From Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover's Soul II

Therapeutic Intervention

He who laughs, . . . lasts.

Mary Poole

Standing in the manure-filled stall, with my breath curling out in frosty puffs as I pushed the manure fork, I dejectedly glanced out at the pearly gray sky. Great. More snow. Clifford, my chestnut Morgan gelding, greedily stood with his head immersed in his feed bin and rattled his grain with emphasis. “Move over,” I said crossly, poking him with the fork. He obliged, lifting one foot after another, and edged against the wall without ever raising his head. It was a day that seemed overwhelming. I had just finished doing taxes and was worried about money, settling into life on my own, and I was missing Reva terribly. Reva, my German shepherd, had been my constant companion for nearly fourteen years.

She had been gone six months and there was still an aching void. She wasn’t there anymore to help me carry buckets, to protect us, to keep the other dogs in line, indeed to keep Clifford in line. The timing of her death, in the midst of my divorce, seemed orchestrated to leave me feeling completely alone. I guessed I was supposed to be learning some kind of lesson, but I didn’t feel any smarter. I nudged the manure fork under another frozen lump and felt a tear sliding coldly down my cheek. Clifford swung his head toward me, jaw working busily. His ears perked forward. He took a step away from the bucket and reached for the fork, grabbing the end of it and pulling. “Let go!” I said, waving him away. I wiped my nose on my glove and continued scooping as I morosely thought of how an animal family was a temporary one. Clifford, I realized, was ten years old this year. Scorch was six. Trudy was eight. Their days were numbered! All of them! I squeezed my eyes shut and sobbed.

When I opened my eyes, I was immediately confronted by the white diamond adorning the end of Clifford’s nose. It was two inches from my face. “Will you stop!” I said, reaching out and pushing on his neck. He lowered his head and began nibbling on my hand. The white diamond jumped as his muzzle began busily working, working, working on the fingers of my glove, feeling delicately for the loose ends and then pulling softly. He pulled the glove completely off my hand and moved away with it dangling from his mouth.

I stood still. “WHAT are you DOING?”

His head went up, up, up, pointing at the ceiling, with the glove flipping gaily as his eye rolled toward me. Then with a dramatic flip, he dropped it. “Nice!” I said. “Throw it in the poop!” He reached down, picked it up, stepped over to me and presented it to me. As I took it, he stepped back and waited expectantly, with his tousled red forelock hanging in his eyes, blowing warm breath that turned to white clouds in the air. “You are definitely loony tunes!” But by now, I was laughing. He returned to his grain then, his mission accomplished. Had I really been thinking I was alone? I must have been crazy.

Nancy Bailey

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