The whole time Hogan the horse was living it up as a pampered pet at the boarding stable, Bonnie did not ride him.
The truth was, she barely visited. Maybe Bonnie was preparing herself for a life without her horse, the very horse she’d dreamed for years about, the horse she couldn’t believe she’d managed to bring into her life against all odds.
The very horse she had failed.
Someone DID visit Hogan, though. Sometimes, it was a little troop of someones. They were small, lean and curious, and the ringleader was Dawn.
Bonnie’s little sister wanted her friends to see that she could lift Hogan’s hooves, that the wild beast would do this because he liked her.
It was true – when the horse trusted the person who asked, he would pick up his front hoof as pretty as a pup, almost as if he was shaking hands. It was charming, and when Hogan let her lift his front hoof, Dawn was infused with pride.
Bonnie had been told Dawn wanted to visit Hogan. She’d wondered guiltily if the horse was indeed lonely. It was hard to resist the idea of someone who loved Hogan, someone who had never harmed him, going to visit. She agreed the girls could go.
Bonnie had warned Dawn against going inside the confines of the box stall and crowding the horse. But Dawn was at that age – on her way to puberty – and wanted to show off a little for her friends. After all, it took some time to get to the stable, and she felt it should be worth it.
So, many years later, Dawn confessed that unseen by anyone, several lively girls had squeezed into Hogan’s space. The horse was fond of Dawn, and the woman who owned the stable, but he certainly didn’t like several unfamiliar girls sliding into his stall.
As soon as they’d all slipped in, the horse got agitated, and Dawn knew she had a problem. She couldn’t resist trying to lift a hoof, but Hogan plunged. He backed up, almost squishing one of the girls into the wall. Adrenaline kicked in and the girls fled.
This, Dawn knew, had been a narrow escape. The horse had already been involved in dangerous incidents; one of Bonnie’s friends had gone to the hospital. There was enough yelling and screaming going on at her house lately, and she didn’t want to get Bonnie or her mother upset. The day’s events would stay secret. As it turned out, for decades.
Meanwhile, Ava, Bonnie and Dean were working full time, while Jeff was going to school at least some days, working in the evenings, and driving across the region to see a girl. There were four cars in the driveway, all going different directions each day. The two youngest children were often left to stare from the porch as the rest of the family vanished.
Bonnie was very grateful to have a safe place for her horse. However, the Big Issue lingered.
Soon, the horse would have to have his hooves trimmed again. He would need his teeth looked after, and to have medicine for worms. Hogan, though, had lost his trust in almost everyone. He’d been tied and crashed to the ground before he came into Bonnie’s life, and then, under her management, he’d been drugged and pulled to the ground again. Twice.
None of these events had done the horse any good. The last time Hogan had gone to the earth was still burned into her brain. The vet had said something horrible that had a ring of truth:
‘It might be the kindest thing to have him shot.’
So Bonnie had asked a few people. How would this thing happen? Who would shoot her horse?
She wanted to have the horse shot quickly, then to bury him. She was informed that there were difficulties with burial of animals who weighed over five hundred pounds. Large machinery had to be hired, even if a person had land and permission.
She did not own property, like the Pindas did, and she suspected the brothers would take a dim view of the plan she was working on. Even though they themselves often killed and cooked up their own pet rabbits and chickens, the Pindas had been unhappy at times with Bonnie’s treatment of her horse.
The answer eventually came, and when it did, it was the worst solution an eighteen-year-old horse lover could possibly imagine.
‘You have to call the pet food company,’ someone told her gently. ‘They take care of everything. They’re professionals. They shoot the horse, and then they put his body in a truck and take him away.’
There would be no cost to Bonnie for these services, because the pet food company would have fresh product from a healthy animal. From her beloved, strong and brave horse.
Bonnie reeled. She realized the truth of the words, understood this was the road she would have to travel.
How would she speak of this to the wonderful woman at the boarding stable? How would she live with herself after the deed was done?
Christmas was coming, and she had no idea how she would get through it with this awful plan on her mind. To top it all off, Bonnie already knew that she and her family were about to have one of the weirdest Christmases ever