This is how I am experiencing and coping with my personal grief. I have a support system and the grief does not feel like it is overtaking me. Should you need help with your grief, do not be shy about reaching out and asking. Start by asking your vet for pet grief groups in your area. Here is a page of resources you may find helpful.
Early the morning of December 16, 2015, I received that dreaded call from the stable: “There’s been an emergency with your horse, the vet is here.”
When my dog Max, our two cats and I left Minnesota in May, Shiloh stayed behind. Once in Montana I would find a good barn for him and then have him professionally transported.
Winter came, mountain passes closed and Shiloh’s trip was postponed until spring.
As we started our new life in Montana, Shiloh was still at the barn in Minnesota where he’d lived for almost two decades, surrounded by his horse buddies, his many girlfriends and the humans he knew, trusted and loved so well.
Shiloh’s Last Day
During the call, I was told Shiloh had developed a severe bout of colic. So severe his caretakers decided it was beyond their skills and made an emergency call to the vet.
His vet, Dr. Bruce Viren of River Valley Vet said because of Shiloh’s age, he was not a candidate for surgery. We decided to wait a couple of hours to see how Shiloh did. Should Shiloh get worse during that time, I gave Bruce permission to put him down.
Those were some of the longest hours of my life.
When Bruce called back, he said he had gone ahead and put Shiloh down. They thought he was getting better, but then he had a turn for the worse and rapidly declined.
Everything was over in less than 11 hours.
Sometimes What’s Best Is Not What’s Easy
While I was devastated I was not with him at the end, I am so, SOOO glad he was at his long time home surrounded by his friends and his good vet buddy when this happened. I am forever grateful for the love and care he received from his caretakers at the barn, his vet and his ferrier.
I think it would have been so much harder on him and possibly have happened sooner, if he had followed me on my travels to Illinois and Montana this past summer. As much as I hated leaving him behind in Minnesota, and was looking forward to being reunited this spring, in hindsight I’m thankful things happened as they did.
Where Grief and Love Meet
What does this mean for me? How do I carry on in life when my soul partner of 18 years is no longer with me?
When other animal family members have passed on, you have heard me refer to the ‘crash and cry’ and ‘tea and tears’ methods I used to cope with grief. I quickly realized that grieving Shiloh requires more than any coping methods I’ve used in the past.
Grieving Shiloh obliges me to acknowledge in my body the beauty of our relationship and the intensity and dominance grief can have over me. I have become aware of the necessity of succumbing to that grief. I have realized I need to create the space and time to palpably and tangibly feel the tears coursing down my cheeks and suffer the discomfort of hiccoughing so hard I can barely catch my breath. At times, in conversation with others I find it necessary to create a needed silence to collect my thoughts, tears and emotions as the conversation inevitably turns to Shiloh.
The area where two circles meet is called the Vesica Piscis. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, calling one circle ‘grief’ and the other ‘love’.
As I’m actively grieving Shiloh, I aspire to exist in that middle, healthy area, where grief and love co-exist and support each other.
I will not make my life a catacomb of grief, making myself incapable of daily activities and robbing myself of the joy of everyday living.
I will not remember Shiloh in a maudlin celebration of love, which robs me of his total essence – the times he pinned his ears at me, the times he copped a 1200 pound attitude because he didn’t agree with me, or think it necessary to do what I was asking of him. Actually, those are some of my fondest memories.
Shiloh is not asking me to experience life in the extremes, but to experience life in the middle, that place where grief and love meet. He asks that I be conscious of those emotions in my everyday life and lovingly contend with what that brings up for me.
In other words, to love myself and care for myself with the same love and care I gave him during our time in the physical together.
Shiloh – The Master Orchestrator
Shiloh always had a knack for arranging life as he wanted it to be, getting treats, doing work, impressing people. There’s not a doubt in my mind that Shiloh orchestrated this entire episode, his MO is all over it.
Regardless of how the barn manager and I worked to get Shiloh to Illinois or Montana, it simply didn’t happen. Either we couldn’t arrange transport, or the transport fell through.
The tack I packed when I left Minnesota is what I would have packed to remember him by had I known this was going to happen. Shiloh has since told me I knew, I just couldn’t accept it.
And Life Goes On
Every day without Shiloh is a new experience and not always a comfortable one. I am coming to terms that even had I been there, nothing, NOTHING, I could have done would have changed the outcome. I am realizing that part of loving another sentient soul means giving them the freedom to move along their soul’s journey, not holding them back, but being left behind.
But I think the biggest gift that Shiloh has given me is that life goes on, and it is a good life, too. In continuing my life without him, both the memories I have of our time together and his angel presence have given me courage to constantly search for that good life and that middle place of well being. After all, he is only asking me to love and care for myself at least as much as I loved and cared for him.
You are remembered, Buddy. You are loved forever and beyond.
Here’s To New Beginnings,