Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Tragedy, Triumph and Whatever

Towards the end of September, DH's Mom asked if I wanted to go offsite.....and I said yes!  She invited R. and Harmony to join us.  I was excited.  The day arrived and it couldn't have been more beautiful.  In fact, it was unseasonably warm.  It's a lot of work getting ready to go offsite!  Hay, tack, water.  I was sweating before we even got in the truck! 

All three horses loaded up fine, with Gem first because he's the biggest.   It was when they unloaded that I sort of ...well... panicked.  I was in a strange place with my horse!  Holy crap!  Deep breaths...  Although it was her first time offsite with Harmony, R. was cool as a cucumber.  Because her daughter Mary competes all the time with Ringer, R. knew what the routine was for loading, unloading, tacking up, etc. etc.  I felt completely inept, but DH's Mom was very patient with me.  I stood on a rock to mount and off we went.  

 It was awesome.  Gem was fine with everything and was relaxed and snuffling as we walked through the lush greenery.  This forest has gullies and little streams, some with bridges.  Gem and I rocked going up and down the steep gullies, but we didn't do the bridges.  He wasn't fussy and I didn't want to push it.  When we left after 2 hours, I was elated.   I went twice more to the park with DH's Mom before she put her trailer in storage - just the two of us - and Gem and I did the bridges on those rides.  :-)

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In early October, I noticed that my Silky Terrier was limping.  I checked is paw and decided that it was because his nails were long.  He was due to see the groomer, but I wanted to make sure the limp was gone first.  The limp lingered.  After a few days of it not getting better, I took him to the vet.  The examination did not yield much, but he was sent home with an anti-inflammatory.  The limp seemed to be getting worse, so I took him back a week later for an x-ray.  The results showed that he had a tumour on the bone under his shoulder.  The usual treatment was complete amputation, followed by chemo and radiation.  My Silky was not a candidate for such aggressive treatment because of his age (14) and his past pancreatic issues.  I managed his pain and carried him everywhere so that there was no danger of his leg breaking.   He still asked to go out (I carried him in and out of the house) and ate like a trooper, he still barked at the door bell and when he greeted me when I got home, his tail wagging.   However, I could actually feel the tumour growing and pushing out his shoulder; his pain medication were upped a couple of times.  As usual, he seemed content with the situation as long as it meant being with me.  One morning in early December, I looked at him....I mean REALLY looked at him... when he didn't know I was checking him out.  If he had known I was checking him out, he was have put on a brave happy front because that's what dogs do.  I could tell he was very "tired".   It was time.  I had the vet come to my home and as I held him in my arms as the process was initiated, I couldn't help but think of Enzo in The Art of Racing in the Rain.  My Silky Terrier was ready.  The transition was done on his big pillow with his life-long buddy, my 16-year old Cairn Terrier, and me beside him.  It was peaceful.  He was such a sweet, gentle soul.  I miss him every day. 

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My middle sister continues to drag out the closing of my mother's estate.  It's well over a year since my mother passed away, and because she has not been forthcoming with any information after repeated requests, I fear that she is covering for some bad behaviour on her part:  we could be looking at many more months before the estate is finalized.  It's a sordid story, one that smacks of elder abuse by middle sister, financial cover up and one that I would never have thought would have been about my family.   After loosing my parents and now having to deal with lawyers on a regular basis, my physical and mental health have been negatively impacted.  This winter was a real challenge.  I am not riding as much as I would like to; getting motivated to get to the barn has been difficult.  I am terribly out of shape.    

While work has been a refuge for me, the business plans over the next 18 months will increase my workload tremendously.   Instead of being a refuge, works is now starting to add to the stress in my life.  I may not have much control over the situation with my mother's estate, but I do have control over other aspects of my life.  I am going to retire!!   

