Animal Love: Three Moments That Touched My Heart
"And God took a handful of southerly wind, blew His breath over it, and created the horse.."
For as long as I can remember I have carried on a love affair with horses. To me, there is no creature on earth more majestic nor more beautiful and no other stirs my imagination or touches my soul quite as much as watching these magnificent animals run, muscles rippling, manes flowing. It's almost magical and nothing excites me quite as much as riding on the back of one as it does. I believe it is an honor and a privilege that any animal would allow us to climb upon them and come along for the ride.
Since I was a child, I have always wanted to live in the country and own my own horse. I would daydream for hours on end about riding them even before I had ever really come close to one. Every year for my birthday and Christmas, I would beg for a horse. I didn't care that we lived in the city, I just wanted one so badly. Of course my parents thought it was funny to buy me little horse statues every time I did until I finally realized I may as well stop asking since I was never going to get the real thing. However that lead me to start collecting horses and before long I had more then I knew what to do with. Most of them are gone now though I have kept a few of my favourites. Two of which stand out the most. My grandfather on my dad's side used to love horses as well. He had a beautiful horse on his mantel that was made out of real horse hair. Whenever we would visit I would ask to touch it until one day when I was older, not too long before he died, he told me I could have it and allowed me to take it home. The other is a beautiful black horse made of leather with real horse hair for it's mane and tail. I just think they're beautiful to look at.
Since I was the only one in my family who ever wanted to ride, my parents only took us maybe a handful of times and although I loved being around them, it was disappointing that we were not allowed to ride freely. The only places to ride were at these trail riding places where your horse had to follow the horse in front of you and aside from an occasional trot, you never really rode faster then a walk. As this was not acceptable to me, I would hold my horse back until the group was a good distance away and then would run or gallop to catch up. Inevitably, I would get yelled at that I would cause a stampede that way but those few seconds of freedom were so worth it. I was only able to ride freely one time. For awhile, there was a place near Niagara Falls that had horseback riding where they allowed you to ride freely in a huge field. I went with a few friends and it was the most amazing feeling and one that I will never forget. For an hour my horse and I were allowed to run, trot and even jump..which was purely accidental. There happened to be some piece of machinery left in the field and as we were galloping along, before I even knew what was happening, we had jumped over it. I can't begin to explain the feeling I get when I'm riding atop the back of a horse running at full speed or even my love for horses in general but I seem to have a special bond with them even though I hardly ever get to spend the time with them that I would like. I never had a riding lesson, it just came naturally to me but even more then that we seem to understand each other in a very real way that I cannot explain. Unfortunately, do to insurance purposes, the place in Niagara no longer allows free riding and I have yet to find another place that does.
I'll never forget the first time I really bonded with a horse though. Although born and raised in a big city, I was blessed to have parents who took us camping every weekend in the summers from the time I was 8 months old. We explored every provincial, national and private park in a 3 hour radiance from our home in the city and there was absolutely nothing I loved more. We started out in a little pop out trailer, then graduated to a real trailer, then a motor-home and later, after finding ourselves going to the same park that we loved over and over again, we bought a mobile home and have been there ever since. I absolutely love being out in the country, exploring new places, which is how I found my special place that no one else knew about and I went there every chance I had. The park itself is over 560 acres of ever changing, environmentally protected landscape on the shores of Lake Erie and it was by chance, on one of my exploration expeditions, I had come across a tiny field that was kept separate from the rest of the area by heavy bushes and trees. In fact, it looked like the edge of the property line but when you made your way behind them it was like stepping into my own little oasis. There was one large beautiful tree in the middle of this grassy area which was always covered with dandelions. Now, I know these are weeds but to me, they were beautiful. In my 13 year old imagination it was a field full of wild flowers and I loved to just sit beneath that tree and soak up the natural beauty of the place that no one knew about but me. Bordering this small field was a wooden fence that separated the edge of the park from the neighbouring farmland. By fence I mean two logs running horizontal to wooden posts and to my delight, this pasture was home to a single horse. My little oasis was now perfect. After a little coaxing, I managed to get him to come to the fence where he allowed me to pet him and feed him from my hand. That was it, I was in love and longed to be able to just jump upon his back and ride, wind blowing in my face as we raced along the shoreline. From that day on I would go to my secret place and visit every chance I could. I never feel closer to God then I do when I am in some natural beautiful environment and in that place, I could feel God. Sometimes I would just sit beneath my tree and write, which I was always doing or just bask in the sunshine amid all those dandelions but always, always I would spend time with "my" horse. After that first day, no matter where he was, even if I couldn't see him, I would put my fingers in my mouth and whistle as loud as I could and always afterward I would hear the familiar neighing and the approaching hoof beats as he came racing up, neck outstretched for me to nuzzle. Even after a long cold winter and months without seeing him, he never forgot me or my familiar whistle and always we would pick up where we left off as if no time had passed. That is until one spring when there was no response to my call. I tried every day for over a week, not wanting to accept what I knew in my heart to be true. He was old when we first met and the harsh winter must have been too much for him. I missed him dearly and even the magic of my little oasis brought no comfort anymore and I eventually stopped going there altogether. I can't really explain this connection I feel with animals but it is evidenced in the special moments I share with them.
