Monday, October 1, 2012

Finding Joy

Wild Horse Scientists will be released five weeks from today! I'm very excited about this, and will soon have a bit of good news to share about the book. Keep watching this space! In the meantime, I came across an article about a study published a couple of years ago in the journal Animal Behavior that I wanted to share. The study suggested that some horses never forget the humans who have treated them well, even after a separation of months or years. This bond with humans is believed to be an extension of horse behavior in the wild—social relationships described in Wild Horse Scientists, too. Wild horses maintain long-term bonds with members of their family group, but they also interact temporarily with members of other groups when forming herds.

"Equid relationships," say the study's authors, "are long-lasting and, in some cases, lifelong." You can read more about it here.

Lifelong bonds. I've been thinking about this a lot today, because my heart is kind of breaking over the loss of one of those bonds in my own life.You may have seen his photo, along with his best friend, Finn, if you've visited my website, or my last blog post. Asa's the guy on the right.

I write about horses and other animals because I love them, and I've never loved any animal more than Asa, a ridgeless Rhodesian Ridgeback who joined our family 12 years ago this summer, when he was a wrinkly puppy with long ears, no bigger than the Jack Russell terrier who was then the other dog in the house. Asa grew quickly to over 100 pounds, but he never lost his puppy sweetness. He was beautiful and gentle and loved everyone, but what I will always remember the most about him is that he was a very happy dog. He could be silly, such as this time when he decided to fit his very big body into his "brother's" very small bed:

Or he could be quiet and comforting, happy just to stretch his big body out next to me on the couch and lay his broad, soft head on my lap. And even as he got older and developed some physical issues that made it harder for him to run and prance as he'd always done, he never let it bother him much. He was still a happy dog. Until the very end, when he suddenly became very sick, he loved every day of his life, no matter what. He found joy in the simple, doggy things he did, which is the most important attribute, to me, of the scientists I wrote about in Wild Horse Scientists. They, too, love what they do, so that even hard work must seem, at least some of the time, like play. Because I wish that for everyone, including myself, today I dedicate this page to the memory of Asa. I'm so very sad that he's not lying here on the ottoman in my office where he belongs, but I found a quote, attributed to both Dr. Seuss and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and I don't know to whom the words belong for sure. But this is what I will tell myself when I think of my lovely, happy dog: 

Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

June 17, 2000—September 30, 2012 


  1. I am so moved by your description of beautiful Asa and his happy, joyful spirit. Love how these photos show the different sides of his personality.

    Thinking of you.

  2. Thank you so much, Sheri. I'm glad to know that some of Asa's spirit is coming through in my words. I feel as if he's still with me, in some way.