I had always had to board Cougar. I, too, felt like I was always “boarding” somewhere. I hadn’t felt like I had a home since leaving the acreage after my parents’ divorce. Then, in college, I met my husband Mark and we moved to Innisfail, Alberta shortly after graduating. In the December of 1999, Mark and I purchased our first home. A brand new mobile home with a beautiful space for a pasture for my Cougar. Being winter, Cougar would have to wait to “come home” until we could build a fence for him in the Spring. On the May long weekend of 2000, I finally brought him home. We officially had a home. Together. Both Cougar and I would never have to board anywhere ever again.
“Mark, please can you take a picture of us? We are home…”
Exactly one month to the day after that picture was taken, Cougar passed away. For 30 days of our 10 years, we lived together at our home. Before our paths crossed, I had no idea how powerful and life changing our time together would be for me. No idea how many life lessons he would teach me. And no idea how broken and empty I would feel when he was gone.
It was in his life that I learned. I learned responsibility by caring for another. I learned friendship, partnership, love, non-judgement, honesty, security and trust. I learned what it was to feel safe. He showed and offered me courage. It was on his back that he carried me safely back to humanity. Nothing phased him, NOTHING. Except for one thing…
…We were getting ready for a horse show. I had just finished bathing him and tied him to the hitching rail to dry in the morning sunshine. (One thing to know about Cougar is that he was a professional at untying himself and any other horse around him. No exceptions!) After tying him up, I went into the house to shower. In my fluffy pink housecoat, towel wrapped around my head, I peeked out of the window to check on him. Surprise, surprise, he had untied himself! Seriously! I ran outside to catch the escapee before he decided a dirt bath was on the agenda and, well, he took one look at the fuzzy pink maniac running towards him and took off running! To this day, I still have a smile on my face when I remember it. I settled myself down after I realized how scary I must have looked to him, housecoat and towel flapping all over the place! He was definitely dry after that run around!
The pain and sadness I felt when Cougar died and I lost him forever was unlimited, endless. Grief and guilt were held in every cell of my being and in every tear that fell unexpectedly from my eyes. I couldn’t speak his name without a tremble from my lips. I felt responsible for his death. IF I had called the vet earlier, IF I wasn’t working that day. IF I followed my gut that there was something wrong. Could I have done more to help him? Looking back now, I did everything possible at the time. I did call the vet and get medications to help him. I did call the vet again when things got worse within the hour. We did perform surgery and everything else possible that could save him. The vet left at 3AM. I stayed up with Cougar all night. At 5am I made the decision to euthanize my horse. It was also Father’s Day. We did everything possible to save him and he died. Horse or human, there is no evaluation scale of who or what we love. This is where I feel I learned the greatest gift life gives us.
The grief from Cougar’s passing was the final lesson he had for me. Everything that he had taught me during his life, is what I needed to walk through his death and come out the other side, healed and ready to start a new journey, a new chapter. It was in navigating Cougar’s death that changed my path in every possible way. It was during this time that I found Craniosacral Therapy as I was held in compassion and in human hands to help release and accept the painful story of grief. Through every moment I was held and supported by the other animals in our herd. C-Fer the cat and Crash, our Border Collie. Yet I wasn’t only supported by our animals but by the land, too. Our Mother Earth who catches our every foot step. Who feeds us, nurtures us and loves us.
If something is alive, it will die. Such is the circle of life. There is nothing easy about experiencing loss. Whether it’s the loss of someone or something we love, be it a pet or a person, a home, a marriage or even one special moment of time in our life. Even feeling the loss of a favorite cup as you drop it and see it broken into a million pieces on the floor.
I believe each and every animal on this planet is unique. No matter the species, they offer unconditional love without judgement. That is the gift that they so freely offer us and if we are open to accepting it, it will help us heal. They teach us skills through body language, compassion, empathy and tolerance and it is these skills that can be applied to any and all relationships, be they animal or human. Nature, too, talks to us, constantly.
In 2018, I fulfilled my dream of becoming an advanced Craniosacral Therapy Practitioner. I participated in the BioAquatic Advanced Craniosacral Therapy and Dolphins Explorations. Dolphin Assisted Craniosacral Therapy! In the water with dolphins! Two of my passions blended together. The message I received from the dolphins was to share the love and wisdom of my own animal family at our farm and we are here for you. Here at the farm, our four legged tribe of cats, rabbits, dogs and horses offer their presence just for you. Each species of animal offer their own unique gifts to your session. Just as each of us as humans have our own special gifts.
While finding my way back to my whole self, I realized that I never really lost it. Being human is feeling lost in moments, found in moments, sad in moments, happy in moments. It also means having love for each moment, even the ones we would rather forget.
Mark and I are blessed and beyond grateful for our family. We have two wonderful children that are my constant inspiration. I revel in the magic that I see in them each day that they grow. Witnessing their individual journeys, the fun, the happy, the complicated, and the sad. All of these moments joining together, making them who they are and will be, and taking them one step further on their path.
Our family lives on our homestead that is nestled in the forest on the land that holds and supports us. The land of Mother Earth’s own heart and hands.