We are giving away a copy of Cherished: 21 Writers on Animals They Have Loved and Lost edited by Barbara Abercrombie! Read this excerpt and leave a comment below for your chance to win the book!
The idea for this book came when my twenty-six-year-old horse, Robin, had to be put down because of acute laminitis. I adored this horse. He was a sorrel fox trotter with a white teardrop on his forehead and U.S. branded on his flank — a souvenir from working as a trail horse for the U.S. Forest Service. My husband bought him at auction for five hundred dollars, and he came to live out his retirement at our place in Montana. I knew nothing about horses , and frankly I was past the age when anyone sane takes up horseback riding for the first time, but I fell in love with Robin. He was so patient, so forgiving, that he made me feel like his own personal horse whisperer.
I wrote about his death on my blog, saying how much I had loved him and how hard I was grieving for him. I received a lot of comments, including from a veterinarian friend who suggested there should be an anthology of such pieces about the love and loss of an animal. I realized this was the kind of book I wanted to read — how other animal lovers got through their loss, how they made meaning out of it. Grieving for an animal can be a pretty lonely place.
So I wrote to writers whose work I admired, both friends and strangers, and asked if they’d contribute essays for this book. Everybody responded, passionate about the stories of their animals — the funny, crazy parts, as well as the grief at the end of an animal’s life or when they had to give the animal up for reasons beyond their control. They brought so many different angles to my original idea that this anthology grew deeper and far richer than I had originally imagined.
I’ve always lived with an animal — or multiple animals. When my daughters were growing up, we had three dogs, four cats, and a rabbit. One of the dogs was a Newfoundland named Jennifer who was the size of a small bear and loved to sleep in our bed with her huge head on the down pillows. One of the cats, Crazy Alice, insisted on sleeping in our bathroom sink. Another cat, Yeager, got hit by a car, had his pelvis crushed and rebuilt, along with an expensive tail amputation, and then, after he recovered, raced out into traffic again to have his jaw shattered, and once more survived. (Our cats then became indoor cats.) And Sidney, the youngest of the cat gang, would fish tampon tubes out of wastepaper baskets and then appear jauntily holding one in his mouth as if smoking a cigarette.
Then there was Winesburg — the cat I rescued in New York when I was still a teenager. When she died almost two decades later, we had been on a long journey together, both in miles and time — half my life in fact.
Here’s the thing about losing animals: they take a piece of your life with them when they die. They love the best of you, they share your days and nights, and then they’re gone and there’s a hole in your life — this vanished past they’ve taken with them.
In California I live with two elderly cats, Stuart and Charlotte, who joined me as kittens when I was newly divorced and then became my bridge through single life to a second marriage. They’re now eighteen years old. Stuart, the bon vivant of the feline world, has failing kidneys, and Charlotte, his shy sister, is diabetic, requiring two insuln shots a day. I worry about them. But I think one of the lessons animals can teach you is how to live in the moment; and at this moment, as I type these words, they’re happily sprawled on my desk, purring in the sun.
Last summer when I returned to Montana, I visited Robin’s grave out in the pasture by the river — this dear valiant horse whose gentleness and patience gave me the gift of knowing and loving a horse, who made me a whole lot braver than I actually was. I remembered how he smelled of wind and hay, the softness behind his ears, the way he’d nuzzle me when he hadn’t seen me for a while — and gratitude began to move the sadness out of my heart.
Excerpted from Cherished: 21 Writers on Animals They Have Loved and Lost edited by Barbara Abercrombie. Published by New World Library.
WIN THE BOOK! Enter a comment below and you will automatically be entered to win a copy of Cherished: 21 Writers on Animals They Have Loved and Lost edited by Barbara Abercrombie. Winner will be announced on August 16. Good Luck!
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