I don’t know why some people refuse to believe that animals have emotions and form deep attachments to others. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon firsthand in my own animals many times over the years. I know they experience real love and consequently miss their friends and mates when they are separated.
One of the best examples of this was Bodie and Mouse.
It started when my husband, Nate, suggested I get another horse. Our finances were tight, so I couldn’t just go buy one. Plus, I wasn’t sure I was ready to open my heart again. I was still mourning Bobo, the Morgan gelding I’d owned for 26 years. When Bobo died, I felt like I’d been cut loose from my anchor and was adrift in sadness and loss. I stayed away from horses for five years. But Nate recognized that I was missing more than just my horse. I had lost a lifestyle.
I started perusing Craigslist for free or very cheap horses, and soon I found a post that piqued my interest. It described a small, black, old-style Morgan who was rock solid and sound. He was purported to be around 14 years old. I arranged to take a look.
It was not love at first sight. He was pretty enough, and responsive to cues, but overall he seemed dull and aloof. His owner assured me the gelding would be content to be alone on our farm. He had been a rescue before she got him, and she said he “hated other horses.” After the gelding’s soundness was confirmed in a veterinary check, I bought him. I really can’t explain why. I just had a feeling.
The name he came with didn’t fit him. This guy seemed to have a good heart and a desire to please but also a degree of distrust. When I looked at him, I saw a story that I would never know. He had a smattering of white hairs that swirled like a galaxy on his forehead, so I named him Bode’s Galaxy (after a galaxy far, far away); Bodie for short. It seemed more fitting for a horse who always seemed so far away.
Bodie and I got along well. But there was something about him. Something he exuded---a sadness, or a melancholy. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The veterinarian said he was healthy, but Bodie was just not very happy. At times I would look out and see him standing in the field with the look of indifference about him.
The following spring I stumbled across another ad on Craigslist. There was a photo of a little black mare, with her owner sitting on her back with a beagle in her lap. I was smitten! The mare was free, and she was close by. I called and went to see her.
Mouse was the same size as Bodie, around 14.1, but with more of a petite build. She had gnarly knees and was a little reluctant, but I liked her owner and decided to give her a try. Mouse had had laminitis in the past but checked out to be sound and healthy.
Given what I’d been told about Bodie, I expected fireworks when I brought Mouse home. But I couldn’t have been more amazed at the reaction I got---the memory still brings tears to my eyes. My melancholy boy was suddenly full of joy. He arched his neck, pranced and nickered, and blew in Mouse’s nostrils. It was as if they had longed for each other for years!
I ran in to get my camera, and when I got back, the two of them were standing side by side, munching hay in the double stall with their heads over the wall. As they settled in to life together, never once did I hear a squeal or see a strike or an ear laid back. Just pure joy.
Bodie was a new horse. The indifference was gone, and he happily took on the role of “protector” of his herd of two. Mouse settled in as if she’d always belonged here and followed Bodie’s cues as if trained to do so.
Nate, who had never been a rider, was so impressed and at ease around the two horses, he became interested in riding Mouse. The little mare was calm and steady on the trail, and she quickly earned Nate’s trust. Bodie usually led on our trail rides, but there were times when he would stop, unsure of a scary object or unfamiliar area. Then Mouse would trudge ahead, as if to reassure her mate that she had his back as well.
We had two lovely summers of harmony and bliss in the barn and on the trails. We developed a routine where the four of us would take short rides to the back of our property and canter around a hay field. The horses were so in tune with each other it was as if Nate and I were just along for the ride.
Our dream ended one morning when Bodie colicked. The veterinar- ian came, and we spent a very long day and into the evening trying everything to ease his pain. When it was clear our efforts were not going to work, we decided to mortgage the farm if we had to, and we loaded Bodie up in a borrowed trailer and drove him to a large animal hospital about an hour away.
Things did not go well, and by the next morning, we had to make the difficult decision to end his pain. The veterinarian also told us that Bodie was probably a lot older than we’d thought, but then 14 had never been more than a fair guess.
Bodie had nickered quietly to Mouse as he had walked into the trailer, leaving her forever, and she had whinnied loudly in return. Perhaps they knew it was the last time they would see each other. Perhaps they didn’t. Either way, life on the farm took an abrupt turn and grief settled over all of us.
We still have Mouse. She has a new pasturemate now, another Morgan gelding, but there is no affection between them. Their relationship is one of tolerance and routine, not love. Now Mouse has that melancholy air about her---the same one Bodie had when he first arrived.
I wish their relationship had lasted longer, but I am grateful for the time Bodie and Mouse had together, and I am also glad that Bodie had a few good years of peace and happiness at the end of his long life. He was a good soul who seemed to want nothing more than to have a mate to take care of and cherish. I am glad he finally got what he deserved … at least for a little while.