I can’t believe he’s gone. That funny guy on four legs with the snowy white coat that glistened in the sun. The guy who filled so much of our life with his curious nature and chatty conversation, who was a complete pleasure to serve – even if it meant changing his coat in the middle of a thunderstorm, feeding him a midnight snack before we went to bed, and leaving the outside lights on all night to make sure he could see. The guy who helped himself to feeds waiting in the laundry and who, to make me a better horsewoman, bolted and reared when he first came to us. And then took me for my first joy-filled, bareback and bridleless jump and canter. Sebastian, our 44 year-old pony, our friend for 17 years, went to the spirit world yesterday.
One moment he was cantering around with the other ponies. The next he had colic. I’d never seen a horse so bad. He was sweating with pain and I quickly knew this wasn’t a case for homeopathy, tummy lifts and abdominal massage. No, something was very wrong. I could feel it inside myself. He was impacted. His gut was at a standstill. I called the vet. Bastie’s gum colour and heart rate were good. A pain killer and a dose of oil got us a bit of gut noise and allowed him to sleep. We stayed up with him, standing vigil, hopeful.
But the next morning he was still inside himself, hadn’t eaten and still hadn’t passed any manure. His gum colour and heart rate were bad. I felt the all too familiar cold numbness of grief and panic rising inside me. I called the vet out again. He was gentle. He didn’t have to tell me what I already knew.
I never let an animal go unless it is their own decision. If they want to battle on, I will help them. I don’t believe in euthanasia for expedience. I have had to counsel too many unhappy souls who haven’t completed their earthly business. Like we have our journey, they have theirs. Some animals “feel’ like they are dying, but once comfortable and counselled they recover. Some animals know when it is their time and ask for help. Other animals know it is their time – and don’t want help. For me, it’s about respecting the individual.
I tried ringing my animal communicator friends for guidance. But for the first time ever, nobody was available. Divine providence. And I’m grateful for it. I had to suck it up, get centred and do it myself. I sent the vet into the kitchen for tea, while Andrew and I spent time with Bastie under the Hawthorn tree in the back yard. Bastie, relaxed from painkillers, was enjoying the relief.
“If this is heaven, I’m there,” he grinned.
We talked for some time. The spirits of his old equine friends Sollie and Saraid stood beside us, their eyes radiating love and welcome. If I had had any doubt before, I now knew that Bastie’s end had come. They were here to escort him Home. Bastie said he looked forward to his next adventure. He showed me himself as a handsome young man with blonde hair and assured me I would see him again.
There was an old joke between us. Bastie would say every Spring that he wouldn’t last another winter. But he always did.
“Love’s a funny thing,” he told me finally, as he shifted his weight in the shade, looking at me with keen, intelligent eyes. “It keeps you on Earth. I’m fading child – I know I’d never last another winter. It’s time. Say goodbye. Set me free. Now.”
The world is a duller, lonelier, emptier place without Bastie.
As I sat on the hill this morning, watching the ponies run and the sun illuminate a blade of grass, I thought about the gift each animal brings. We are all beings of Light and Love, but the animals express that so much more fully than we do. Each spark of consciousness vibrates with a unique personality. And when one leaves, the tapestry of life is less rich. There’s a hole, a void. I’m lucky I can still see and hear them. But it’s the sense of touch that feels the loss the deepest
And I thought about it in terms of human beings who can’t understand that when we allow ourselves to vibrate as brightly as the animals, the world is indeed a shinier place. And how important it is to make every day a jewel, and to live life with passion, love and joy.
In my feature film Finding Joy, Raffi the dog heals Joy of her low self esteem with his unconditional love. I wrote the screenplay because it bothered me that so many people didn’t understand the truth about animals. For all kinds of reasons we have unhappy animals being passed on from person to pound or abattoir. How could you give up on a being, no matter how apparently troublesome, who was trying to give you a gift? How can people fail to understand that an animal is not a commodity, but a healer –- of our hearts, minds, emotions and even our physical body. They give us meaning and purpose, and push us along our own path of spiritual growth–if we take the time to listen and have the humility to accept them as our teachers.
Sebastian’s spirit stands relaxing under the Hawthorn tree. He’s also leaning against the gate where the ponies sleep. And standing under the apricot tree, eating his dinner from the trough. The whole valley is infused with a gentle healing energy, soothing our raw and ruffled emotions, enveloping us with love. It’s his parting gift to help us through the transition of his absence. I smile gratefully at his shade and tell him I miss him. And tears stream down my face as I drink in his presence and break the habit of a decade by not preparing his daily feeds.
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© Billie Dean, 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in any format without prior written permission.
Originally Published in Conscious Living