About 4 years ago I spent a year living and travelling around Australia. It was there that a bunch of us decided to spend a weekend camping at Frasier Island...the worlds largest sand island and a wonderous place to explore. A group of us were hiking one day when I spotted a group of wild horses up ahead of us and of course I made a bee line to them. There were about 5 or 6 of them including a mare with her colt. As I got closer, I could see that they were a little skittish. My friends had stopped to talk and were a good distance away. I was calmly talking to them as I approached and they let me walk up to them. I began petting the mare who made sure she stood between me and her baby. I picked some grass and fed her and within minutes I was allowed to pet her baby as well. It was so amazing. For about 10 minutes, I was allowed to pet them and feed them and interact with the whole herd. There was a park ranger nearby watching me and she looked a little surprised. I went over to say hello and she told me that the horses were wild and that they had been brought over in the late 1800's but because they were not native to the island, they had been trying to round them all up for over a year but were having a really hard time because they wouldn't let anyone near them, which is why she had been so surprised that they had allowed me to. About that time my friends had caught up with me and as if to prove the point, one of the girls who had seen me petting them walked over to do the same. Before she really got close that mare reared up on her, screeching and within seconds the entire herd had fled. It scared the daylights out of us because it really looked like she was going to trample her. For me though, being allowed to interact with this wild herd was one of the most magical experiences I've ever had. The fact that these beautiful, wild animals allowed me, if only for a little while to interact with them and even trusted me enough to pet and feed their youngest and therefore most vulnerable member is something I will never forget.
When it comes to experiences with animals there is only one moment that touched me more and that was with my best friend, Sammy. Sammy was my 7 lb., little blond Pomeranian. I will be dedicating an entire hub to him as he really was the most amazing dog there ever was. We had many special moments together over the years but this one touched my heart like no other. As I mentioned previously, my parents have a mobile home on the shore of Lake Erie that we would go to on the weekends. Sammy loved it there as well. We would go for long walks together and every night after everyone left the beach to go start dinner, Sammy and I would head down there where he loved to just race up and down the shoreline. The only thing Sammy didn't like was the water. For some reason he was just scared to death of it and no amount of coaxing could get him to go into it. The most he would ever do was walk in a step or two, trembling and whining and that was only if I walked out pretty far. I would bring him on boat rides with us and even when I was holding him tightly when we walked in the water to get to the boat, he would start shaking violently, his little paws flailing as if he were swimming for dear life. He was just terrified.
One day during a boat ride, we laid anchor in the middle of the lake so we could relax for a bit and tan etc., when I decided I wanted to go for a swim. I dove off the side of the boat and swam a few meters underwater before coming up for air where to my shock, Sammy had just reached me and was clawing at me, eyes bulging with fear. My precious little friend who was terrified of the water, saw me going in and before anyone on the boat knew what was happening, took a running jump off the side of the boat to try to save me. Much to everyone's surprise, he swam out meeting me at the exact spot I popped my head up. He was still scared to death and was clawing at me to get out of the water as I swam back to the boat trying to carry him with me. Although Sammy was just a little dog, he had always been my protector, barking and growling at anyone who got too close to me, even nipping at people who tried to touch me but I never imagined his love for me was so strong as to go against his survival instincts and overpower his fear of water to make him jump into the middle of Lake Erie to try to save me. His act of heroism and bravery touched my heart, brought tears to my eyes and remains one of my most precious memories. Sammy is gone now and although it has been years, I still miss him terribly. To me, he will always remain one of the best friends I ever had.
It amazes me that some animals have the astonishing ability to love unconditionally to the point that it is almost palpable. They have an uncanny ability to touch peoples hearts and lift their spirits to such an extent that they can even help people to heal faster and in a lot of cases, to even bring people out of the darkest depths of depression and on the road to recovery. I am elated that we are slowly starting to recognize this fact and are using them more and more in hospitals and clinics everywhere.
Have you had a special moment with an animal or pet that has touched your heart? I would love to hear about it. I think we should celebrate these moments so please feel free to leave a comment and tell me about it.