(Now, don’t worry—no one else has died. I’m not going to lay another ‘my dog/horse/cat/stink bug just passed this week’ on you. I fed everyone this morning and they all look perfectly fat, happy and shiny. Particularly Paul.)
However, since we lost our boarder’s 24-year-old gelding, Barry, a couple of weeks ago, I’ve missed him terribly. You can’t care for an animal for six years and not be strongly attached. Especially when they were as good natured and lovely as this horse was. And that’s what got me to thinking.
You see, when Bonnie, our beloved Jack Russell passed at the age of fifteen after being glued to my hip from day one, I did indeed ask for sign that she was alright and got it promptly; I wrote a column about it so I won’t repeat the story here. But be assured that the sign was so specific, so out of the blue that I didn’t believe, I knew it came from her and knowing she was still around us has been a tremendous source of comfort.
Yet I’ve never had a sign from a horse, not even my ‘heart’ horse, Fozzy, that I just adored. Never had the sort of dream that someone on an equestrian website wrote about months ago, detailing her grief and mourning for the cherished horse that she lost in a terrible accident when he was still quite young. She had been bereft in her loss, unable to function well at home or at work. And then one night she dreamt she was leading her horse down a shaded path through the woods until they came upon a sun dappled meadow with countless other horses grazing and wandering around. She led her horse forward, removed his halter, yet he wouldn’t move. After what seemed to be minutes, a few horses approached him out of curiosity and he took a tentative step towards them, then turned to look at his owner questioningly before continuing to walk forward. Once within the herd, they all wandered away over a hill, unable to be seen.
This young woman wrote that without a doubt she was sure that her horse had come to her in the dream to show her all was well, and that he was content and at peace. And that gave her great peace. Friends who have lost dogs have told me almost identical stories, right down to their pet turning to look back at them before trotting away to join the other dogs.
Truthfully, I wasn’t even thinking about Barry when I went to sleep several nights ago. I had been re-reading Jane Eyre and was at the part where (spoiler alert) Jane learns of the madwoman in the attic, so it would seem that any reverie I might float into would actually become rather ominous after that.
However, sometime in the middle of the night I dreamt I was walking up our long gravel drive to collect the mail when I became aware of the sound of galloping hoofbeats behind me. I looked into the field—all our horses were accounted for—but the hoofbeats grew louder and louder until they filled up the earth and sky and to quote anyone on the local news who has seen a tornado, ‘it sounded like a freight train!’ Suddenly the sound passed directly beside me in a tremendous woosh of mighty wind and continued up the drive before crossing over the fence into the smaller field. And then, hazily in the distance, this wind manifested into the shape and deep bay color of Barry, galloping powerfully across the field before dissipating at the other end.
The images left with me were that it was indeed this dear horse, but he was now young and free from the aches and pains of advanced age as well as giving me a dazzling display of what he had once been and to what he had returned.
I glanced up at the tawny autumnal light descending upon the oaks, poplars and sweet gums. This year the leaves have put on the most dynamic showing of color in years. And how interesting, I mused, that as the leaves prepare to wither and blow away, they make that transition into death when they are at their most vivid and breathtaking. Kind of an analogy of life.
Kind of like Barry.