Tuesday, July 19, 2016

We have a birthday on November Hill!

Rafer Johnson is our midsummer night's dream birthday boy and he is 9 years old today. It seems like yesterday that he came to live with us, but he's been with us through many moments of joy, laughter, and a few trials and tribulations as well.

Rafer broke his leg when he was a year and a half old and his speedy and complete recovery here on November Hill taught me so much about how caring for equines to keep them happy so healing is easier.

Rafer was the donkey who would bring the hoof pick to me and request that his hooves be cleaned. He would follow my daughter over jumps on the pony in the arena. He has tried to lunge the pony with the lunge whip, often stands in the middle of the arena and gives me lessons when I ride Keil Bay, sometimes tips my mounting block over while I'm riding as a joke, and turns the lights on in the barn if he gets tired of the dark.

He became Salina's best buddy almost instantly but he's also a good friend to each of our equines. Now that Salina is gone Rafer and the pony have become very close. 

Rafer stood by Salina in her feisty years with us as well as the years she began to slow down and decline. The last year and a half of her life she would sometimes get down and be unable to get up without our help, and Rafer (and Redford too) would stand on either side of her and bray to let us know we needed to come out and help her.

When she needed to stay near the barn he stayed with her. If she called he came. And when she finally went down one final time and we knew she just didn't have it in her to get up again, he touched her nose and then he went with Redford to the front field to join the geldings while we said goodbye.

He came back when she was gone to say goodbye again and then he turned to me and put his head up on my chest and gazed into my eyes. It was the purest expression of grief and love I have ever seen.

Rafer stood by her grave on a regular basis over the next few months. Not so much in mourning but in the way that felt like he was visiting with her for a bit. I let her halter hang on the hook for over a year after she left us. Rafer would on occasion take it down and walk around with it. I know he misses her. 

I always said that Salina was the heartbeat of November Hill and when she passed away I believe Rafer took on that role for her. He's a very special guy and we love him dearly.

Happy birthday, Rafer Johnson! We'll have a party this afternoon and get your birthday portrait then.


Matthew said...

Happy Birthday Rafer!

Can't believe it's been nine years already. You give the best hugs on all of November Hill.

billie said...

You are so right - he does give the best hugs!

Anonymous said...

What a lovely tribute to a fine guy! Happy birthday!

Portia said...

The bond between animals can be truly amazing!

billie said...

Portia, I am constantly in awe of how strong they often are.

billie said...

Thanks, Kate. They all got apples and oats with dinner tubs as a birthday treat.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Nine years!

Rafer is a lucky boy indeed to live with such a loving family. This is the very best we could ask for our kids.



billie said...

Marty, thank you so much - for the birthday greetings and for making it possible for these two loving donkeys to come into our family. They knew a loving home from the time their little hooves hit the ground and I believe that is a huge part of what makes them so special.

I will give them both a hug from you. :)

Grey Horse Matters said...

Happy Belated Birthday to you Rafer! Your are truly one of a kind. His special bond with Salina brought tears to my eyes reading about it. I'm sure he had a wonderful celebration with all his buddies and enjoyed the attention. I remember when you got him it doesn't seem like nine years. Time flies!

billie said...

Thank you, A. I was thinking about how many things have happened in this 9 years, specifically among the blogging community. We've all had good times and hard times and I love that we all remember those with one another. Thank you for being such a long-time cyber-friend!!