Last week, Buddy died.  It was a freak accident. There was nothing to be done.  And it was quick and painless to him, preceded by a kiss on his nose, and an apple for the road.  But this sturdy, survivor-type pony has left a hole almost as big in my heart as his best friend Oso.  Poor Buddy only had 11 months here at TGC.  Each and every month he felt better, looked better, and for all but the last 12 days, he had Oso by his side.  He was, until that last day, one of my real success stories.

Buddy was a quite elderly pony, old-style Morgan type, with lots of graying on his face, who came in emaciated and with a dripping eye and droopy lips.  He looked 100 years old and on his last legs.    A couple of years earlier, he’d sustained a head injury including concussion which caused some paralysis in his face - thus the drippy eye and drooping lips with almost constant drool.  Not real attractive, right? And after his head injury, it appeared to us that someone floated his teeth almost completely away; while his grinding molars were ground down to the gumline, one long wolf tooth was left which actually impinged on the opposing jaw, making it impossible for poor Buddy to even close his mouth!  So although he could have eaten mush, he couldn’t hold it in his mouth to do that!  That tooth was ground down to allow him to close his mouth - huge soaked pellet and senior buckets were offered three times a day - and with his strong determination,  Buddy’s rehab was well on it’s way.  He came in with some skin issues, but once he was getting proper nutrition onboard, and a little application of fungicide in a few places, Buddy began to blossom. 

I’m not going to show any of his ‘before pictures’ here, because I want you to remember him as I do, beautiful and healthy again. His health issues were odd, but all fixable with time, at least in part due to his sheer determination to heal and live.  And a strong part of that was his obvious joy at having friends to play with every day.  Each morning, I came down 15 minutes early to get his bucket to him - otherwise he’d go thru the day without food because he didn’t have enough teeth to chew hay. (He always pretended to be eating it tho, I guess just being ‘one of the guys’) But if I moved too quickly to spread the breakfast hay for the rest of the horses, and let them out before he finished, he would leave his breakfast and literally ram his gate down to be out WITH them.  He’d rather be hungry, than alone!  Toward the end of his time here, he realized I was there and would let him out when he was finished, and he felt confident he could ‘catch up’, so sometimes he’d stay in and finish his bucket.  But once finished, he would dash out and run around calling until he found Oso and Keller, not happy until he was with them.  It’s an insight to stabled horses - how lonely they are, waiting for that hour a day when their owner might show up to spend time with them; or standing all week waiting for the weekend’s work, watching other horses go out, or in some cases, standing alone 99% of the time.  Buddy could not get enough of his herd - his mini herd of himself, Oso and Keller, and the main herd as well.

Buddy was a Houdini-horse - he could get thru fences and gates like nobody’s business.  He figured out routines in a second, and it took him only moments to suss out the horse most likely to be a good bodyguard, Oso.  Buddy knew he was frail and weak, and he found the way to survive in a herd.  He befriended Oso, who didn’t really much like other horses, and the two were inseparable from that day to the day of Oso’s death, a mere 12 days before Buddy died as well.  Once Buddy was feeling better, he would lead Oso and Keller over to the main paddock and stall line.  Oso wouldn’t go there on his own - he didn’t like conflict and would stand alone before risking it, standing up to other horses only in defense of Buddy. Buddy liked to explore though, and with giant Oso and Keller as bodyguards, went everywhere with confidence.  

Only 3 weeks ago, a strangulated gut took Oso away from us.  In addition to the pain of his loss, I ached for Buddy, who watched over Oso for an entire day without food, stuck to his side, standing over him as he lay on the ground.  And the next morning, when I came out to find Oso gone, Buddy’s face was desperate as he ran to me, hoping, hopelessly, that I could fix this and make Oso get up.  He stood with Oso’s body until the end, and then took  Keller to the southstream stall line where they’d lived.  I put Keller into Oso’s stall, so Buddy wouldn’t be looking at an empty stall, but there was no filling that space ..... for the next few days, I caught Buddy gazing in the direction of Oso’s final resting place many times.  But Buddy was a survivor.  He choose Pepe Grillo to be his next friend, and Pepe was thrilled to have Buddy and Keller join him and Song.  For the next 10 days, they were friends as well.  Pepe was the leader of this group, but I would have loved to see how that worked out with time.  Two tough ponies .... who would lead?

This was not to be.  In a freak accident, my Buddy lost his life.  It was my horrific duty to end it for him, and I did so quickly.  I know he hoped again that I would be able to help him. Although I did, it wasn’t what either of us wanted.   I told him I loved him and didn’t want to lose him.  And I told him there was no alternative.  My final words were - ‘I can’t have you with me anymore, but I’m gonna make it possible for you to find Oso again.  Close your eyes.  Let me kiss your nose.  Find Oso and tell him I loved him too.’  And he was gone.

Buddy had a survivor’s strong heart, and a clever mind.  He reminded me strongly of my Bobby Sox (my first horse).  A large pony, with all the quickness ponies can have to figure things out. He was determined, and focused and so strong. He had great joy here.  I’m not able to do much for horses here, but I can give them the one thing so many of them clearly love - time to be a horse, with horses.  And Buddy repaid me by helping Oso learn something he’d forgotten, that he was a horse also and could have a horse friend, a true Buddy.  I’m sure that Buddy’s presence helped Oso in his last hours. Buddy taught me to be strong despite disabilities, be loyal to your friends, and keep trying.  His staunch efforts to perservere bought him 11 months of increasing happiness, living as Mother Nature intended him to, as leader of his small herd.  I just wish it could have lasted longer for him.