It's been experienced innumerable times by countless equine lovers. Nothing is wrong, everything is rolling along splendidly, and then suddenly your best friend is gone. You are left with so many questions, and not near enough answers. "Did I do everything right?" "What could I have done different?" "Why him, why now?" The list goes on and on.
This is the journey I am experiencing now, less than two weeks following the tragic loss of my daughter's beloved mule. We don't understand, we can't comprehend, and we will never know what he endured. We question his entire life - what could we have done to change the outcome, to prevent this catastrophe and still have him here with us? We break down and cry every day as our hearts ache for him.
I am coming to accept that these are all normal thoughts, emotions and regrets. Equine friends who have survived the loss of a child have likened the two. I never would have uttered those words, but it is so much the same.
What happens next? We watch all of his companions mourn in different ways, especially his donkey "sister", who was with him constantly for the last 2 years of his life. We comfort her, as we do the others. Animals feel, rationalize, emote; it is gut wrenching to see them traumatized as we are when our equine friend was lost to us.
We accept what has happened and celebrate his life, his accomplishments, and his silliness. We show our gratitude that we were given the opportunity to share in his brief life, teach him to trust people, share love with him, show him mutual respect, guide him, allow him to be an ambassador for slaughter rescues everywhere, and love how he was just him. We remember warmly the long journey to soften his eye, from wide-eyed and fearful into a loving deepness that could melt us each and every time we stared into them. This is how we remember him - our little spotted mule, who loved to chase dogs and throw feed pans and play fetch with a stick and flop his crazy tongue around. This mule with a heart too big and too hurt by humans to know how to love before he found us. We remember how one very lucky little girl saddled up and took him for the ride of his life and never let go until she had to. We will simply always remember.