Thursday, January 30, 2014

Chapters in life you’d rather forget

After yesterday’s silly post, this one may require Kleenex.

Those of you who have been reading for a while will remember my OTTB Echo, who I acquired in February of last year and was diagnosed with Headshaking Syndrome over the summer. We tried so many things to treat his terrible pain, but sadly, none them really worked for him. With my vet’s help, I made the decision to send him to UC Davis to be a part of their research program on Headshaking Syndrome.

(For a description of Headshaking Syndrome, visit this post. For a synopsis of what happened, visit this post.)

Echo was only in my life for about 6 months last year. I don’t have a lot of happy memories of him, and we never really had time to bond. Most of my memories of how much pain he was in, how hard we all tried, and how much it sucked to give up and put him on that trailer. It’s a chapter of my life I’d rather forget, or that I wish never happened because it was so awful. But it did happen, and I can’t forget it. But what do I do with the tangible things from it?

I admit, I don’t have much - some print copies of pics from our only dressage show, and his halter from the track. But what do I do with them? The prints were hanging in my office, but I took them down and they are now face-down on my desk. The halter is hanging on the back of the tack room door. I won’t put it on anyone else – maybe it’s weird but I just feel wrong doing that. I don’t want to throw these things away but I also don’t want to make a shadow box or some other box of memories from them. There’s just … not enough. I don’t want to forget, but at the same time I don’t really want to remember. But then I feel guilty that he somehow didn’t mean more to me. A lot of people really went out of their way to find him for me, thinking that he’d be the perfect horse. And maybe he would have been, if only. If only…

Not every horse is a heart horse, even with the best intentions and a bright start. That’s how horses go sometimes. But what do you do with the “things” you collect while they are in your lives?

Photo courtesy of Lauren Mauldin

20 comments:

  1. I don't really know what you do with the leftovers. In my case, I had a half finished scrapbook of Beckett. I thought he was going to be my dream horse, but he made me scared and frustrated by horses in general... I think the scrapbook still exists but it's in a box somewhere. Looking at pictures of him all fancy at the AA show make me a bit wistful of what might have been.

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    1. Yeah, it's hard to know what to do with the things you have from the ones that should have been. I definitely don't have any answers.

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  2. I would keep them. Maybe in a box, maybe out of sight, but I'd keep them just in case. However I'm also part-hoarder. If you're not sure what to do with them I guess it means it's not time to do anything with them yet. I truly believe everything works itself out with time and I hope that's the case for you.

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    1. Right now I'm looking at the pics and halter every day. Putting them away - but not getting rid of them - feels right. Thank you.

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  3. Put them away for a year in a box somewhere out of sight, but not thrown away. In a year, reevaluate whether you want to keep them for another year. That gives you enough time to decide whether or not it is something you want emotionally. I would definitely keep the photos (being a person who has thrown out and torn up photos I decided years later in a moment of nostalgia that I should have kept . . . trust me on this) but the rest of the stuff can be put away. You don't need to make a decision now. In a year you might decide to donate them, or continue to keep them, who knows, you can make that decision then.

    You got a beautiful horse that was sick. I would guess he was already having some symptoms when you got him. There was no way to know that. Your time with him was sad and filled with pain. It's okay to let that go. It doesn't mean he was worthless. I don't think I've ever met anyone who put that kind of time and money toward a horse they just got. You did everything you could. Some times animals just can't be saved. It's heartbreaking, but true. Forgive yourself and let it go.

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    1. Karen, thank you for the suggestion. Throwing them away doesn't seem right but neither does displaying them. I like the idea of just putting them away until later. I don't have to decide now.

      You're right, Echo wasn't worthless. He was a good soul that got a really sucky deal. Sometimes that's just the way things happen - it's still very hard to let go. But thank you for the kind words.

