My bones ache, deep down ache.
Not pain, not real pain, not like when the needle man came, pulled my leg, my bad leg, hurt so much that i wanted to hurt him, smash his head in, but I didn’t, because I am a good girl, so I just stood there, being a good girl.
Sometimes, in the morning, they hurry me too much, expect me to walk too quickly, it takes a while for my old bones to get warmed up, get moving, but I do my best, try and keep up.
When the needle man came, she did that thing with her eyes, that crying thing and I leaned against her and she cried into my coat.
Outside, the others don’t always stay with me, I get scared that I will be left alone, but Jasper, Jasper is a good boy, he stays with me, makes sure that I am not on my own.
I am tired, glad that I don’t have to work anymore except when I see her fussing over one of the others and then I feel something I have no words for.
People think we are stupid, but we hear well and listen carefully and almost never forget anything and we watch everything.
Sometimes, late at night she comes and stays with me and i lean into her and smell her, such a familiar smell and I eat and we are there together and it’s good and safe.
I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t here, not really, just little pictures, myself, but young, my legs gangly and then later when I learnt to be a good girl and to try hard and do my best and I can remember running, when nothing ached and I can remember running with her, when the others could not catch us up and she laughed and when we got to the top of the hill she told me I was a good girl, a great girl and i was happy, knew I had done my best.
I remember running with the dogs, their music cutting across the morning mist and my excitement and the running, oh the running.
And i remember when she wanted me to go in circles and I tried, I really tried and sometimes she was pleased and told me I was a good girl and sometimes she was cross and i wanted to tell her that i was doing my best, but sometimes it hurt, because already my bones were beginning to ache.
i have met so many of the others over the years, black, brown, white, big and small. I am easy going, get on with everybody, I am known for it, for being a good girl, never starting fights, being difficult. Sometimes the others would just go away, never return and sometimes it would be me who left, but there was always a new friend,a new outside and besides she was always there, keeping me safe.
Nowadays, i would prefer to stay in the indoors, warm, no mud, plenty of food, so today, i am happy when no-body comes to take me & Jasper to the outside and even when no breakfast comes, I don’t worry, just stand looking out, being quiet, being a good girl.
Finally, she is there, breakfast in hand and I make the special food noise, the one that makes her laugh, but she doesn’t, not today and the breakfast is wrong, has sweeties in it. Sweeties are for afterwards, for after work, for when I have been an especially good girl, but, I eat them, enjoy them, even if it’s confusing.
And then the lorry comes and I wonder which of the others it is for and then she leads me out of the inside,slowly, carefully and I realize that the lorry is for me and I wonder where we are going and who the new friends will be and i am a bit excited, walk a little quicker, eager to get there, wherever there is.
I am good at travelling, so I don’t understand her face when i get on straightaway, she is normally pleased, likes it when i show everyone how good i am and then i am on and the lorry starts to move.
Everyone agrees, it is heartbreaking, the way the old mare sees the lorry and perks up, obviously thinking she is going somewhere. She almost trots up the ramp, loads herself and buries her big brown face in the hanging hay net.
The woman gets into the filthy battered tiny 4×4 and follows the horse transporter.
The hunt yard is quiet, very clean, solid brick stables and kennels full of hounds and terriers.
The mare comes off the lorry, head in the air, a little anxious, not sure where she is, what is happening. The men are quiet, gentle, stroking her head, finding treats in their pockets.
The woman pets the horse too, rubbing her ears.
Tears are pouring down her face, her shoulders shake with sobs.
The men nod, tell her its time, she hands over an envelope, payment for this service.
She walks back towards her car, turns for one last look, the men have produced a feed bucket and her last view is of the old mare, face in an unexpected second breakfast.
She drives away, twenty yards away, she has to pull over into a muddy gateway, where she is violently, horribly sick.