A Hug from Horse Heaven

I have never really been sure if animals have eternal souls or if our beloved pets will actually be with us in heaven.  As an animal lover, it’s something I’d like to believe is true.  The Bible doesn’t really say, as far as I can tell.  But last night I had the most wonderful dream, and I think it may have been a hug from beyond the (horsey) grave.

I’ll spare you all the crazy bizarro setup details of my dream, because they really aren’t that interesting.  The bottom line was that I was back at camp for a reunion, and I went with a group of people to help clean the stables.  In my dream, the camp had built a huge barn with dozens and dozens of stalls.  As I walked through an aisle, I spotted my most favorite horse ever: Whiskers.

“But they told me Whiskers was dead!” I exclaimed.  “Whiskers, is that you?”  I called to him.  His chestnut coat, the thin, crooked stripe down his face, and the white spots on his chest that made him look adorably freckled were unmistakable.  There were two doors in his stall, and he went out the back one, through an aisle, and cut through another horse’s stall (yeah, the dream barn was configured a bit oddly!) all to get to ME.  He walked up to me and I gave him a huge hug around the neck.  It seemed to last forever and I just kept saying, “I can’t believe you still remember me and you are alive!”  It was like hugging a cloud or the luck dragon from The Neverending Story — I thought I would get lost in the warmth and softness.  I woke up so happy from that dream.

See, the real Whiskers died about two years ago.  He would be 20 if he were alive today, so he didn’t get to be very old.  He had been gradually going blind for several years, and he got to a point where he was attacking his horsie friends out of frustration, so camp had to get rid of him.  I am sure the horse trader sold him at auction and he went to slaughter.  That is just what happens.  When I was visiting camp last year for a reunion, I walked into the tack room and saw Whiskers’ name placket from his saddle holder on the wall.  I knew in an instant that meant he was gone.

Back when my time working at camp was ending (the last time I worked there was a weekend in 2004), Whiskers was having some problems with his vision, but it wasn’t affecting him very much.  He was still spunky and fast and never liked to be caught.  He was always kind of flighty and a little bit wild.  He would never be 100% tame and docile.  It was a special treat for him to approach me in the pasture.  Usually it took some effort and coaxing to catch him.  He had a knack for knowing if I needed to tell him goodbye for a long time or a shoulder (a big, hairy shoulder) to cry on, though, and only on those special occasions would he really let me hug him for very long.

I guess he realized I never got a chance to say goodbye for real.

The last time I saw him was January of 2006.  I was in town for a quick visit and I got to take him for a short ride through the snowy woods.  He was more cautious than I remembered, but his spunk and smooth Tennessee Walking Horse gait was still there.  Though I didn’t know for sure, I suspected I was pregnant with my first child.  I was, and so I can always know that my daughter got her first horse ride on Whiskers.  He was eager to go back to pasture that day and only allowed a brief hug.  So maybe last night he decided I needed one.  Or maybe my subconscious just really misses horses right now.

Either way, it was good seeing you, Whiskers.

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Things I Miss About Wisconsin

For those of you who don’t know, I spent several summers and a calendar year working at my summer camp there in the Northwoods, back in my college years.  I also lived in Green Bay for a couple years after Batman and I got married.

The other day I had this insane urge to go shopping at FleetFarm — sort of like a WalMart combined with a feed/farm store, but with fewer (okay, almost no) beauty products.  They always had the best deals on candy and snacks, boots, warm stuff (long underwear, socks, hats, scarves, etc), and anything outdoor related.  During the brief period of time where I actually had my own horse, I loved being able to run into FleetFarm on the way to the barn to pick up a brush, horse treats, or whatever else I needed for him.  I actually worked at FleetFarm for a short time as well, but I prefer not to think about that lest it spoil my fond memories of the place.  A friend’s grandpa used to say, “If they don’t have it at FleetFarm or the grocery store, ya don’t really need it.”

Without further ado, here’s a fun list of things I miss about Wisconsin:

1. FleetFarm

2. The accent (Dontcha know?)

3. The Northwoods (yes I live in woods now, but it is NOT the same.)

4. Cheese curds

5. Leinenkugel’s beer

6. Fish Fry Fridays (I confess–I never partook because I was a strict vegetarian when I lived there!  But now I am not and I would love to join in!)

7. Old barns/farms

8. Lakes that freeze solid in the wintertime

9.  Cross-country skiing

10. The long, cold, snow-filled winters.  (Yes, you read that right.)

11. The Cup of Joy coffee-house in Green Bay

12.  All my Wisconsin friends!

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