“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17a–NKJV).
Mick, a glossy white Missouri Fox Trotter, has been part of our family since 2006, nearly seventeen years. He was a gift from my husband who loves to give good gifts, and considering he wasn’t a colt when he arrived, he’s rather old–likely in his early thirties.
Prior to coming, Mick lived on another farm in western North Carolina. We don’t know much, just that he’d been one of several horses who served children–saddled and hitched to a ring, then ridden in a circle, much like a real life merry-go-round.
When he joined us, however, he retired to our pasture where he lived the good life with a few other horses. Retirement came easy, and Mick was happy munching lush grass and enjoying a life of leisure.
Half a dozen years later, someone else joined our family. On a bright Saturday in early 2012, we were given a very special gift when a little girl arrived, suitcase in hand.
Allie had experienced the loss of her maternal grandfather, a man she fondly called Papa Jimmy. Having adopted her only several months prior, he suffered a massive heart attack at the breakfast table, something 2-year-old Allie witnessed.
To keep her from entering the foster care system, a concerned uncle contacted an adoption agency in South Carolina. Soon after, we received a call.
Would you consider a daughter?
The rest is history!
Needless to say, Mick went from being mine to becoming Allie’s. And that was just fine. After all, seems God instilled in this girl a natural love for horses, a passion really–something she just can’t seem to shake.
In turn, Mick offered healing to the broken heart of a child who, in her short life, knew much of loss and life’s uncertainty.
Mind you, by the time Allie arrived, Mick was already old. A good ‘ol boy–what horse enthusiasts call an “easy keeper”–Mick sure loved to eat! He and Allie enjoyed picnics in the pasture on too many occasions to count.
Over time, the other horses moved on, leaving Mick the lone steed. More, he graciously came out of retirement to serve as a shepherd to our sheep.
Standing amidst the flock at the top of our upper pasture, white mane blowing in the wind, we’ve often pointed and proclaimed–
Look, it’s Gandalf the Great with his hobbits!
It’s true! He resembles the good wizard from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings–the one who serves to protect Frodo and his friends on more than one occasion. And given Mick became a guardian, it’s a perfect nickname.
Our Allie is almost fourteen. All the years she’s been with us have included her friend who, quite honestly, is more like family.
Mick, however, is now too old to be ridden. His back sways and his ribs show, and some days he enjoys his apple treat but other days he doesn’t. We’ve told our daughter she needs to ready her heart for what we believe is coming soon.
And in her quiet way, she’s reassured us she has, though I know nothing can prepare us for the loss of someone so dear. Still, I believe there are lessons Allie will never forget, things which–long after Mick’s gone–will linger. Inspire her. Guide her.
Because this horse we call Gandalf has a unique way. Unlike other horses we’ve known, he’s a…
- Wise mediator.
- Faithful friend.
- Protective companion.
He stands nearby as our Scottish Highlanders banter over the fence with the sheep, much like the rivalry between Tolkien’s dwarves and hobbits. But in the end, these beastly creatures bellow their concession, and Gandalf gives them several nods, forelock flying–a reminder that they’re to be friends, not foes.
Despite his aching joints, his body weary from age, he’s determined to stay with his flock, climbing up and down the hill multiple times a day because, well, sheep are fickle, bent on 2nd breakfast.
We’ve witnessed kind and courageous Mick position himself between a predator and his sheep. In the words of Tolkien’s wise wizard, it’s as if he says, “You shall not pass,” and it’s worked! We’ve never lost a lamb, ewe, or ram to a coyote, not under the watchful eye of… Gandalf.
So what would he say?
Because here we are. Some days are good, and we’re left wondering if perhaps Mick’s gotten a second wind.
Other days, our old friend seems tired, and I beg him to tell us if it’s time. He’s dear, and we’d never want him to suffer.
Still, it’s always difficult, is it not? For any of us who have loved an animal, seen God’s character in the goodness of a creature, we know. It’s one of the hardest decisions to make.
At times like this, when faced with such a sad reality, I look to Jesus–asking him his heart on the matter. He’s reminded me he cares, and, like Allie, he’ll be given the joy of riding a white horse too, when he returns.
And I can almost hear him–our Missouri Fox Trotter named Mick telling us not to worry but to trust the Author of Love, the One who created him. A good gift to me. A friend and comforter for Allie.
Yes, as Gandalf proclaimed —
I will not say: Do not weep, for not all tears are an evil…
Death is just another path–One that we all must take (LOTR: The Return of the King).
What might you say to offer encouragement to one who, in the coming days, might need it? Perhaps you have a similar story to share.
PRAYER—Father, thank you for creating so many things to love in this life. We know only humans are made in Your image, but boy–You sure know how to give good “nonhuman” gifts too, some with tails and whiskers, forelocks and manes. We praise You, kind Abba, for them all. Thank you for Your generosity and for entrusting each to our care. Help us know, too, when to say goodbye. Then mend our broken hearts. Amen.
What a great read! So true, the love we have for our horses. And you gave him a propose. Good bless Mick in his elder years and praise him for the love he gave your daughter, she’ll always remember the compassion he showed her. She’ll always yearn for another Mick!
Oh thank you, Jane! I so appreciate you taking the time to read. And I know your love for God’s good creation too. Blessings!
Maureen, I read your beautiful story about Mick while I mourned for our dog, Storm. The beauty and relevance of your words unraveled my heart. Some might say it was the circumstances of our family having to say goodbye to our sweet (almost twelve-year-old) Weimaraner Storm, but something deeper stirred my spirit. I worked with thoroughbreds many years ago, walking, grooming, etc. While that was a lifetime ago, I will never forget the amazing bond I had with several horses. BTW, your photo of Allie and Mick is captivating… They are awesome creatures! I understand a fragment of the bond Allie and Mick share. Though hard for many to understand, it is a rare gift. I pray you have more stories to tell about Mick, but when the time comes to say so long for now, I know you, like I, will cling to the hope we have of seeing our precious friends again. LOVE you.
Oh, Joann. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words. I think our hearts are similar. I cried reading about your dear Storm… and I still cry sometimes when I think about our good dog Annabelle–a 14-year old Golden that we loved and adored… She passed some years ago now, but still. I really hope we can meet sometime. We’re practically neighbors! Blessings!