Social Media Conundrums


I’ve been active on the Internet almost since its public inception. I ran a bb using Qmodem, I subscribed to Prodigy, Compuserve (I loved that service), and AOL. I migrated to the World Wide Web as soon as possible. I went from dial-up to DSL the week it was offered in my community.

I have a MySpace account – still. Tom and I are still there, you should come friend me, we’re lonely. I’ve had my Facebook account since it required a .edu email. I have a Twitter account. I was on Google+ before it opened to the general public. I’ve done Classmates, Blogster, LiveJournal, DeviantArt, MeetUp, Questia, and Goodreads. I still use LinkedIn, Open Salon, and LibraryThing. I have accounts with Amazon, iTunes, Netflix, iCloud, Google Drive, SugarSync, Skydrive, Dropbox. I like technology. I use the Internet.

I used to approach social media sites like Goldilocks; Google+, too quiet; Twitter, too busy; Facebook, just right. And in many ways, that still applies. In the time it has taken me to write this, my tabs show 41 tweets, 8 notifications to Facebook, and nothing on Google+.  Many of the tweets are by the likes of John Cusack, The New Yorker, and The Department of Education, Keith Oblermann. On Facebook, the notifications are from people I have designated as close friends, but the feed itself is filled with suggested pages, and posts from “liked” pages. The other day, I went through thirty-two posts before getting to one by a friend! What the hell? I have considered un-liking every one of them! But periodically, I get information I like from them. Damn it. It’s a conundrum. And now it seems Facebook wants to move away from personal connection into an information-based system, with too many commercials. So, that’s why I don’t watch TV, or listen to the radio.

Bastards. In my insanely busy life sometimes connecting online is important to me. So, what’s a girl to do? I’ve been looking at this all week. I signed up for Bebo, but yeah, it makes Google+ look too busy to keep up with! And no one in my gmail contacts has an account. No one! Crickets, I tell you!

In trying to find a good work-around for this growing issue, I have discovered some things:

The Facebook app for my iPad displays fewer personal posts than my laptop. And on my phone, I miss everything but the ads, no matter how I set it. So, yeah. No.

Hootsuite works. From Hootsuite I can look at Facebook without the BS, I can read Twitter, follow specific hashtags, and access direct messages. It includes MySpace. But, it’s a process to be learned and Google+ isn’t accessible, unless you set up a page (like a Facebook like page). Posting to all of my social media accounts in a single click is easy, well, except Google+. So Hootsuite might be a good choice for some people.

Flipboard is an app available on the iPad, iPhone, and Android based devices. It combines social media with news, hobby, and entertainment sources and creates “magazines” for the user. And I miss nothing. It even allows me to save most things to refer back to – so if I see something that one of my liked pages posts (say a recipe for an all natural tick repellant), I am able to save it into a personal magazine. But there’s a but. I find that I have trouble posting to Facebook directly from Flipboard. I am able to use a work-around by posting to Twitter and Flipboard posts to both. I have just added Googl+ and LinkedIn to this, so I will have to update y’all as to how that works.

I downloaded iSocial, but immediately discarded it – I couldn’t change the font size and I have old eyes. And it doesn’t turn when I turn my iPad (rendering it a useless app when I am out-of-doors with sunglasses on).

So, for now, I am planning to increase my presence on Google+ moving to make it my primary social media site. I can target specific groups, make both public and private posts with the click of a mouse. I will decrease my presence on Facebook gradually. I will keep my Cultural Salad page on Facebook (and if you haven’t liked it you should).

 

 

 

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A half an inch of water and you think you’re gonna drown…


Where, how do you start? I hear Julie Andrews singing in my head… Start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start…

But which beginning? Doesn’t a beginning imply that something, somewhere must have come to an end?

And so what ended?

Good question. I stopped blogging because there was so much negativity swirling around. So much. A woman I barely know commenting on things on my blog—swiping at someone else, a friend of mine. This woman stirs hornets’ nests. I know because she has tried in my life, in my family.

Another friend…well, not really in the end, I guess, attacked me verbally about a post I made to the blog. A blog about Lee-Jackson Day. Now, I must say, I had been warned. Be careful, she’s a viper. But I try to see the best in everyone until the ugliness spills over like carelessly spilled paint. The colors fall together until only an ugly mud remains.

And a third friend, with whom I disagree politically, tagged someone on his Facebook page; someone he didn’t know. There are lines we don’t cross; lines we shouldn’t cross. In polite society, we don’t manipulate people, drag them places they don’t want to go.

