More than once, I have seen a reference in a Facebook group about someone’s “heart horse” or “heart dog”. Have you had a heart horse or dog yourself? I have lived with dogs since I was a baby, and I have many, many incredible memories of incredible dogs. I loved them all fiercely. However, two years ago I lost my heart dog. Reilly was probably a once-in-a-lifetime dog. I have written several blogs about her. Two of my blogs, I Am Not Prepared and I Am Grieving, describe the challenge of losing this unforgettable canine companion.
Happily, I still have my heart horse. I have written before about my gray Arabian, Kadeen. He’s pushing 20, and he’s had a rough couple of years with allergies and eye issues. But I love this horse so much, and we are so bonded and in tune with one another, that the sky is pretty much the limit in terms of what I will do for him. Not that I am not committed to taking the absolute best care of all my animals… There is just something extra special about this horse.
What makes that dog or horse (or cat) become that extra-special companion or buddy? I think several factors are at play.
Character, temperament, and intelligence
First, the character, temperament, and intelligence of that special animal is most definitely a big part of it. Reilly was the most brilliant dog I have ever owned. I was the only human in her universe as far as she was concerned. She merely looked past or around anyone else. Unfortunately, she was never cuddly. In her mind, if she had my attention we needed to be playing ball or interacting in some way that required action! She was phenomenally easy to train. Mostly, I told her what I wanted her to do and she did it! She never met a stranger, and she delighted in engaging others in playing ball. Her criteria were simple: you needed at least one appendage (arm to throw or foot to kick) and you needed a pulse. Beyond that, she could care less about your qualities!
Shared needs and experiences
Next, I think heart horses and heart dogs grow out of the needs each partner has, and the time spent becoming a team. For instance, it took me three years to get on the same page with Kadeen. He’s very intelligent, as most Arabians are. He’s also very independent. You don’t make him do anything… you ask. Certainly, you can ask in such a way that it is in his best interests to do it your way… but you still have to let him decide to do it.
I had to learn to let him have his way occasionally. In other words, I had to learn to give and take. If he is happier and calmer as the lead horse in a line of trail riding horses, why not let him lead some of the time? He’s now able to be happy and calm in the middle (but don’t ask him to be in the back if you want to have a relaxing ride!)
Once I figured out how to work with Kadeen rather than against him, we accomplished some truly amazing rides. The two summers we spent riding the Rocky Mountains really solidified our bond. The ride over the Continental Divide was truly amazing.
Reilly, I came to realize, was my main “tank filler” for years as I finally comprehended how empty my marriage had become. Her devotion to me replaced what I was supposed to be getting from my spouse. After I filed for divorce, her presence was even more critical. By this time, she was getting older and I lived in fear of losing her. Never have I worried so much and so long about losing a dog.
Thankfully, she lasted until 6 months into my relationship with Alan. She knew I was in good hands. He was there to help me with my grief. I was no longer alone.
Kara is now 15 months old. She has huge paws to fill, and it is not really fair to ask her to fill them. She is what she is. And what she is is very sweet. She does like to cuddle, and I love that! She’s smaller than Reilly. She has one ear that never stood up. She’s “all that and then some” if you are an animal! She has no questions about her superiority in the animal kingdom. But if you’re a person other than Alan or me, she’s a mess. Like many collies, she’s very noise sensitive. The vacuum cleaner or the lawnmower sends her packing.
I have just started formal training on her, and it is going fairly well. Although my dogs are all very well-behaved, they need their manners cranked up another notch in preparation for us camping a lot this year. Kara is slow to mature, and only time will tell how she ultimately develops. Tell me about your heart horse or heart dog?