She knew I had neighbors in the hospital, and she remembered one. He was a big grey stallion and was in a contraption to keep him from lying down. The hospital people told her he had been injured by the big moving box.
So she made up a story about who he was and what we talked about. She gave him the name of her friend's horse. Her friend's horse is a very special stallion with a very special name.
Here is a sample of what she made up:
* * * * *
My friend Valentin had stopped talking, so I watched the horses down the hill again. I was watching them jump when I heard a familiar noise, so I turned and looked out of my stall door. Auntie Niki and Miss Tina were outside.
Auntie Niki came in first. She patted the side of my neck. “How are you, Snoop?”
“Says on his chart he’s got a little fever,” Miss Tina said as she walked in. I felt her hand touch my hip, then run down my leg. “Cast looks good.”
“They’ve still got him sedated,” Auntie Niki said. “He’s not very chewy.”
I don’t know what sedated meant, but she was right. I didn’t really feel like putting anything in my mouth that wasn’t food. Auntie Niki never let me push my nose against her, but today she did. She scratched my face between my eyes. It felt good.
“It’ll probably be at least a week before he comes home,” Miss Tina said. “I’ll have the guys prep a stall. He’ll have to be on straw until the cast comes off.”
Straw. So that’s what the long, sticky bedding was.
They walked back toward the door. I swung my leg around and faced them.
Miss Tina pointed at my cast. “Poor guy. Hope that doesn’t have to stay on long. I’d hate to have him founder.”
“See you tomorrow, Snoopy,” Auntie Niki said and they left.
“Valentin?” I had questions, and he seemed like a smart horse. I had to call him a couple of times. He was pretty cranky by the time he answered.
“Miss Tina and Auntie Niki said things I don’t understand.”
“What else is new?”
“Nothing’s new. You’ve only been asleep a little while. The horses down the hill are still jumping—”
“Never mind, Snoopy. What didn’t you understand?”
“Auntie Niki said I’d been, um, es-dated.”
“What?” I could hear him shake his mane and snort. “You must mean sedated. It means you were given medicine to make you calm and even sleepy.”
“Oh. And Miss Tina said she hoped I didn’t founder.”
Valentin was very quiet for awhile. Then he spoke. “That is a serious fear, Snoopy. We need to keep the blood flowing in our legs, up to our heart and down to our hooves. If it doesn’t keep flowing and feeding our feet, they begin to hurt. The wall that supports our hoof starts to decay.”
“Then what happens?”
“Eventually the bones fall through the hoof. If you have a human who loves you, they have you put down before that happens. It is excruciating—I’m sorry—it is very painful.”
I thought about Uno. Holly had said his leg was hurting and the bones would soon go down through his hoof. She said there was pain that would heal and there was forever pain. I shared this with Valentin.
“Could that thing, founder, happen to me?”
He shuffled around in his stall. “It could happen to either of us.”
“But maybe not, right?”
“Right. Maybe not.” He didn’t sound like he believed in maybe.
“Right. It won’t happen to me. Or to you.”
“If you say so.” Valentin chuffed a little. “I’m curious. With a name like My Flashy Investment, how did you get nicknamed Snoopy?”
“I’m not sure. Mom said I was named Snoopy before I was born. She was at a horse show and I was growing in her tummy. MomToo said I was the size of a beagle, whatever that is. Then Auntie Niki started calling me Baby Snoopy. I don’t know why.”
“I don’t get it, either, but it is a good name for you. You are very inquisitive.”
I wasn’t sure what inquisitive meant, so I asked him, “Is Valentin your only name, or do you have more?”
“I believe it is all I need. I am an Andalusian of very old breeding. My sires and dams can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when we were warriors on men’s battlefields. I myself have sired twenty foals and I am only sixteen. I was on my way to visit with another mare when I had my unfortunate accident.”
“You’re such a smart horse. I only know my mom and dad’s names. Oh, and one grandfather.”
“You are a Quarter horse, yes?”
“I hope I am not too impolite, but your breed does not have the kind of history as my own. You were born of this land, which is very young compared to where I come from. I would not expect much history from you. No offense.”
“It’s okay. Mom’s the one who remembers stuff. I forget a lot. She told me I wasn’t an old spirit, like her. My spirit is brand new.”
“For a Quarter horse, your mother is wise. It’s too bad I can’t meet her. Is she still at the place where you were born?”
“Sure. I still live there, too.”
“Amazing! Her human kept you, too?”
“MomToo? Well, sure. She rides me.”
“Snoopy, you are a lucky horse. I myself had passed through two owners by the time I was your age. I’m now on my fourth.”
“Is that bad?”
“No, they have all been nice humans, even if they weren’t always wise. It’s just hard to say goodbye, go to a new home, make new friends. I guess change comes to everyone.”
He was quiet again. I guess he was thinking about everyone he said goodbye to, and I started thinking about Uncle Snowy, and Johnny and Tucker. Uncle Snowy was still in the pen where I used to be, but Johnny went away one day in the moving box, and Tucker went to a horse show with me, then went home with someone else.
I did miss them, but I meet so many new friends, it makes it all okay. Like Valentin. I only understood half of what he was saying, but he had a pretty way of talking.
Soon I heard another kind of noise outside my stall. It sounded like the cart at home, the one that brings my hay. It took forever, but finally I watched a man walk toward my door with something green in his hand. It was a whole flake of hay for me. I hadn’t had anything to eat in forever, since the last time.
I was so hungry, I might have tried to eat the lady in white.
* * * * *
I'm okay with her telling a little story sometimes. For MomToo, it's possible I talked with my neighbor. It's not exactly a lie, if you don't know whether it's true or not. What do you think?