And so, I retreated. Ended. Looked at the half empty glass, half an inch of water…

The winter left me reeling, so many endings: my job, friendships, writing outlets. I am at The Porches as winter surrenders to spring. The lush Virginia landscape explodes in purples and pinks. As I grieve for all that I have lost this winter, I replaced one sort of creativity with another. I planted a garden—that is thriving! I’ve made ice cream with my grand-daughter. And for outward appearances everything looked fine, save the lack of words. But half-empty leaves a hollow in the heart. Hollows that have always been filled with words.

John Prine is singing into my headphones…

That’s the way that the world gores ‘round

You’re up one day, the next you’re down

It’s a half an inch of water and you think you’re gonna drown

That’s the way that the world goes ‘round.

Good philosopher, John. Who am I to complain about lost friendships or jobs? I look around and I think, my god, twenty children in Connecticut, bombs in Boston, explosions in Texas, factory collapse in Bangladesh. Oklahoma. Ronan, god Ronan! It’s a half an inch of water and you think you’re gonna drown.

So, it’s time to pick myself up by my proverbial bootstraps and get on with it, and do what I do best: write. If you think you can use my blog to attack others, well that won’t end well for you. This blog, historically, has about a thousand readers and you will look foolish. And if you don’t like what I have to say, just don’t read. Simple, don’t read. Yes, that means you who thinks your gun “rights” trumps a child’s right to safely go to school, and you who thinks the south is going to rise again and that “Yankees” are from another country… We’re all Americans, deal with it! And you there on the fringes pretending to be holier than thou, I’ve got your number. Try being real.  Y’all know who you are.

There. Now I will start that blogging thing again. I have three books in the works, look out world, I’m gonna do this thing. As I finish writing Bruce Springsteen sings one of my favorite songs ever…

 

I aint been to heaven,

but I been told the street up there are paved with gold

Keep your eye on the prize.

Hold on.

I love it when WGOD plays in my headphones.

 

 

 

Deserving What We Get


It’s early in the election season, and I’ve already begun to gloss what the politicians and pundits are saying. Blah-blah, blah, blah, blah. He said this, she said that.  Dog on car dog for dinner, Mormon, maybe Muslim, born here, not. Distraction.

Children are going to sleep hungry in the back seat of the car they call home.

Women are earning .77 for every dollar a man makes.

Soldiers dying for…?

I confess, most people consider me a liberal. And I’m ok with that; most of my personal beliefs are fairly liberal. But I don’t view myself as a liberal. At all. It would be amazing if it was the world according to Mel, but it’s not and I have to consider that not everyone shares my beliefs, or even system of beliefs.

I am a centrist. I wish that was a political party, I’d join in a minute. A political party based on the idea that a country isn’t like Burger King—you don’t always get to have it your way. A party that focused on the compromises this country desperately needs.

Already on social media sites the vitriol has begun. Liberals are idiots, conservatives are stupid. Every election cycle it gets worse. Every election cycle that attitude carries itself further into our social interaction, deeper into our cultural consciousness, our daily reality.

I can disagree with your opinions about gun control, abortion, economic recovery, even education, and equal rights and still be intelligent. I can still consider you intelligent. We simply disagree, we need to sit down and find the middle ground.

I watch lots of memes scroll across my Facebook page throughout the course of a day. Often, I think, that’s funny, I’ll share it. But then, I force myself to reread it – it might be funny, but is it offensive? Is it making derogatory statements? Attacking persons and not principles? I resist the urge to click share. Recently, a conservative acquaintance posted the following:

Handicapped Parking… @ Sears

Today I had to go to Sears. As I approached the entrance, I noticed a driver looking for a parking space. I flagged the driver and pointed out a handicap parking space that was open and available.

The driver looked puzzled, rolled down her window and said, ”I’m not handicapped!”

Well, as you can imagine, my face was red! ”Oh, I’m sorry” I said, “I saw your Obama sticker and just assumed…”

She gave me the finger and yelled some nasty names at me.

Boy! Some people – and when you’re just trying to help them out!

My reaction was, Really? Really? Someone who disagrees with you is automatically mentally handicapped? I typed out a scathing response. Then deleted it. What purpose would responding to something that petty serve?

I have opinions. Strong opinions—to which I am entitled. I can disagree with your opinions and we can still maintain a friendship because I respect your right to have those opinions.

