Monday, November 26, 2007

A Tribute to Dandy

Dandy by Lori Levin "Dandy"
oil study on canvas

A little over two years ago I set up my easel in a pasture where my handsome Dandy was grazing. It was my first time painting en plein air in well over a decade. What made me think I could capture this moving animal with my brush that hadn't been out of the safety of the studio? Sometimes I laugh at how I create nearly impossible situations for myself and wonder why I struggle. None the less, I did slap together this oil painting of my horse on a lovely day near the old tree that always interested me. I remember the day like it was yesterday. If I close my eyes I can still smell his warm breath on me when he came to check out what I was doing, only to quickly leave as there were no cookies in my hand for him. Dandy was all about a good cookie as any good horse is.

Soon after that day I found him a new home at Raise Your Dreams Farm. He became a therapy horse for all types of people in need of some equine inspiration. It was a hard decision for me because horses had been my life for so long and this horse owned my heart. However, I knew it was time for Dandy to move on and I couldn't be selfish.

Even though he now lived only 15 minutes from me I did not visit often as it was too painful. Dandy represented so many things to me, I just felt as I had to fully let go and could only do that by staying away. There wasn't a day that went by that I didn't wonder what my boy was doing. Each time I saw his mug on my profile picture I longed for him. Every horse catalogue that came in the mail was like a knife thrust into a healing wound. I watched my riding boots collect dust and my heart ached. Riding through the woods on Dandy's back made me feel like Pocahontus in a Disney flick. Yet, I knew I had to give him the opportunity to enjoy his senior years and that he was happy to have a new purpose in life. As a therapy horse he was needed and loved. He had a new life that he loved.

On Thanksgiving morning Dandy had to be put down. Though he was only in his early twenties he had a pretty interesting life. He was not one of those horses that just sat in someone's backyard as a lawn ornament. Dandy would have none of that as he didn't like to be bored and would find trouble if there was no work to be done. He served humans the best way he could nearly to the very end. We all should feel so needed and loved in our lives.

I thought I would share with you a little of his legacy. Jill, Dandy's adopted mother, sent me a lovely email about what he meant to her and her farm. Here's a piece of what she wrote:

"I miss his gentle spirit and his quiet reassurance. There were so many times that he saved me or my students. I cannot even begin to tell you how much he meant to me. Self-assured, gentle and a presence that left all in awe. I will never forget his legacy and his memories. Amanda letting go of the reins and flying!!!!! The alcoholic woman that felt there was no hope UNTIL she met Dandy!!!! The neglected and abused chunky woman that had legs shorter than her arms wanting to ride more than anything else. I knew Dandy would take care of her and he did. He took her on a gentle trail and she said, "I have never felt so free." Or the time the student slipped while getting on and landed underneath him. HE NEVER MOVED!!! How about the time when he got mad at me when he couldn't be ridden? He would pace back and forth and paw at the fence. The day he could be ridden he drug my student to the ring. Most recently, when he was in pain my students would stand in the field and feed him carrots (his favorite food in the whole world!!) they would walk away and he would try to follow, even though it was painful.

I don't know how I will tell Amanda that her beloved Dandy has gone to heaven. There will be a mourning like no other. She was the peanut butter and he was the jelly. They just went together like peas in a pod. I am sounding corny, but through my tears I can laugh, because he was the sweetest, most gentle and kindest horse ever and he made a gawky autistic girl fly. I am comforted in the fact that he is carting around the kids in heaven. He is flying around on hooves of gold with wings of thunder. "

If horses go to heaven (or people for that matter) I doubt they are prepared for the personality that is Dandy.

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