There are two stories here, both rather sad, unless—like me—you choose to view them as redemptive.
Bud arrived just when he said he would—a few minutes early in fact. He backed the truck slowly up the service drive toward the barn. Ann Marie had finished her business, and she and her vet tech were packing their van. She acknowledged Bud with a small salute.
We watched his arrival from the kitchen window.
“Please,” my daughter said, “could you take my checkbook and pay him? The check’s all filled out except for the dollars. I wasn’t sure of the final amount. And could you also ask Bud to please…take off…the halter?”
Since my self-designed job description was to provide emotional support, I overrode my resistance to go out there. I took the checkbook and went to meet the truck, stepping respectfully around the now-still horse. The two heavyset men in the cab looked like clones of each other; the one I took to be Bud began backing the truck carefully over the lawn. The passenger gazed at me dolefully. I went around to the driver’s door.
“I’m her mom. She asked me to give you the check.”
“She wasn’t sure of the total.”
He told me.
Filling in the amount, I saw my hand was shaking.
When I handed over the check, Bud presented a small card with words about the Rainbow Bridge.
“And she wondered if you would remove his halter?”
“Aw, sure…sure I will.”
“I already put the halter in the barn,” Ann Marie said as she came up to us.
She and I exchanged a few words, but I was in a hurry to get back to the house before Bud began doing what he had to do.
Liz, her eyes swollen, had two cups of hot tea ready in the kitchen. When I took my tea bag to the sink, Bud’s truck was already heading up the road.
“Where does he take them?”
“Somewhere up in Maine. His son is always with him and usually his wife rides along. I don’t know what we’ll do when Bud goes.”
The “we” was the local horse community—a surprisingly large and close-knit freemasonry that depends on Bud—and on each other—to fill some hard, life-and-death needs that arise in the normal course of things.
“He’s careful. He never cuts off their tails.”
I stood at the sink and reflected on the gentle humanity of people like Bud who not only take on the awkward task of horse disposal, but who do it gently and with respect for the animal and the owner. The Rainbow Bridge card was on the kitchen table. I knew Liz would keep it.
The woman thought she heard crying in the adjoining cubicle. When the crying accelerated into sobbing, she quietly stepped next door. Her office mate’s head was on the desk; he was drenched in grief. Slowly at first, then in a flood, his story poured out.
He was ill. Medical costs, not covered by insurance, had eroded his savings. Circumstances were forcing him to move to a place where pets were explicitly forbidden, and that very morning, he had taken his beloved Italian greyhound to an animal shelter. He’d left it there, believing that the little dog would be euthanized. The man’s soul was in anguish.
“Why didn’t you call a rescue group?” his co-worker wanted to know. Involved, as she was in Border collie rescue, it seemed to her incomprehensible that someone wouldn’t take the breed rescue course of action. He was astounded. He had never heard of such organizations.
“If I’d done that, he might not be put to sleep?”
“Well, look,” she said briskly. “Let’s find an Italian greyhound rescue rep and see if anything can be done.”
A quick web search, a couple of phone calls, and soon Mary of IG Rescue was making plans to meet the fellow at the shelter where he had turned in his beloved pet. As well, Mary made a pre-visit call to the shelter to introduce herself and to claim a registered rescue group’s “first dibs” accommodation. Yes, they would hold the dog until Mary and the former owner could get there.
“I’ve never been hugged so much in my life,” Mary claimed later. “But I was able to assure him that his dog would have a good, loving home, and that he could contact with the new owners so he could be satisfied that his friend was in a good circumstance. Oh, and this dog’s a sweetie. He’ll be so loved!”
It is terribly difficult to let a beloved animal go. But when parting times come to an animal owner, it is of untold comfort to walk with folks who are able to give us and our animals what each needs. The rescue reps, the sympathetic veterinarians, the friends who understand, and even the guys who slowly back up their trucks and respectfully carry off the horses that are loved still and always—these are the ones who rescue our hearts. These are the ones who help us heal.