Think before you click share. Who’s reading? Am I attacking a person or an idea? Can the United States afford this election cycle to rip us apart further?

Yesterday, ABC News ran a headline article with side by side pictures of Obama and Romney. Obama had a glass of Guinness, Romney, a cup of (presumably) coffee. The question in the headline read: Who would you be comfortable with at a party?

Um, really? I don’t want to be comfortable with the president at a party—I want him to make kick-ass decisions. I want him (or her) to have the ability to make heads of states uncomfortable if that’s what is necessary in any given situation. I want someone who will defend my rights as an individual American citizen in congress, the UN, anywhere. I hope that person would be capable of making me uncomfortable no matter what he’s drinking. This is a tactic that George W. Bush used against John Kerry – he’s too smart, he can’t communicate well with the “common” people of the United States.

K. This is a bullshit ploy, it was then and it is now. Don’t buy into it. Whether I’m comfortable with a politician or not isn’t the point. Can he or she bring American troops home? Work to fix our financial woes, inequality? Will he or she take positive steps to fix our broken education system? That’s what’s important.

If you want to have a political conversation with me, let’s focus on things that matter. Why would every Republican vote against a bill that made equal pay a law? Why is the United States ranked 14th educationally? Shouldn’t we talk about a way to fix that? In Virginia, you have a better chance of dying from a gunshot wound than in a car accident—that’s a discussion we should have. Let’s talk issues.

And if you don’t vote, don’t talk politics. By not voting you are making choices about the state of our nation. I think it was Joseph Heller who said, In democracy you get the government you deserve. Alternately you deserve the government you got.

Guest Blog: Ed Cook, Bullying and Betrayal


At World Series time, the fall of my 7th grade year (1970-71), the 8th grade challenged us to a baseball game.  Some teacher said that we should have a vote on which boys should be on the team.  I thought this a bit odd, but figured ok, I would get voted on, right?  I had been selected to the Little League All Stars the previous summer. I was shocked that I got one vote.  Five people came up to me later to tell me they voted for me.  Hmmmm.

It had already been a different year.  I had been attending the same Catholic school since 1st grade and knew nearly everyone and was friends with most but “friends” were hitting me, and stealing my stuff and money and wrecking my things.  I was at a loss as to why.  We wore school uniforms so it was not that.  I was good at sports and, although I had always been a pretty good student, I was not a bookworm or considered a geek…Why?

There were two guys that seemed to be the leaders, one was from another town, (found out later that he had been kicked out of two other parochial schools and my school had accepted him in search of revenue)  and the other one had been in the other classroom of the same grade for years. Both of these kids and many others had had early growth spurts, while I was stuck at about 5 feet and 90 pounds dripping wet.  I had become the class victim. I was being bullied. One other thing entered in here.  Discipline had been relaxed a lot that year.  The former principal, a real disciplinarian, had been transferred and the new one was much more along the lines of “let them do their own thing”.  This was the early 1970’s after all.

My mother knew something was wrong but I would not let on.  Then one day I came home and the handle had been ripped off my book bag, something I could not hide. My mother and father were both incensed.  Because my uncle was a missionary Priest, and my family knew all of the priests, my mother called the rectory to relate the problem.  She also called the convent to talk to the Principal. She got little satisfaction from the Monsignor and none from the principal.  A couple of days later I came down with pneumonia, the first in a long list of illnesses I had through the year.  The two week absence gave fuel to the tormenters who decided I was chicken and took that as their cue to increase the torment when I returned.  Any time the teacher left the room, I was hit, thrown down, thrown at, stuff taken, you name it.  I used to get in trouble more than they did because the teacher, a naïve soul, would see me running after the thief and assume that I was causing the trouble.  They threatened to put drugs into my food, or drink, threatened to beat me up pretty much every day.

Needless to say, through all of this I was nervous and scared to go to school.  My nerves were on edge all the time. I had stomach trouble constantly, which contributed to the absences.  There was one time when the group ganged up on me at recess, on a freezing cold day, knocked me down, took off my shoes and socks and threw them in the woods adjoining the parking lot.    I had to go retrieve them, and the principal greeted me at the door questioning why I was late getting in from recess.  I can see her yet standing there with a very mad look on her face.  I was the one who got in trouble.  Many of these were the same kids who had been my friends the prior years.  The new kid had organized them against me, and one or two others.  At 13 years old, I could not wrap my head around this.  Why were my friends betraying me?

