I’ve done this once before…written a tribute for a horse I loved. This one is for Bernie—Bernie Mac to be exact.
And, interestingly enough, the other tribute was for a mare we called Bernie’s “mommy horse.” Silly nicknames we give them. The mommy horse was June, or Junebug as we often called her. The third member of this rescued trio was Cash. We came to think of Cash as a ghost horse because his body was here but his mind was long gone—and then his body left two years after we found him. Their story was the kind of bad dream you detach from.
Memories of Bernie are like moments suspended in time. Do you do that with memories of your loved ones? Where your mind’s eye sees you doing the day-to-day stuff with them? Recalling those special moments, do you retell them over and over to anyone willing to listen because that’s how special they were?
From Rescue to Family
That’s how I see Bernie. And the memories are all chapters in his story that deepened our relationship. I’d have to find my courageous voice to tell Bernie’s story from the first chapter when we finally found him and his cohorts. Those are particularly painful memories, and I would rather tell the story from the time Bernie became family, which was from the moment he walked off the trailer.
The night they came, the three of them, it was late, and the haulers pulled up close to the barn so the three didn’t have to walk far.
We had their stalls all set and close to each other, but with space and boards to separate them from the others in the barn. The horror they came from left question as to just how sick they were. They didn’t seem to mind, they didn’t really care.
Bernie was first off the trailer and my husband said, “This one’s not going anywhere.” He was right. There were two little grandchildren in the window with their Auntie, and they were watching new lives coming in.
Master of Escapes
Before he came to us, Bernie hadn’t faired too badly. It turns out he was a master at escapes, and that skill allowed him to find food. He’d eventually get dragged back, but he was very resourceful. Coming to us, he surely needed groceries, but he needed worming and medical attention as much. The dentist that worked on him guessed his age to be about 13. His teeth weren’t great as a result of poor nutrition as a youngster and the wear and tear of his recent ordeal. Dull coat, long feet completed his appearance, but he was amiable and willing. It was apparent he’d spent time, in his past, with people that used kind hands.
His attachment to June was palpable, and she felt the same way about him. She didn’t like it if he was out of her sight, thus earning her the nickname of “Bernie’s mommy horse.”
Cash was so distant, off in some place I couldn’t see. He had stories that revealed themselves in the vacancy of his eyes.
Of the three, Bernie rebounded the quickest, once he found out life could be good again.
He thrived. I often wondered if he contemplated on how he got into his situation to start with. If he did, it didn’t last long, as he blossomed into a large personality in a miniature horse body. We tried to stay a step ahead of him and his talent for escaping, but he gave us a run for our money. Sometimes we got ahead, sometimes he did!
One-man Welcoming Committee
He became the one-man welcoming committee with each new life that came to visit or stay, horse or dog or person. He was the one that stood on the other side of the fence from one that had just gotten here and he reassured, steady and just chillin’. Life is good now and you don’t have to worry, was what he was telling them. When the others were up to the hay bunk, Bernie would be standing with the new kid on the block over by the fence that divided them.
He was very congenial with the little bitties that rode him—with the exception of a smarty pants little girl who thought she was a better rider than she was. Bernie left her in the dust. I told him that wasn’t very nice. He had no comment to my under-the-breath scolding.
When the new local animal shelter was built, Bernie walked through the building and up on the stage for their big open house gala event. Rescue alumnae were invited, and a fundraiser auction was underway. I had little carrot nibblets in my pocket to entice him, and he jumped right up on stage to show off. He looked like a million bucks! The night before, we brought him in the basement and gave him a bath and blow dry—and even a little bronzer on his mane and tail for his big moment. He didn’t mind any of it. Like a little kid with a My Little Pony doll is what I was!
And when I brought him to a camp sponsored by the shelter for kids to attend, he performed his one and only trick, to paw the back of my leg when he wanted a cookie. You can imagine what a hit he was! We had a whole little routine around his one trick. We didn’t know any more tricks, and I didn’t even teach him the one he knew, so we just worked it in during my talk on animal husbandry. It was always funny, and the kids just loved him.
This post is longer than I planned, but I haven’t even scratched the surface. There’s so much more. But that’s what I always wish for in the end. More time, more stories.
Bernie taught us about family. He was the teacher to all that took the time to see that family comes in different shapes and forms, and species for that matter. But in the end, family matters. Your tribe lets you know you are not alone. If someone wrote an obituary for Bernie it would say, “Bernie Mac left this earth surrounded by his loving family.”