Alison and Tim

Jimmy Buffett tells us in one of his songs to, “Breathe in, breathe out, move on,” but for the past week, I found myself holding my breath and wanting to go back in time.  I catch myself holding the inhale just a wee bit too long and then I must remind myself to breathe out.  It is not my equines causing this lack of oxygen exchange, but the loss of our beloved canine Tim.  We said our final goodbyes just over a week ago, but it still doesn’t seem real.  I keep hoping his scruffy face will pop around the corner to see me.  I would love to hold him just one last time to tell him how lucky we were to have him as part of our lives.

He was 14 and the gentlest soul.  I think I can honestly say that everyone who met him liked if not loved him. He was a great ambassador for dogs. He did a stint as a therapy dog and enjoyed letting children read to him. He was an attentive listener and they always thought he was reading right long with them. Little did they know that I hid treats in the books at home so that Tim would stare at the pages…hoping for more treats to fall into his mouth. Those of you who have followed us for a few years will remember he even allowed me to make him into a martini one Halloween. If ever there was a dog that needed to be cloned, he was an ideal candidate. His final days were peaceful and I feel certain that all our family dogs that went before him and my husband’s Dad (Mepaw) were there to greet him with wagging tails and open arms on the other side of the bridge.

But, maybe, just maybe, Jimmy Buffett was right about the “move on” part. But though I grieve, time marches forward and I had to look ahead to our first show of the season just a few days after we said goodbye. Thankfully it was a small schooling show and we signed up to do two First Level tests that we felt comfortable performing. No pressure. Just a fun outing to distract my thoughts for a few hours.

"Mom, I gave myself a mud bath!"

“Mom, I gave myself a mud bath!”

Maybe that is what Ike was trying to do by wallowing like a pig in the mud hole he has created in his paddock.  There was mud in almost every orifice; in his forelock, his tail, and covering at least 95% of his hulking body. Grooming was a strength and aerobic workout rolled into one. I curried, and brushed, and wiped away clump after clump. I used my fingers to detangle his mane and tail. I finally thinned and trimmed the mess that was his mane. After an hour, he was presentable. But for that hour, I did not cry. I just talked to Ike as he munched his hay.  Perhaps it was his way of getting my mind off the sadness of Tim’s loss.

Ms. C did her best to keep my mind distracted for the next hour as she gave us one final lesson before the show. I did my best to keep my mind on the tasks at hand. It really is how I should ride each and every time I throw my leg over Ike’s back.  Be present during my ride just as I expect from Ike.  From there, we are two minds working as one.  We really did have some great leg yields and canter work.  Fingers were crossed that we could replicate the lesson at the show.

The show gods were with us the day of the schooling show. Weather was perfect. The judge was generous with her knowledge as she provided insightful oral and written comments. I had forgotten how stress free schooling shows can be. No need to fuss with white breeches, no need to groom for hours, and the opportunity to try some different things to see how they could enhance our scores. We came home with two First Levels scores over 70% and with a feeling that we were no longer “stuck.” Here is a video of of Test 1…note the first trot lengthening how we got a little out of balance…what you cannot tell is that I almost lost both stirrups.

The judge asked when my next show was and then proceeded to tell me that it should be my last at First Level. Can’t beat a compliment like that!

My breathing will eventually return to normal, but life will forever be a little different without Tim around.  But though he is no longer by my side, he will always be in my heart.  I will ride with that joy in my heart each time I head down centerline.