As I pulled into the parking lot of the feed store today, the McCauley’s logo caught my eye and the image of the feed bags from Lincoln’s grain flashed through my mind. I choked back tears and wondered why it hit me like that. I parked, took a breath and checked the text that came in while I was driving. It was a message from Duke and Stormy’s new owner with photos of them looking happy. I swallowed hard, put a smile on my face and went in to get what I needed.
I decided to take the long way home down some winding country roads, and I let myself cry. There is so much loss in rescue. And if I am honest, there is so much that I don’t allow myself to feel. People often tell me that they could never do what I do. How can I go to the auction and not save them all? How can I rescue a horse, give him my heart, and then let him go? I always laugh it off and say that I am grateful and so blessed to GET to do what I do. And I am.
I have always been good at compartmentalizing. I think that is part of what makes it possible for me to walk into an auction, put my emotions aside, and get the job done. I can welcome a horse in, invest emotionally in that horse’s mental and physical recovery, and then let that horse go when it’s time. If I couldn’t do that, I wouldn’t have a rescue. I would have a hoarding situation.
But I feel it catching up with me. The morning we took Duke and Stormy to their wonderful new home, I cried the entire way to the farm. I cried as I told them goodbye. And I even got emotional that evening on a zoom call with a group of women I had only recently met. I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me.
But you know what? I think it’s actually a sign of growth. Instead of stuffing down the emotions so I don’t have to feel them, I am actually allowing myself to feel the pain. And even more than that, I am learning to love and let go. Not guard my heart and let go, but LOVE and let go. There is a difference. I miss the way Duke wrapped his head around me and the way that Stormy would quietly walk up to me. When I drive into the farm, I feel the empty space where they once were and all of the ones who came before them.
Saying goodbye to Duke and Stormy allowed me to say YES to a horse who so desperately needs me. I have only seen photos of my most recent rescue, Brew by You, but I already love her. I will give her my whole heart and when the time comes for her to go, I will cry. There is nothing easy about rescue. It’s a guarantee that my heart will continue to break over and over. It doesn’t get easier or hurt any less; the growth is in how much I allow myself to feel. And, if the tears falling are any indication.... there is growth even as I write this.
In loving memory of my first horse, Star of Deck (Dekky). The one that started it all....❤️