Timmy died around noon, just before Maya got home from school. Timmy was a guinea pig (short hair, piebald colors, sweet disposition). They knew he was ailing. Maya had nursed him back to health after he contracted pneumonia. For five months, without needing to be asked, she’d diligently administered medications twice a day. (Maya is ten.) He’d been fine for a couple of months, but last week he again became listless. He was unresponsive for all who would hold him except for Maya for whom he would squeak and chortle.
Maya also loves the pony Cowgirl; with fierce passion. Twenty years of being mauled by enthusiastic, but clumsy child’s hands has not made Cowgirl the most co-operative of ponies. She slams her hooves down, she is hard to catch and, worst of all, she bites. Maya has persistently braved all of Cowgirl’s bad temper. After more than a year of work on Maya’s part, Cowgirl stands patiently while Maya cleans her hooves (which Maya does before and after every ride), she calmly allows Maya to halter and bridle her and, best of all, she acts like a real horse for Maya when they ride in the arena (the true reward for all of Maya’s devoted attention).
(Maya is also know to just spend hours standing next to Cowgirl and stroking her.)
Twenty years of not so gentle handling has also left Cowgirl with a host of care taking needs: The vulpar sack in her left, rear fetlock sometimes swells and needs a cold pack. Her tear ducts are clogged, which leaves a trail of goop oozing out of the corner of her eyes that needs to be carefully wiped off with a warm, wet cloth. We’ve been battling a persistent case of “sweet itch”, which requires the application of neem oil along her belly line. The list goes on.
Maya is the horse care taking hero of the year. Most kids understand the need to groom and pick hooves. Many of them will take interest in dressing a wound or administering wormer. But rare indeed is the child (or adult) who will apply a poultice day after day or put up with a fussy pony while trying to convince her that it really will be OK to put a warm, damp cloth on her eye.
On Tuesday, the day Timmy died, Maya and I had been scheduled to take a rare, and extended, trail ride; a special treat. We cancelled the ride. Maya spent the afternoon applying the invaluable care and attention to Cowgirl. Ponies usually live into their forties (or fifties) and Cowgirl will continue to need special care for all of that time. Good thing Maya will be around to give it to her.