After Cisco was out of his pain and everybody had left, we headed into our house to try to gather what threads we could of the evening. We heard the coyotes out in the field next to where his body waited to be picked up the following day. I worried the coyotes would disturb him so I grabbed my husband's 30-30, my hat/gloves and heavy coat. NOBODY was going to mess with my horse.
Leaving my dog Hank behind cuz I'd already lost one loved one that night and didn't want to take any chances on losing another to coyotes, I left him (unhappily) inside. My husband didn't offer to come with me. I was grateful that he understood I needed to do this alone.
Heading out to the barn I turned the radio up full blast on my favorite country/western station. I lit up the barn with every light inside and out. I drug my favorite seat in the barn, the mounting block, out next to the blue tarp that covered my little Confidence Booster Horse, now removed from his pain.
I sat there holding vigil to the blue tarp. I wasn't alone. The neighbor's Anatolian Sheppard, Trika, joined me shortly after I sat down. Our dog Hank's best friend, Trika is also a friend to all of our horses and protects my family as if we were her own.
It's not uncommon to see her out in the field sleeping next to the horses or on our covered front porch. We are all part of her pack and it was her barking that had warned us about the approaching coyotes this evening.
As I sat there Trika leaned against my legs. Her fury coat kept me warm while I tried to absorb the shock of the evening. I absently petted her while I cried at sad songs and smiled at others, remembering my times with Cisco.
It seemed that she understood my sadness and leaned in closer to me. I could sense she was also sad, as were the other horses, standing watch by the fence. Sunny, our rescue Belgian and Cisco's best buddy had such a sadness in his eyes, it almost broke my heart. Gus, a younger Belgian was confused.
There we spent many hours, me and my rifle, the neighbor's dog, and my two remaining horses. While we sat there I thought over and over about what I could have done to prevent this.
I thought about my day and how ordinary it had been until evening feeding time. My husband had gone out as usual to feed in the morning. As I do every morning, I asked him from the comfort of the warm bed (usually it's 5AM and I'm not up yet cuz I'm officially retired and frankly unless the house burns down, I'm NOT getting up that early anymore) "How are the boys?" He responded, as usual that all was well.
I had glanced out the window that morning to see the horses all out grazing in pouring down rain. Nothing unusual. Our daughter, home on college break, and I had left for a lunch date, I'd returned and headed up to the barn to see Champ. I'd come home and had gone to do the nightly feeding. That is when I'd found Cisco in the stages of colic.
I realize we all can't be home to spot check our horses. I realize that some of us only get to see our horses in the daylight hours, and I realize being newly retired that I'm lucky to have the luxury to see them all day long. So why hadn't I taken advantage of that? I kept thinking if I had checked them during the day and not taken it for granted, perhaps this story would have ended better.
I should have not taken for granted that all was well and checked on the horses more often. I could have possibly saved Cisco if I'd noticed earlier in the day that he was ill. I would have had the vet out much quicker and in the very least, saved him from suffering.
Should have, could have, would have. As I sat there with all the animals around me, next to that blue tarp, I made a pact with myself that I would never take it for granted that all was well in the pasture.
I can only do what I can do and I won't beat myself up for what has already happened because it's a moot point now. But I can incorporate a small, tiny task into my daily routine that might make a difference.
Where the heavens had cleared and stars had accompanied Cisco as he left us, around 2AM it started to pour down rain. No sign of coyotes for many hours prompted me to head into the house, knowing the blue tarp was just across the barn yard from our bedroom window.
Before I left I kissed all of my animal friends holding vigil with me. I told them I loved them and thanked them for being with me those long hours. I was the only one in the group to leave, the rest remained as they'd been.
Didn't sleep much that night and was up at daybreak, a warm bed and retirement the last thing in my mind that morning. When I looked out the bedroom window to check on the blue tarp, this is what I found:
Trika had stayed on guard all night long next to her friend. She remained there until they came and removed Cisco. Then slowly with her tail low, she walked away.