Later in the school year, I was lucky enough that my mother convinced the principal and Monsignor who ran the church, to put me in the other 7th grade classroom.  It was better, not good.  I gained a friend out of that, who helped me out of some jams with my antagonists.  About the middle of May, I was beaten up pretty good one day and looked it when I got home.  My father was able to speak to a friend who was a teacher himself and was the father of one of the teachers at my school, and he advised that my parents take me out of school for the rest of the year and transfer me to public school.  So my parents abruptly took me out of school.  I was shocked/relieved/happy/etc.  My mother and I visited the principal and told her what was happening.  I remember being incredibly scared going into school. Somehow my mother was able to convince her that I would study at home and take final exams at the convent.  I got A’s on all of my tests, but the principal threatened to keep me back a grade due to the number of absences.  (I had been out some 50 days that year.)  My mother threatened to talk to the Monsignor and did.  The principal relented and they passed me on to 8th grade, and I went to East Jr. High in the fall.  I found out later that my uncle, the priest, had called the Monsignor from the Philippines to give him a rundown of what was going on.

I got to East Junior and eight days later the school burned down.  We were off for a week but I went back and settled in, and things moved along swimmingly.  There was control.  The teachers did not leave the students unsupervised as was the case at the supposedly high discipline Parochial school.  After I got the hang of Public school with its bigger population, I was less nervous, not scared to go to school and I had a great year in 8th grade, and every year beyond.  I made friends with tons of kids including many members of the East Jr. Football team because I was a yearbook photographer.  I tried out for the Baseball team and made it.

The best thing I remember from East Jr. that had to do with the 7th grade at the parochial school.  One day when I was in 9th grade.  The old parochial school only went to 8th grade so most of those kids went to public school.  I was walking in the hall and one of my tormenters from the old school was coming toward me and picked a pen out of my pocket and knocked the books out of my hand.  Instantly, one of my football friends, who was about 6 foot 3 and a linebacker on the team picked the tormentor up by his shirt and brought him to me.  By then a couple of other football guys were there, and they asked what I wanted them to do to him.  I thought the tormentor was going to need a new set of underwear.  I looked at him being held there in terror and just said “You’ve done enough”.  They made him pick up my books, and give back the pen.  I never had another problem.

I rarely think of that 7th Grade year.  I have truly blocked it.  When Mel asked me to write this I had to go back to memories that had not come up in years.  The good ones, which were very few, for 7th grade like Bill Maher, and going to East Jr. and the Footballers catching the guy, were there, luckily.  The bad ones were too.

So what does this all mean?  I got through this because of the love and support of my parents, the strength they gave me, and that they were able to get good advice, act on that advice, plus the fact that I had an easy escape route — go to public school, make new friends, and a new start.  I have made a good career, have a fine family, I’m very fortunate.

Many kids don’t have any of these things going for them.  The parents may not know about the problem, may ignore the problem, or worse not care about the problem.  The teachers may not do anything. Some kids are so badly affected they take matters to the extreme.  Phoebe Prince, of South Hadley, MA killed herself because she was being Cyber-bullied. The Columbine shootings over a decade ago were retribution by the shooters against kids who were bullying them.  Ever since my kids started school, I have worried about something like that happening to them and how I would react.  Luckily nothing has yet.  It is a different era, but bullying in all its forms still exist, and needs to be watched for and corrected immediately. It can destroy a person.

The Speed of Dark


No matter how fast light travels it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it. Terry Pratchett

People keep asking me if I’m ok. On the one hand, that’s good; it means the people in my life are caring, considerate, attuned to the anguish of others. On the other, I wonder if they are questioning my need to be sad, to grieve.

Being sad and grieving over a lost pet is a valid process. I am ok. Sad, but ok. I know I made the right choice. I know, having spent twenty-one years with my horse, Saiga, that I made the right call. Last summer, he could still scale the five-foot fence. Effortlessly. At twenty-nine he was still the master of his universe, in control. He was everything one imagines a horse to be.

Something in him had already died on Sunday. Something wild. Untamable. When I first arrived home and sat with his head against my leg, he looked at me. It was a knowing look. He became very still and his eyes implored me: Make this stop! Not to fix it, but to end it. It was a pleading sort of look that broke my heart.

And then he pulled himself to his feet, and tried, again, to walk it off. Ultimately, surrendering to his pain and staggering to his knees and falling to the ground again. And that hurt me more.

He was a proud animal. Not a horse for beginners. Not a being for the feint of heart. He had opinions and preferences. And I respected them. So did anyone who spent time in his space. And it was his space. King of all the fenced land.

