When we were in the process of moving from Hawaii to NY, one of my biggest concerns was the living situation. The North Fork of Long Island is suffering through an affordable housing shortage (reminds me of where we came from). There are no apartment buildings. There are apartments but many are not advertised. There are single family homes but many are seasonal only and not year round. The ones that are year round charge, on average, more than $2K per month. That does not include electricity, heat, garbage, water, cable and lawn service. You get the picture. I was very stressed out about where we would live. I was making contingency plans with the people I knew who lived there. My plan was to dedicate the first few weeks on the ground to finding a place to live.
And then, there was, what I can only describe as, divine intervention in the weeks before we were going to actually move. My divine intervention involved a working farm. It is how we ended up living over two donkeys and a horse. I don’t mean that metaphorically. Our downstairs neighbors are a horse (Ike) and two donkeys (Bugsy & Smokey). Sometimes at night the donkeys make a ruckus. Or in the early morning I hear them hee hawing (they really sound like that).
Ike spent the nights underneath us and the days in the pen outside our bedroom window. One time I looked out and he was lying down. I was a little startled and wondered if I should call someone. I googled horses lying down and found out that it did not mean that Ike needed a medic. Ike’s downstairs pen has two quaintly shaped windows in the brick face with wooden shutters that are always open. Every day, whenever Ike was in his pen, as I was coming or going or pulling up in my car at night, Ike would be hanging out with his head stuck out one of those windows. Just last week my aunt gave me a tired apple that she had in her fridge to give to him. I had learned that the best way to get him to take it without freaking out about his very large flat teeth, was to place it flat on my hand.
I had noticed that for the past week Ike had not been in his been but relegated to his stall inside. When I went to feed him that apple, I could see why. He always had a janky back leg but now it almost looked as if it was facing the wrong way and he seemed to not really be able to get around much. He took a bite of apple and part of if fell on the floor. He backed himself up against the gate and twisted in a way that made me nervous, to try to get the piece that had dropped. I enticed him with another piece that had fallen outside his pen. I didn’t think much of it until, just the other night, I went to close the blinds in the bedroom and Ike was lying on the ground in his pen. He had a blanket on him, two of the girls on the farm were crouched over him, stroking his head and the farm owner sat in his truck idling next to the pen. It was obvious that Ike was not doing well. At some point, I went downstairs. I did not really need to ask because you could feel the direness in the air. The sadness. I breathed it in. I offered the girls tea or coffee. In hindsight, it should have been a glass of wine or a beer. The last time I saw Ike alive he was standing in his pen. My son went down and said that he may have been standing but he actually could not move because of his leg. When I woke up the next morning I looked out the window into the darkness. Just beyond Ike’s pen, I could see a mound. As it grew lighter out, the mound became identifiable as Ike, lying on the grass under some blankets.
When I came in the night before, tears in my eyes, my son put his arm around me. I told him that I was sad. He told me that Ike was my first horse so it was to be expected. And it’s true, Ike was my first horse.
A new horse has taken up residence downstairs. We found out her name because that seemed appropriate and we had been calling her “not Ike”. But, truthfully, she is not Ike. And Ike’s face hanging out of his window was one of the first things that greeted me when we got here. All moved from Hawaii and anxious. And I miss him being there. Maybe we will love the new horse as much. But I think that it will take us a bit of time. And I think that she will actually never be Ike.