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The Language of Love

We always thought they spoke a special language; one only their kind could understand. But it wasn’t until the lights went out that the depth of their connection emerged. Sage and Beau met when she was 27 and he was 15.  A May-December romance emerged.  He came to her at a time when she had just lost a close companion.  Beau moved into the stall next to Sage’s and the connection began. They spent most days and nights in the company of each other sometimes pretending to bicker, but immediately making up.  They were so close that nobody thought much of their desire to be together.  Beau would sometimes leave for a bit, heading off to a lesson or for a ride.  Sage would call after him and pace about awaiting his return.  Everyone just thought they had become overly dependent upon one another.  It wasn’t until one day when Beau stumbled badly that anyone began to question his behavior.

We’ll never know if it happened so slowly that none of us realized what was going on or if it happened in an instant.  There were no outward signs.  The stumble led to the discovery that Beau had lost most of his eyesight.  His eyes were perfectly brown and looked full of life, but they weren’t.  The diagnosis was Posterior Uveitis.  He was 18 years old and nearly blind. We were shocked, sad, and scared wondering what the future would hold for him. At times, Beau would get very confused and disoriented.  The only thing that comforted him was Sage’s touch.  As long as she was near, he was fine.

Hindsight made us stop and wonder if we had missed signs along the way.  We had attributed Beau’s behavior changes to personality quirks, but had they really been clues?  He had he become difficult to load into the trailer.  We thought it was fear related a bad incident before we knew him.  He refused to do things he had always done. .  We thought he didn’t want to leave Sage. But now we wondered.

After several months, according to all tests, Beau’s eyesight had failed completely.  Yet with Sage by his side, Beau was able to learn his way around their pasture and start to regain some freedom of movement.  Beau learned to feel terrain changes in a new way.  The water trough, shelter, and gates were all raised and rocked to indicate areas of caution.  The fence lines popped with the sound of electricity to let him know the fence was nearby.  Trees were trimmed to make sure branches would not become obstacles or cause injury.  Each day Sage led Beau along a sandy path to the pasture and back to the barn in the evening. Every movement had a sound and he was learning what they meant. Once simple things like drinking out of the water trough on a hot summer day had to be relearned.  Not knowing exactly what surrounded him, he was afraid to touch anything but her.

With each passing season new challenges arrived.  Falling rain or blowing wind blocked the sounds Beau was used to hearing.  Sage’s quiet presence would sometimes elude him.  She let him struggle.  She was training him like a young colt.  When she felt his tension become too great, she would make a sound or touch him to let him know he was safe and she was near.  Sage knew someday he would need to go on without her.  The balance began to shift and we sensed maybe he was taking care of her as well.

Sage reached her 32nd birthday and Beau was now 20.  Sage was leaving beau to find his own way more often now.  While they grazed, Sage would stand further away from him, for longer periods of time.  Then they would come back together and move as one. Nobody wanted to face what we saw happening; she was training him once again.

A poet must have choreographed Sage’s final day.  Warm sun fell on her in the pasture.  Her closet friends gathered.  Beau stood over her like a peaceful guardian.  The sun was setting as she took her last breath.  Beau whinnied as if he saw her spirit leave.  He stayed with Sage for sometime, knowing she was gone, but being comforted none-the-less.

As darkness fell, Sage was not there to guide Beau for the first time since they met.  We wondered what to do for Beau.  A pasture-mate stepped forward, another mare.  She was taking the helm.  She would now be the one to guide Beau and protect him.  As we walked into the barn, the mare walked past her usual stall and into what had been Sage’s.  A new relationship was beginning; a new connection discovered and understood.

Good-bye Sage….RIP

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