Lessons Learned from an Incredible Bond
Presidents Day is a nice three-day weekend to have in the middle of winter and a good time to recharge. As much as I hate to admit it, the chronic fatigue from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) wears me down. The breaks I get working in a school are lifesavers.
But this particular holiday holds a deeper meaning for me that has nothing to do with presidents. It was on Presidents Day four years ago that I lost my horse Artica.
As I wrote in one of my first columns, Arti had been horribly abused while on the racetrack. It took me years to gain his trust, but when I did our bond was incredible. He and I were both gifted with athletic bodies that wouldn’t stand up to the pounding of sports, and we shared an understanding of what it was like to manage chronic pain and keep going. Arti helped me to keep my head above water when I was overwhelmed and anxious. He was my rock.
The people who said, “Oh, I’m so sorry, I lost my dog once. It was really hard,” didn’t mean to sound flippant. I’ve lost many beloved pets in my life, but it doesn’t compare to the loss of a horse with whom you have a special bond. Arti and I communicated so easily that there were moments I thought he was speaking English. I felt as if I’d lost my best friend and confidant.
In the years since I lost Arti, I have learned that the lessons he taught me about how to persevere and overcome are the same lessons I needed to adjust to life without him. Just because I can’t groom him or kiss his nose doesn’t mean that his spirit is any less alive. All those lessons keep his memory and presence with me.
Over time, I started to form happy memories to bridge the gaping hole in my heart. It was a long, slow process, but I have reached a point where Arti’s memory brings me more joy than sadness.
I remember thinking after I lost Arti that there would never be another horse like him, and I was right. But I was wrong to think I could not have a bond as deep and special with another horse. I’m blessed to have Spotty — a lazy goofball who aims to snuggle, get cookies, and do as little work as possible — and Cherry, a sweet little mare who tries her hardest and makes me laugh with her sass. They both bring me incredible joy.
Without Arti, I don’t know if I could have accepted my EDS diagnosis as well as I did. Arti understood what it was like to have physical limitations. But despite having a fused fetlock joint and associated chronic pain, Arti was never in a bad mood — especially if he had mud to roll in. A kiss, a cuddle, and an apple were all it took to make his day. And it’s what helped me to learn that the little things in life can make the most difference.
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