Thursday, May 31, 2012

Slow Crawl

I creep out of my life-imposed hole, stiff aching, tentative and weak. Skin is crawling, everything hurts, but I finally, finally feel steady enough to walk a straight line.

I'll make it to the horses today. My good dog Charlie, who after almost 10 years together, pretty much reads my mind, trots back and forth between me and the door. He looks me in the eye, reading my face, worried that this might not be the best idea. But he wants to go as much as I do.

The horses will be restive, they've become used to regular work again, and will be ready to make me pay for their neglect. I'll ride Madonna first, ease out the kinks, raise my arms high above my head and stretch, twist left to right, gently push my clenched muscles and figure out how much work is ahead. My silly, goofy, reactive mare will walk quietly, she always does when I need her too. She appreciates the chance to laze in the sun, let her mind wander and ponder whatever it is horses ponder.

Charlie will lie close, probably smack in the middle of the arena. He will dose in the sun, with his head on his paws, but his ears will swivel, keeping track of where I am. There will be no ratting for him today, I can tell by the way he is glued to my heels when I walk, the restless circles he trots around me when I stop moving--he thinks he needs to keep an eye on me.

It's funny how different my two favorite animals respond to the place I'm in.

The dogs know where I'm at before I do. They must feel it when I'm beginning to wake. My eyes open and there they sit, solemn until my feet hit the floor, then they race for the back door, looking over their shoulders to make sure I'm coming too.

Wise, been there, done that 14-year-old Dinah, accepts our new life as she has everything else, with calm dignity. The only changes she has made, is she now sleeps on the tile in front of the door, guarding me with her old bones, and she clings a little closer.

Charlie, the Catholic terrier, has spent his life wanting to do it, knowing he's going to do it, but feeling terribly guilty about it all. Now he has slipped on the mantle of protector. He never leaves me out of his line of sight. Outside dogs, no matter how good of friend,s aren't allowed to approach me anymore. He shadows me, uneasy with his volunteered responsibility, I'm glad he understands sit, stay and heel, because he now judges the humans who approach too, instead of waiting for my response. I have to admit, he has good insight. He still feels terribly guilty about it all.

Snocone, the newest member of our canine family, my husband's chosen companion and cohort, continues to learn she is a dog. Tiny and befuddled, she trots up to me and taps my foot with her paw. She tips her head back and grins, happy to be in the world. If she can find joy in this world, after spending her first eight years as a mill dog, then so can I.

I feel like Queen Elizabeth, parading through her castle with her entourage of little dogs.

The horses know as soon as I get out of the car. On the days I'm ready to roar, they whinny, sharp and demanding. Today, they will greet me with a soft, low nicker.

Madonna will put away all of her nonsense, at least for today. The only advantage she'll take is to pull on her lead rope to get at the grass. She knows when I'm soft. There will be no spooking at the roping dummy by the arena gate, no snort and blow at the cattle. She won't beg to lope before I'm ready, will resist the spin and buck she likes to throw at me on a windy day. Today, she will walk, head level, with no snort, because that's what she reads. I'd like to think it's because she knows what I need, I suspect she appreciates my lack of urgency and  doesn't need to prepare for a skirmish.

Odin will be confused. He isn't old enough, or far enough into his relations with humans to translate the difference in me. He would be frightened by my lack of focus and leadership. So I'll give him a scratch and let him graze. Time will build the communication I have with Madonna.

Today, I'm grateful for my animals and their levels of understanding. I'm glad I've spent years earning the privilege of their input. Today, I can ride and write. Lucky, happy, grateful me.

11 comments:

KD said...

Life is good...our animals make it better.

Joy said...

my dogs = unconditional love

my horse = complete & total understanding

They both make me a better person.

Breathe said...

Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this time with us.

Heidi the Hick said...

What a blessing.

I know what It's like to have physical pain, and drag myself out to the barn. Or, y'know, mental pain. Either way the last thing you want to do is leave the house but those animals make it so worth while. After all these years I'm still amazed at how well they read me and know what I need... Like on those hard days when I need to lean on a big velvety shoulder.

(Apparently sometimes I need a serious challenge, according to them!)

Horsefarmer said...

Pain. 6 year old gelding bucked me off 2x this year last time into arena rail. Not riding him again till can get him checked for a pinched nerve or something. 17 year old mare comes to me in the pasture and touches my sore shoulder very gently and nickers - she knows.

Becky said...

I like this post. It reads like a sip of coffee on a cool morning - beautiful writing.

PS: Love the catholic terrier.

Anonymous said...

I don't comment much, but I do deeply enjoy your posts. What caught my eye on this post was your dog, snocone. You said she was a mill dog, and I volunteer with National Mill Dog Rescue. I was wondering if you got her from there, and if so what was her name before?

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