He was here because he chose to be here. The fences were merely a formality.  Here was the preference.  Here was home. Here was where the people who loved him wouldn’t allow him to suffer.

And yes, I’m sad. I’ll miss him. There will be moments of panic—did I forget to close the gate?—before I remember, ahh, no need. I’ll miss him galloping across the property for corn-on-the-cob, grapes, apples. I’ll miss him moving from window to window as I move through the house. His napping beneath whichever window I was sitting near in the living room. I’ll miss the sound of his nickering when I turn on the kitchen light to get morning coffee. The silence is deafening.

But there is a deep sense of satisfaction edging my sadness. An odd sort of serenity. We spent years in each others’ company. And he had a good life—after he came to live with us. A life that deserved better than what would have surely been his future if I had made any other choice… And there is a contentment in knowing he will not suffer that. He moved on without the shadow of fear of the future—will I colic again? Will it be worse next time? He knew no what-ifs. He knew I would read in his eyes what he needed—and he knew I’d do just that. His trust gave me confidence.

When I turned on my computer to “announce” that he had passed away, there was a post on Facebook by Terry Pratchett. Pratchett is one of my favorite writers. I thought about him throughout the afternoon Sunday—he understands where Saiga was.  He knows what its like to be proud—not for beginners.  He’s brilliant, witty. Timely.

Terry Pratchett has early onset Alzheimer’s disease. I cannot imagine the place he is in; knowing, that one day soon, he’s not going to know anything. He recently made a documentary about assisted dying. He knows his time is winding down. I can see him reflected in Saiga. I sense that look in his eye. I haven’t seen the documentary. But, I know it says exactly what Saiga said to me. My heart breaks for him, for his grieving. His knowing. For his inability to make the same choices I made for Saiga. One day, in the not to distant future, other people will be making choices for him. He will no longer be master of his own universe. And he, clearly, has an opinion.

I find myself wondering, if, as humans, we don’t struggle with our grief because of the choices society says that we should make. The choices we are forced to live with and reconcile. Death is the inevitable end—no matter how fully we live. So, why do we fight it? Refuse to accept that someone is moving on? Refuse to accept our own mortality?

I am sad that Saiga is gone, but I am also able to rejoice in the life well-lived. A life only briefly diminished by incapacity—a moment, less than a day, when light met darkness. And, as Pratchett said, darkness is always there first, waiting.

I hope that when the amazing light that is Sir Terry Pratchett draws close to the inevitable darkness someone is there to see the look in his eye and know when it’s time to say goodbye. Someone who will allow him dignity in his passing. Someone with the courage to accept his or her own mortality. Someone will acknowledge that he’s not afraid of that darkness, he’s ready for it.

Word Count: 879

Waiting with a Friend


My horse, Saiga, turned thirty in May. Thirty is respectably old for a horse, very respectable. Like Bilbo-old respectable. He had begun to show his age. His hearing went first. He stopped responding to the whistling we used to call him. To get his attention, I’d have to walk all the way up to him. He’d lost some weight this summer. Enough to make me worry about him and switch his grain to something better suited to older horses. He stopped wandering into a far corner of the yard to “do his business.” Like a senile old man, he started just going wherever he was. It worried me.  When animals (humans included) don’t separate their eating space from their bathroom space, it’s a bad sign.

I knew his time was winding down.

Ian and I went to town this morning. JL helped a neighbor, and then went to church. Saiga was here alone—with no humans to see he was unwell.

When JL returned from church three hours later, Saiga was covered with sweat and stumbling. He would walk a bit stumble, fall, roll, get up and do it all over again. Ian and I were already on our way home when JL called. And I knew it wasn’t good.

I pulled into the driveway, took one look at Saiga and yelled into the house, “Call the vet.”  I sat on the ground and talked to him softly, brushing the hair out of his dimming eyes, and wiping the sweat off his neck.  It was clear he was dying. “It’s ok, go on. It’s ok, don’t fight.”

But he’s cantankerous and refused. He struggled to his feet over and over; Ian, his friend C., and I watching, following, standing, cooing comfort. Saiga has lived on this land twenty-one years, three years longer than Ian has been alive. It was an anxious picture: JL calling the vet, Ian, C. and I moving from one side of the fence to the other. Saiga on the ground, rolling. Up, stumbling, struggling. I called Jamie and she called Chris. Saiga was part of the family, they’d need to say goodbye. They both dropped what they are doing and came.

