I first met Dewey when I started volunteering at Mylestone three years ago. He had already been a resident there for a year. I remember when Susankelly gave me a tour around the farm, she told me a little bit about each of the horses. When we got to Dewey, she told me that he was a Standardbred and came from the racetrack. She also said that he was head-shy and a bit difficult to manage. In other words, he still had a big chip on his shoulder from all of the abuse that he had suffered at the hands of previous owners. Something about him touched me that day and made me want to get close to him.
I soon found that getting close to Dewey meant having a lot of patience and a high tolerance for bared teeth and pinned ears. Dewey wanted things done on his own terms and in his own time frame. He enjoyed being groomed, especially his mane and tail, but when I would go to put his halter on to groom him, we would play “the waiting game”. I would try to put his halter on and he would turn away. I would then say, “Dew-EY”, and he would turn around and come towards me. As I reached to put the halter on, he would turn away again. We usually repeated this dance two to three times before he would walk over, lower his head and let me put on his halter. He wanted to be groomed, but only if it appeared to be his idea. As Dewey's trust in me increased, he allowed me to wash his face and ears. He would lower his neck so that I could brush his mane and his head would drop in complete relaxation when I brushed his tail. Afterwards, he always knew that there would be carrots to munch on. Dewey might have been a picky eater with the rest of his food, but he loved his carrots.
For those of us who were admitted into his “inner circle”, there always came a defining moment when we crossed the line and became his friend. For me, that moment came one Sunday afternoon when Dewey was laying down. I went into his stall and stooped to stroke his neck. He put his head on my arm and nickered at me. I knew that I had finally arrived.
Over the last month of his life, Dewey would let me put my arms around his neck and give him a hug. He never tried to move away and his ears weren't pinned back (I know because I looked). I believe that this was his way of saying “good-bye”.
Happy trails, my dear friend, until we meet again.
To read more about Dewey and his background, please visit him in Greener Pastures.
Dewey at Open House 2005 with one of his greatest fans, Darla (at left) an MER volunteer who kept him company while educating visitors about Dewey and Mylestone's rescued horses.