The souvenir of love.

My black appaloosa mare turned 17 this year in the broad daylight of a cloudless spring day—the first she’s had in her own pasture on her own farm, my backyard.

I try not to be morbid, ever, but sometimes I follow my mind to a dark place where all the what-ifs and inevitables bustle and carelessly frolic—curse this place. I begin to imagine that faraway day when I sit on my back porch and don’t see her in the pasture. I worry that it’ll ruin the life I’ve made here and I feel sorry for myself, the mountains, and this valley for the day that we’ll all witness her transition from this life to the next. And I cry. For something that hasn’t even happened yet. I steady myself for the tornado of grief that will likely uproot my entire existence because this has happened before, this tornado. We all wear the patch-job of loss and grief and we get on with it, changed but a survivor.

I force myself to keep thinking about it because surely there is a silver-lining, right? And, like the buoy I need, a thought comes to mind: Grief is the souvenir of love. I recently read that, and here it is, saving me. I start to reward myself for having a heart that could love this uncontrollably, relentlessly. It is what saves us. Our fearless, all-knowing hearts will save us.

With this singular beautiful thought my mind returns to this dreamlike place, my backyard. The Bitterroot Mountains are tall and proud and my mare is glistening and strong—breathless beauty. The stream, the crickets, the birds, the swishing of her tail—all suddenly heard with my being present. God has given this to me, this present day where life is but a dream. And He’s offered Himself and my own capable heart to me for when nothing else will be quite enough. I swell with tears thanking Him and this day for existing so she and I can be together. Always together because of this love.

This issue is brimming with love for our pets. It’s like love on steroids, the concentrated love that we wish we could dole out by the bottle. Here, take this, drink it down to the last drop. These stories are about celebration—of love and life and all the good that we and our animals have shared.