FURRY FRIENDS: Three Legs and a Heart

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FURRY FRIENDS: Three Legs and a Heart

by Shelley Madden

I came upon Confettie, an aged Shetland pony mare, at a local auction. Ponies were a part of my childhood, and I longed for another as an adult. I had two horses, but something was missing.

She was standing within a small pen in the August heat. Grey hairs dusted her forehead and had found their way down her neck. The one eye she could see out of was half closed, her back foot was cocked, hoping to catch a few moments of rest. I couldn't wait to get her home.

One day, I noticed she had been lying down longer than usual. She finally stood, quivering in place a moment, and began to walk away. My heart fell as I noticed an unmistakable limp on her left foreleg. She had foundered, and was in obvious pain.Together, we slowly hobbled back to the barn, with her leaning against me on three legs, as I held the painful foot up..

The next day she was no better. She was unable to walk on all four, and continued to hold the bad hoof up, as she staggered about. For the next week I faithfully soaked her hoof, gave her medication, but it did nothing. She could only hobble on three legs. She was miserable.

My heart was breaking, I knew what I had to do. She was old and the medicine was not working. I could not, would not, let her live her life in pain. She had been up and down, mostly down, a week.

I finally called the vet. My friend called the pet cemetery truck to come pick her body up, and bury her, as I was unable to cease the endless tears to make the arrangements myself. I waited in the paddock with her until the vet arrived, giving her tearful hugs, and a million pony kisses.

Too soon, he came with his tote of needles and syringes. I had to be brave, though my heart was breaking into a thousand pieces. I wanted to be a million miles away, I wanted to be a child again, flying through grassy fields on a healthy pony. He slipped through the paddock fence, and approached her.

There was one arrangement I had failed to make. A "t" left uncrossed, an un-dotted "i". I did not think about asking Confettie if she was ready to go. For Confettie is a Shetland, she is fire, she is spirit, she is determination. She is a ton of heart, she is pure will. She is born of the earth, she is the sun, she is the wind in your hair.

She gazed at the approaching stranger, heaved herself up for the first time in a week, and made a beeline for the other side of the paddock, on three legs and a heart. She stumbled, righted herself, stumbled again, yet still managed to make good time, away from him, away from the needles.

I walked across the paddock and hugged her, hoping the vet wouldn' notice my tears. I sniffed at him to say never mind --today was not her day. The cemetery truck was only a few minutes behind. A quick call was made, explaining they were not needed after all.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. Despite pain, despite not being perfect, your beloved friend will tell you they still want to live, or, when it's time to go -- if you will listen. Confettie spoke to me that day and I am eternally grateful I listened.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Shelley Madden explains, "I am a short story author and small farm owner in Wise County, Texas. I am currently working on a compilation of real life farm stories."


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