In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, sometimes it feels like winter is never going to end. For a horse owner, it offers cold-weather challenges such as snow drifts, frozen water tanks and temps well below zero. This season, the brave stewards of Clifford and Trudy, who took them in during dire straits in December have faced a hay shortage as well, due to the drought of prior summer.
I am so grateful to my friends who are caring for them. I haven’t seen much of the horses this past year, being consumed by Dad’s health issues, and then work commitments have taken me on the road. At every pet expo I attend with the dogs, someone inevitably asks, “Where is Clifford?”
The question always feels like a little kick in the gut, but it’s good to have the reminder that people still remember and care about him. He did make an impact. We traveled to Long Island New York, to Florida and all over Michigan, visiting expos and libraries to promote “Clifford of Drummond Island.” I thought I might be able to sell some books and entertain people a little bit with my funny house-trained horse. What I didn’t expect was the way Clifford was reaching out to certain people. He always gravitated to the smallest child in any group. If that child shrank away in fear, he would turn away and move on to someone who was not afraid. He was most remarkable with people in wheelchairs, nuzzling them softly without using the mouthing so characteristic of him. He usually would sniff and examine their legs at length. One quadriplegic boy asked if Clifford could take his baseball cap off. His mom asked him why. But I thought I understood. It was one way he could make contact. At my request, Clifford gently removed his cap and dropped it in his lap.
I hate to think of this talented horse’s time going to waste as we weather out a long winter and each crisis. The towing vehicle is broken. The trailer has seen better days. Financing travel with a horse can seem like a luxury during lean times. There are many stories of Clifford that I haven’t told yet, and they are the most wonderful stories of all. I hope we will be able to tour again, as we have just barely scratched the proverbial surface of what Clifford is able to do.
I’m sure there is another book in us, as we explore the mostly-uncharted territories of animals helping people with autism and other disabilities. Kids may not retain a lot of what we talk about, but they will never forget the day a horse came into their school!
Meanwhile, Clifford isn’t exactly suffering, as he munches away on some of the country’s best timothy hay, harvested right there locally in Pickford Michigan. The snow blankets him but he hardly bothers to lift his head. (Can horses burp?) Trudy in the meantime is checking out the cute little Morgan stud colt right over the fence.
Maybe spring is coming, after all.