Monday, November 11, 2013

Shakespeare Lives

Awhile back I noticed that my sweet picture book The Perfect Pony had received a one-star review from a very disgruntled Amazon customer.  The reviewer found the book disgusting since its plot involved "buying a very expensive animal" for a small girl.  It made me laugh, for a couple of reasons, the primary one being that the pony the story is based on, my daughter's beloved Shakespeare, didn't cost us a dime.

When we moved to our farm my daughter was four, and by no conceivable definition of the word could she have been said to "need" a pony.  We already had a pony, my son's, a sweetheart named Hot Wheels, and my daughter was allowed to ride him.  Also, she was four.  But my daughter persisted, telling the workmen who were building the stable to hang the bucket hooks in the first stall low, "because my pony is small."  She talked relentlessly about, and to, her pony, who may have been imaginary but seemed very real to her.  "Hurry, pony," she said.

Then one day our farrier, Tom, came out to shoe my horse.  "You want a pony?" he asked.

I sighed.  "If it's small, elderly, broke to death, kid-friendly, and free."

Tom grinned.  "Yep," he said.

Shakespeare had been a high-dollar A-circuit show pony until a severe bout of laminitis very nearly ended his life.  Tom's radical care saved him but could only partially reduce the damage to the pony's feet:  he would never be sound enough for the show circuit again.  But he was perfectly sound enough to cart around a four-year-old child.  His owners didn't have their own land and were paying expensive board for a pony they could no longer use--besides his injuries, he was now too small for their growing child--and so Tom brokered a deal.  We got Shakespeare, free, on the condition that we care for him for the rest of his life.

He adored my daughter.  She adored him.  When she grew too big for him he became the turnout partner for my friend's gangly thoroughbred.  My nephews brush him; he gives them pony rides.

Shakespeare is thirty now.  On Saturday his face started to swell, and by nighttime, when I returned from an out-of-town meeting, he looked awful, one side of his face lopsided and his eyelids swelling shut.  I called my vet, Dr. E., who came out, lanced a horrible abscess on the pony's head, and looked grave, with discussions of sinus tumors and other possible problems, most of which meant saying good-bye.  On Sunday the pony looked better, but I did not feel hopeful, and my daughter, coming home from a friend's house, wept.  But this morning at the vet's, Dr. E extracted a rotten molar, and a great river of pus came with it, and I think, I hope, we may have Shakespeare with us a little longer still.