How an animal can show us our humanity
To be an animal in the great outdoors, lives are governed by the need for shelter and sustenance in order to survive. These creatures don’t really have/show emotion when there is a stimuli to evoke happiness, sadness or any other reaction. They are primitive creatures through and through. They have no time for frivolous emotions. Along with this, memories of their upbringing are probably mostly lost in the shuffle of their own adult lives.
Humans, on the other hand, are completely different. Our childhood, adolescence, teen and adult years are full of memories; some wonderful, some better left behind and some that are both fantastic and melancholy. Regardless of type, these recollections are what make us the humans we are.
Those who know me understand that my short-term memory is unpredictable at best. I lose stuff in the most unlikely places, forget people’s names and can’t for the life of me remember the time of my “made just a few minutes ago” appointment. But if you ask me what happened 4-40 years ago, I recall details that only “some kind of a nut” would have access to in their adulthood. I’m not sure why I am this way. It might have something to do with the fact that my childhood obsessive compulsion disorder has proliferated itself within my psyche in my “geezer-hood”. Or …maybe I AM “some kind of a nut”.
A while ago, an animal that was very important in my family’s life had to be put down. Mary “Take Me Cruisin’ Dandy” was a gray quarter horse that we acquired as a result of my wife and daughter attending a NILE Show in Billings one October day in 2007. I have vivid memories of the long trip to Billings that afternoon and while pulling a friend’s trailer, cooled my “jets” while struggling to come to terms with our newest acquisition.
The ensuing years flew by as Layton competed in horse shows throughout Eastern Montana. During this time, we learned a lot about horses, competitions, compassion, understanding and patience with other people and especially with ourselves. When we were just starting out, many horse-people in the community reached out to offer us assistance before we even knew we’d need it. We’ve developed wonderful friendships and memories with these people that will endure a lifetime.
The memories forged during these times are what will sustain us through this tough period. In all honesty, probably the memory I cherish the most of all my memories centers around my trip to Billings, being reunited with my family and have my 12-year-old daughter introduce me to her horse and, with a smile as big as Montana, exclaim to me, “Isn’t she beautiful Dad?”
I’m still pretty broken up about the whole thing. My memories of Mary always include Layton and I guess these recollections drive home the fact that I’m getting older, Layton is pretty much on her own now and I’ll never have the opportunity to experience these wonderful times again. But time eventually heals all wounds. Layton, now a senior in college, recently posted a comment on Facebook™ that pretty much sums up the importance of Mary to her:
•RIP AQHA Take Me Crusin Dandy•
“I will miss you sweet girl. You brought me so much happiness and I will forever cherish our years spent showing. You taught me how to be a humble winner and a gracious loser. I will forever be thankful for you in helping me become a successful horsewoman and for always being there to listen and talk to when I had a bad day. Fly high Mary. I cannot wait to ride again together someday.”
Animals seem to have one “advantage” over humans. Although they don’t appear to have feelings of great joy, they also probably don’t have feelings of great sorrow as much as humans do. But then again, humans have one advantage over animals that pretty much tips the scales in our favor and that is this: Humans laugh, cry, have feelings of great joy and also extreme sadness but at the end of the day, it’s our memories that enrich our lives and make us the humans we are. It’s taken an emotionless animal to remind me of this great privilege.
Allen Hrubes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.