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  4. You know - as sad and frustrating as your time with Echo was - you might never have found your delightful Paddington without him. Chalk it up to everything happens for a reason. Echo was a lovely horse. I would suggest to put his things away and see how you feel later. (((hugs)))

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    1. Oh, I definitely think that things happen for a reason, and I have thought many times that if it weren't for Echo I wouldn't have been in a place to find Paddington. I wish that Echo didn't have to go through all that, but it cannot be changed. Thanks for the hugs. :)

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  5. I haven't figured that out yet. I have my Smokey-dog's collar. I was going to do some kind of shadowbox thing, but then I thought looking at it might just break my heart over and over. But it and her food bowl and harness are still in my pantry almost 3 years later. They will probably get moved to my new pantry. All we can do is all we can do.

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    1. We have a small collection of collars and paw prints in clay from our past pets. We put them on the Christmas tree each year and remember them.

      It's funny, I have a beautiful painting of Saga that Andrea gave me when he died. It's also in my office, and every time I look at it, I smile. I still miss him of course, but it's a perfect memory of him. I feel like I should have that of Echo too, but I don't. Maybe I never will, and maybe if I put his things away, someday will be the right time to have that. Only time will tell.

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  6. Having rescued several horses sight unseen I know what you mean. I really enjoyed aspects of all the horses I had and am super thankful for being able to help them all but they were never "the one you cant live without". Even though I didnt get any of them thinking that they still find a way in your heart. I keep pictures and look back at them every once in a while. I only have on display things of the ones that I got really attached too but I also wouldnt throw away the others, just keep it in a safe spot for later down the road.

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    1. Thanks, Tarra. You're right, Echo wasn't "the one you can't live without." I like the idea of putting things that you want to keep away for later down the road. That seems like the right thing to do now. :)

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  7. You have nothing to feel guilty for. You were put in Echo's life for a reason and in other hands, who knows how it would have turned out. While sad the bonding that you desired did not happen, it wasn't for lack of trying on either of your parts. It just could not happen with what Echo was experiencing, IMHO. You were the best thing that happened to him.

    I agree with everyone else, box is good, you can deal with his stuff when you feel ready to. Hugs.

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    1. Thanks for the hugs and the advice. :)

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  8. After my heart horse -- my Old Man Thoroughbred (the guy who taught me to jump, carried me to victory in shows and made Pony Club downright awesome) had to be put down because of colic after I'd had him a dozen years and basically grew up with him, I hung on to a lot of his stuff. Some of it, I still have (like his old dressage bridle, which Mitch wore for a while before I got a fancy one for him) and the fly sheet that Jet inherited for eons before it finally fell apart because I'm something of a hoarder when it comes to tack.

    Which actually has a point here, because while Flair was my heart horse, Jet was just passing through my life at the time following his death. It wasn't meant to be then, but I had collected a substantial amount of goods, like the whole turquoise trail gear thing, and some odds and ends. And after the lease ended and everything went sucktastic, I used the stuff I'd gotten for her for Mitch (which of course when I did eventually get her back, gave me a reason to get more stuff for her)

    I kept her halter though and never used it on Mitch. Even though it was something like 3 years before I saw her again, I kept the faith.

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    1. Lei, thanks for the story. It's good to know that someone else hangs on to everything. I feel a little less like a hoarder now. ;)

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  9. That's a tough one. I agree with those who say don't throw it away.

    I will say Don was my once in a lifetime horse and I don't have any pictures of him up on my walls. His halter hangs on an old clock (and it has moved around many places... Occasionally it and my stuffed horse from when I was 8 end up on my bed together), his tail hair is in a bag on my dresser as a reminder that at some point I need to actually part with it long enough to have it made into a bracelet, and... that's it. Everything else is put away, some in my closet, some other places, but its all put away. Putting away doesn't mean forgetting. In my case it's bad enough that I think about him every day, and pick up my phone and flip through pictures of him, I can't have the reminders around me.

    So put it away - it doesn't mean forget, it just means live without the constant physical reminder for now.

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    1. I guess that's what his things are for me right now - too much of a reminder. Not having them in sight every day for me to feel guilty about is probably a good thing. Thanks. And I'm so sorry to hear about Don. Hugs.

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  10. *hugs* I remember him, and I know you did everything you could <3 No answer on what to do with his things, though...

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