Two days ago I called my aunt June who lives in northern Idaho and learned that my pony, Hershey’s Kiss, passed away earlier that day.
I’ve never cried so hard in my life- not even after my mom died.
Hershey was everything to me throughout my childhood and adolescent years. I got him for my 9th birthday, after begging my parents for a pony incessantly for an entire year.
He was my best friend and my escape. Before and after school from when I was in 3rd grade until my freshman year in college at UNLV, I’d spend hours with him. He would poke his head out from his stall and nicker when I’d arrive, and if I didn’t give him immediate attention he’d start kicking the stall door impatiently with his forelimbs.
Growing up, looking from the outside my family appeared to have it all together. We were financially well off, and I had a pony for God’s sake, every little girl’s dream.
But behind closed doors there was a lot of sadness, alcoholism and anger. I’d wake up to doors slamming and screaming between my parents- they never slept in the same room and I never saw them embrace. Their relationship was filled with cheating and fighting that became irreparable. You could cut the tension in the house with a knife.
Horses became my escape. I would spend all my free time at the barn. Hershey would patiently listen to my stories, flickering his soft brown ears back and forth while he munched his hay. I’d bury my head under his mane, letting the tears run down his strong thick neck. I’d kiss his velvet muzzle and braid his forelock, revealing his perfect white marking shaped like a Hershey Kiss chocolate on his forehead. When I wasn’t able to be at the stable with him, I’d look out the window and picture us galloping in the fields bareback.
I don’t have much left of my physical past. My mom is dead, my dad is not involved in my life, our family home and heirlooms sold to support my dad’s gambling habit- so much is gone. More and more it is all one big faded memory. Memories of love and sadness.
I’ve been laying in bed for two days straight, trying to understand why Hershey’s death has sparked such depression. After all, he lived a wonderful life and had the best retirement on 10 acres of grass living with my aunt. He lived until he was 37 years old.
There is something extraordinarily painful about the death of a horse. In veterinary school I had to euthanize a few horses, and it was always dramatic and heart-wrenching. We’d have them up against a padded wall, then after injecting the pentobarbital solution their long graceful legs would buckle and their heavy bodies would crash violently to the earth.
Hershey saved my life; he gave me a reason to live. He needed me and depended on me. I needed to be strong for him and take care of him. And in turn he took care of me and shaped my life. Because of him I wanted to become a veterinarian. Because of him I escaped the household sadness and negativity. He showed me how to love, gave me responsibility, strength, and confidence. Did he have any idea as a pony he could do so much to a human?
And so I cry for Hershey and all the sadness in my past. I look out my bedroom window and picture him galloping freely in the clouds.