This week has been a difficult one. It started out busy. By Tuesday morning I had a cold which is still lingering even as a write this. At least now I am feeling as if the fog will lift. But let’s go back to Tuesday…
I had a bad night’s sleep Monday night so I slept on the couch as it elevated my head better, which is important when a cold has you feeling as if you are drowning. By noon I was starting to feel a bit better. It was then I got a phone call from my friend. Joy and her husband John own and run Soby Ranch Ministry, where I serve on the board and hang out as much as I can. I love the ranch, but there is one at the ranch I have loved more than any of the others. His name was Doc.
I’ve written about Doc before. He came to Soby after years of hard work pulling a Carriage in Central Park. At age 17 he was already an old man due to the nature of his life. A Percheron horse, a large draft species, he should have intimidated this uninitiated horse person. But something magical happened the day I met Doc. I gave him an apple the way I was taught to give one, holding my hand out flat so as not to get bit. I stood on my side of the fence, he on his and held out my hand with its apple offering. He ate the apple right out of my hand and then he leaned forward. I was scared so I just stood still as he reached across the gate and proceeded to wrap his head and neck around mine in an incredible horse version of a hug. I was in love from that point on.
Over the next year I visited Doc at least weekly. Joy and John may have owned him but in my heart he was mine! I finally understood the joy of being loved by and loving a horse. I bought myself a pair of work boots and spent many fun afternoons wandering the pastures and the barn, always with my best bud in tow. And I brought apples for Doc every time! I was his apple lady and he knew it. He was my sweet horse and he taught me so very much.
The phone call Tuesday rocked my world. Doc had gone down in the night, the same night I had had a hard time sleeping. By morning he was having seizures. It was time to put him down. I wasn’t there, but I knew Joy gave him a hug for me. I prayed and cried most of the afternoon. I would never be the same having loved that big boy. The rest of the week was spent with me being sick. I had wanted to write something for Doc but have only now finally felt up to putting keystrokes to tablet.
So here is my tribute to my dear friend Doc. Doc was a physical reminder to me of God’s love and grace. I loved because he loved me first. He was the one who reached across the divide to invite me into relationship with him. That’s exactly how God works. He makes the first overture, we respond either by joining the dance or declining. When I walked through the pastures with him, he never left my side. He was my “strong tower”, my guardian protector. No other animal could harm me as Doc stayed tightly to my side placing himself between me and even the hint of danger. Sometimes the other animals wanted to get closer to me but Doc was a jealous horse. He would not share me with the rest of the herd. I was his. He was mine. When I had a bad or rough day Doc provided me with nickers of tenderness and was there to hear my concerns or just hug me. God does that for us too.
Doc loved when I came to spend time with him and bring my gifts to him. His favorite offerings were apples, but he also accepted carrots, grain, hay, and love. And he loved me just as much when I just brought myself and not treats. God desires our worship. He loves our offerings of time, talent, and treasures. But his favorite offering is that of ourselves.
I learned much about horses and farm life from Doc, but even more I gained a deeper understanding of my relationship with God because of him. There will never be another Doc in my life. I’m sure there will be other horses. Doc made my fear of horses disappear. But there will never be another first horse. There will never be another Doc. But our story isn’t over. Soby freed Doc from a life of labor. Now he is free from a life of pain. And while I never rode Doc in this lifetime, I am sure that when we meet again we will run together through heaven’s fields. We are bound by a bond of love. I WILL see you again dear friend! Until then, run free…