We waited for the vet.

I came in, to be out of the sun for a moment, and Saiga stumbled to the property line. There’s a drop-off there. Although JL was beside me, I yelled—go, go help the boys get him away from the edge! But it was too late, he leaned into the wire fence, broke through it, and he slid into the gully. There would be no saving him now. He couldn’t move in the thick underbrush and had managed to get caught up at the foot of a tree. I was afraid that his suffering would be worse, that he would be in more pain, if we moved him. We would have to tie ropes around his chest and pull him, over the broken underbrush, through the dirt and rocks. He looked at me, listened to the sound of my voice, and remained still; staring into a space I was unable to see. He was moving beyond my reach. I didn’t want to call him back, remind him of his age, his pain.

And so we waited.

The vet suggested that we pull him from the gully. But he was so weak. I just wanted his suffering to end. We could have pulled him out, spent thousands to “fix” him. But at thirty, it wouldn’t have been for him. It would have been a selfish act. Age can’t be fixed. I knew it and so did Saiga. I could have had his days extended, but not his life. I climbed down into the gully and sat on the ground beside him.

The vet was good, taking too much time to prepare the shots, giving us the opportunity to say goodbye.

Ian, who didn’t cry at the end of Marley and Me, sobbed into C’s shoulder. Chris and Ryan paced.  JL stayed in the house. Jamie and I sat in the shallow gully with Saiga stroking him until his breathing stopped. This is the first family member Ian has lost; the first one he is old enough to remember losing. I don’t think it ever crossed his mind that Saiga wouldn’t just always be munching grass out back. But C. knew, he lost his dad to cancer three years ago. Ian was one of three of C’s friends to attend the funeral. I was glad C. was here—their bond is special. Losing a pet cannot be compared to losing a parent—but to someone who hasn’t ever lost anyone, it was good to have a friend who understood on a larger scale. A friend, who stood stoically, absorbing Ian’s tears into his shoulder. Without judgement.

***

I found Saiga in a wooded lot. He wasn’t exactly abandoned. He lived on a horse farm. He didn’t like his owner, who in turn thought he was an unmanageable, cantankerous, nag. The first time I saw him, he was standing on his back legs, with his front hooves pressed against a tree, reaching for leaves to eat. Because there was nothing else for him to eat. I parked my car beside the fence. He stepped down and cantered to the farthest part of the enclosure.

I was keeping another horse on the property and I’d come to feed her. Saiga was so skittish he caught my eye, and the next day, I brought him an apple.

He responded by running to the other side of his paddock, again. His beautiful silvery-white coat catching the sunlight, he looked like someone from a fairy tale. He nickered and neighed, throwing his head defiantly in the air. It was a beautiful, almost choreographed, fuck-you. His name, on his registration papers, was Nadeem Saiga, it means sweet thunderbolt. It was an apt name.

When I left, some hours later, the apple still lay where I set it. And he was still as far from my car, the fruit, and me as he could possibly be. I brought another the next day anyway.  For almost a month, every day, when I went to the stable I would leave him fruit or alfalfa cubes.

Everyday he ignored it until I was gone. I decided to buy him. He was full of spirit. I didn’t want to tame him, I wanted to befriend him. At first he wasn’t for sale, but I persisted. His owner had nothing but disparaging things to say about him, and then charged me too much for him. She insisted I would never make a good pet of him: he was ornery.

Finally, he began watching for me. He eagerly awaited my arrival and the fruit. Mostly, I think it was the fruit. It was longer, still, before he would eat with me there. It took me three months to get him to eat from my hand. And another month to get a saddle on him.

Eventually, we fenced the property and brought both horses here. For a long time, he’s been mostly a lawn mower, and good company. The herniated disks in my back make it impossible for me to ride, and at thirty his joints ached a bit. We’d periodically hobble around together, keeping each other company, thinking about younger days, jumping fences.  He outlived my other horse, and two goats. He was a regal old man. And we both knew his time had come.

The day was long and tear-filled. The human family that adored him – and that he adored – surrounded Saiga. As the vet injected him and the final light faded from his eyes, the last he saw and heard was me. There were no nursing homes, no maintaining life after he finished living. The tension fled his muscles and he closed his eyes and exhaled serenely, passing into a place I can’t see, probably filled with apples and alfalfa cubes.

If only we could extend that same sort of dignity to humans…

Rest in peace, Saiga. I will miss you, but you’ve earned it.