My Husband will continue to be semi-retired, working through the winter and golfing in the summer.  It is a set up that works for him.  I want to surround myself with activities that give me joy and self-satisfaction.  I have a beautiful garden that needs some TLC.  I also have a couple of places that I would like to volunteer at (therapeutic horse riding program, chronic care home).  I would actually like to read my Book Club books at a leisurely pace instead of cramming it into the last week before the meeting.  I picked up some canvases and paint and will try my hand at trying to create "art".   And, more importantly, I would like to spend more time at the barn and riding, which was my retirement plan all along.  :-) 

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In January we had our first few days of snow.  The horses get frisky after the first snow.  It reminds me of when I was little and I would wake up to that first really big snowfall and couldn't wait to get out there and play.  I love riding in the snow and eagerly hit the trails with DH's Mom.  The snow was quite deep in some areas, but the herd had already laid some trails for us.  Gem and DH were frisky!  I actually positioned myself behind DH's Mom to keep Gem at a slower pace.  DH would break into a prance every now and then, with Gem right up his butt egging him on.  As we came to a clearing in the bush near the orchard, I could feel Gem wanting to GO.  As I wrestled with him to keep him in check, he reached out and bit DH on the butt!  DH started to prance out of the way.  Gem and I were still wrestling when he decided to put an end to it.  He kicked out his hind legs twice very high, catapulting me on to his neck.  I recovered enough on the second kick to be able to push myself off to the side instead of flipping over his neck.  I landed in soft snow and other than the pain in my thigh from hitting the horn as I flew off and a sprained finger, it was the best fall I have every had.  :-)  Gem stood there and looked at me.  DH's Mom was able to get hold of his reins.   

Just as I was dusting myself off, LA and a student came riding up to us.  LA offered to give me a leg up, which Gem stood patiently for initially, but lost patience when my obvious lack of upper body strength to haul my now generous body into the saddle became embarrassing to him.  He quietly started to walk off, with me hanging on to the horn trying to will him to stop.  No such luck.  He trotted back to the main gate, leaving me to walk back through the orchard and across two fields in snow up to mid-calf.  The more I walked, the warmer I became.  I started undoing clothing, removing scarves, gloves.  Do you know how hard it is to breath when you have a sports bra on!?  By the time I got to the gate, I was sweating, my face was red and I sounded like some sort of wild version Darth Vader, huffing and puffing.  A barn worker was holding Gem when I arrived.  I put my clothing back on, got back on him and jogged/walked him around the turnout area.   Some might think that I got back on him to teach him that he can't get away with dumping me.  However, I was grateful that I was able to sit on him while I caught my breath before the walk to the barn.  :-)

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While at the barn yesterday, a fellow rider asked me how big Gem was.  I taped him again to check his weight and he's a fluffy 1365 lbs and he still stands a smidge over 16.1hh.  It seems like yesterday that I was terrified of being that high off the ground.  :-)  Well, it was confirmation that both Gem and I have to work on our girth size.... the plan is to slim down together.  :-)

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Admittedly, I have been in a funk.  But sometimes out of the funk darkness comes a bright light.  People that I haven't connected with in a long time or friends that I haven't seen in a while have contacted me out of the blue.  These gestures lift my spirits.  There always good stories and memories.  Delightful!   Some of my father's good friends invited me to the Naval Officers Mess for drinks just before Christmas.  And, a couple of months ago I had dinner with the son of friends of my parents.  I had not see Kent in 50 years!!  It was great fun.  :-)

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There is a new boarder at the barn.  I met Shannon a few years back when I was taking lessons.  Her lesson was right before mine and being of the same age, we started talking.  She rode a lot as a young adult and then stopped for 25 years.  Lessons were her way of getting her confidence back.  We had the same retirement goal (riding horses).   I stopped lessons, so I didn't see her again until recently.  She just bought a horse!  A lovely Arabian/QH cross and is starting to get into shape so that they can compete in endurance!  Wow.  She's retired now and has the time.  She rides 3 times a week.  She took her mare out on the trails for the first time this weekend by herself.   She is confident and focused and enjoying her horse.  She mirrors my hopes for Gem and I (well, with the exception of the endurance thing), and I am getting excited about it.