
But unfortunately today, I woke up to find him weaving in the field, as if he had one margarita too many.
Something is wrong with his balance, and he’s had a slow-growing neurological tumor for a long time.
So the question is, is this the day?
It’s not an easy question to answer for anyone who loves an animal, and I’m sure many of you know exactly what I mean.
My animals are in my family.
And if you get to be my age, you’ve held many paws while an animal you love is being put down. I’ve lost cats, dogs, hens, a guinea pig, and a horse. And all of them are cremated, with their remains in my office.
I even have a hen footprint, which the chicken vet gave me.
I know, I’m nuts.
By the way, if you have never seen the cremated remains of a horse, you’re missing something. They’re the size of a trunk. And that’s in my office, too.
There’s barely room for me in my office.
It’s like a pet cemetery.
I’ve always agonized over the decision about whether the time is right, as I know you have.
But for some reason, it seems a harder question if it’s a horse.
Maybe because a horse is such a majestic and strong animal, and Mr. Fudgie is certainly that. He’s a quarter horse rescued from a racetrack, and he had been abused in his life, so he’s cranky around new people. But he and I have come to terms, and he was the first horse I ever rode.
Which doesn’t mean he’s great for beginners.
He’s fast, full of energy, and has a mind of its own.
So I was terrified most of the time I rode him, but I love him and he’s terrific. He’s the old man at my barn, still bossy enough to keep the other horses and even Barney the Cat in line.
In theory, it shouldn’t matter if an animal is big or small, when it comes to this decision. I’ve cried over cats and hens. I’ve even cried over a guinea pig. Of course you love a small animal as much as you love a large one.
I say this, as a small animal myself.
But there is something heartbreaking about seeing a majestic animal stumble in a field.
Even so, that doesn’t mean that it’s time for him to be put down.
He isn’t in pain.
It’s only that his balance is off.
In effect, he’s dizzy.
My horse vet, Genius Dr. Gerry, will be here soon. He’s brilliant and he has a great big heart. We agree on how wonderful it is to be entrusted with the care of an animal. We both know that life is precious, and death final.
So neither of us is in any rush to put Mr. Fudgie down.
I can accommodate anything this horse needs, and he already has his own paddock to himself, which he loves.
He considers it his throne room.
And he’s right.
And even though his walk is unsteady, if we try to catch him, he’s feisty enough to run away.
So to me, it’s a matter of common sense.
If you have to chase him to kill him, you’re doing something wrong.
That has to be true, as long as he’s not in any pain.
So I’ll wait for the vet and keep my fingers crossed.
Until it’s time to say goodbye.
Look for Lisa and Francesca’s humor collection, “I See Life Through Rosé-Colored Glasses,” and Lisa’s novel, “Someone Knows,” in stores now. Also you can preorder Francesca’s debut novel, “Ghosts of Harvard,” publishing May 5, 2020.