Hold On with Both Hands An ancient Chinese proverb says, “One must always hold on to a true friend with both hands.” I try to live by that statement. However, some friends are difficult to hang on to. Humans last awhile, but most ignore or deny my existence. Some others, however, don’t last as long, but have the makings of true friends. Take the only species that will always treat me as an equal, with nothing but trust and love and kindness every time I see them. Hopefully you know that I’m talking about horses.Dare to Dream Youth Ranch is a non-profit facility where abused or neglected horses can live and prosper. It is also a place where children, who suffer from multitudes of problems, can escape the sadness and trials of their own lives to ride, practically flying, on the back of a horse. They do not pay to experience this joy; just a little barn work lets them be free for a little while. There are 13 horses there, many of them neglected or abused, while a few were donated when they could no longer serve their owners the purpose they once could. There was one horse in particular that touched my heart more than any other. An aging Appaloosa mare, Deep in Dallas (or just Dallas for short) was always there for me. A former racehorse, Dallas had led a long and sometimes troubled life. When she was younger, an infection in her right eye had been raging for a while, but antibiotics couldn’t eradicate it. Now, it threatened to spread to other organs, and it could kill her. Her owner, Crystal, decided that it would be best to remove it. A gaping hole was all that was left, but Dallas quickly adjusted to the loss of some of her vision. She never even let it faze her. Later, she developed a cataract in her other eye. Dallas was now totally blind. At first, she was confused and disoriented. Unable to see where she was going, she often ran into things until she was confined to a smaller area consisting of her stall and a small amount of land to stretch her legs in. She was much better after this, and she still loved to give children rides on her large, broad back. Because of her racing days and her old age, her legs often hurt. She could not gallop like she had in her younger years without pain, and it was difficult for her to be ridden for long periods. She always found strength, however, to give joy to children and volunteers.
She was a loner, a “maverick”, if you will, like me. She was old, but with her golden age of 25 came great wisdom and the ability to listen. When I talked to her, it felt like she could understand. We supported each other. When the bullies at school had made it a terrible week, I would stand by her in her stall and softly stroke her. When her sight was gone and she seemed in pain, I would take her out of her stall for a good brushing and lots of love. We made a good pair, Dallas and me. In the autumn months of 2011, Dallas began to slow down. Her age was catching up to her, and she was in more pain than ever. It was difficult for her to bear the weight of a rider on her aching back. Children still loved her and visited her, but they could not ease her discomfort. There soon came the day when her owner had to make the heart-wrenching decision to put her out of her misery. Going to the ranch will no longer be the same with Dallas, my best friend and partner, gone. I will never get over the pain of seeing her stall occupied by another horse, or worse, empty. I will miss her sweet nickers when I call her name in the cold winter mornings when I visit. I will miss standing by her in the fields in August, her grazing and switching her tail at the flies that attacked us both, me simply honored to be blessed with her presence. I will miss seeing her run and play with her best horsey friend, Gloria, as they gallop around the fields. I will miss those quiet times in her stall, hugging her neck, feeling her spirit surround me with love as she lowers her large head for a horsey hug. But most of all, I will miss flying on her broad back, her smooth canter pounding the sand in the round pen, as her steady gait transports me to adventures far beyond my small hometown. An ancient Chinese proverb says to “hold onto true friends with both hands.” Some friends you cannot hold on to- you have them for a time, and then they are taken either to someone else who needs them more than you, or a beautiful, marvelous place as a reward to serving their purpose well. I held onto Dallas tightly, but the time came so recently that I was forced to let her go. I will always regret that my busy life kept me away from being the one by my true friend’s head as she left this earth. I know, as well as her, that I could no longer hold on. However, I will always hold onto the memories- the ones she left behind and the ones that her newly rescued daughter, Image, will leave with me- with both of my hands.feed