Dubbey whinnied at me every afternoon as I arrived to do chores. I know she was just anxious to get her grain, but it made me happy. Until last Monday, when there wasn’t a welcome.

It was raining when I found the beautiful horse lying in the middle of the lot. Wet and cold, with eyes begging me to end the misery.

Dubbey had been sick since May when she had foundered. She just kept losing weight and then developed a large lump on her hip that never went away. The last few weeks, she had been lame and the poultice wraps weren’t helping.

So when I couldn’t get her up, it was time to call the vet and euthanize the beautiful creature. I honored the tenth commandment of a horse: “Go with me on my last journey. Don’t say 'I can’t watch' or 'Let it happen in my absence.' Everything is easier for me when you’re there.”

It was the right thing to do.

She was my brother’s horse, but I will grieve for her. I miss her whinnies.

The week prior, we had discovered a large crack down the middle of my favorite backyard tree. It was the tree I had placed my glider bench under sixteen years ago when we moved into the house. My fire pit was there. I had enjoyed the shade every day and often paused there to listen to a bird, to plan, reminisce or to cry.

The tree, just like my horses, kept my deepest secrets.

Last Wednesday, we had to have it taken down before it fell on the garage and the house. It was the right thing to do. Now, there is a gaping hole in my backyard where there once stood a beautiful tree.

While I’m grieving these losses, I’m also recognizing that doing the right thing is not always easy. I am also remembering something a friend once shared after a difficult end: “If you didn’t have anything, you would have anything to lose.” It’s along the same lines as “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened,” (Dr. Seuss).

What do you do when there is a cavernous hole where a cherished something had once been?

I imagine my mentor and friend, Paul Hay, is asking himself something similar as he is joining the ranks of the retired.

Paul has been the face of Gage County Extension for many years and for many people. I have respected and admired his selfless service to farmers, business and the community for as long as I have known him. He is one-of-a-kind, just like the stories he has collected and shared with those lucky enough to spend time with him.

He has offered bits of wisdom when I needed to hear it the most--insights that have helped me as a parent and in my work. I don’t know if he knew that.

Why do we wait until the end to appreciate all that someone or something has done?

Knowing that Paul has been developing a bucket list with ways he will spend his time in retirement, my wish for him is that, as he continues to serve our community, we pause to recognize that value he brings and appreciate him.

May we all fill the holes in our lives with “Advice from a Horse,” by Ilan Shamir:

  • Take life’s hurdles in stride.
  • Loosen the reins.
  • Be free-spirited.
  • Keep the burrs from under your saddle.
  • Carry your friends when they need it.
  • Keep stable.
  • Spur yourself on to greatness.
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