Good Eats and Sweet Treats from My Small Boston Kitchen

An Ode to Goose

Yesterday I laid my greatest treasure to rest. He was a 1250lb bay gelding named Goose, and he was the first, and greatest, love of my life. His death was completely unexpected, and far too sudden — many years sooner than any of us ever imagined. He left behind me, his heartbroken mom, his fairy godmother L, his favorite (human) companion M, and his (equine) girlfriend Alex. Not to mention his fan club, for everyone that met Goose loved him. He was a barn favorite, an all-star under saddle, a strikingly handsome gentleman, and a cuddly goofball who made everyone smile. He had the face of a saint and the most enchanting eyes. He made my heart melt every time I saw him, and he gave me more in this life than I deserved.

Goose came into my life nearly 15 years ago. His official registered name was Sebastian W, and he was the heir of an olympic champion show jumper, Abdullah. W stood for “Williams,” the last name of his first owners, and the family that had owned and bred Abdullah and Goose’s mother Sandra Lee. We got a “bargain” on Goose when we bought him from the Williams’, since his long back wasn’t an attractive feature to serious competitors in the horse show world. To me, however, he was an absolute prize. I never stopped feeling that way.

It took us many long months to find the perfect horse. I’d ridden for years when we started the search, and we’d owned one horse before we went looking for a second time, but Goose was to be THE horse for me. He’d take me through high school and beyond. He’d teach me all the important things a horse teaches a young girl, like responsibility and commitment, hard work and dedication. We went on countless visits and test rides before we found him, but the day we watched that first video of Goose, we all decided he was the one. My mom and I drove 5+ hours up to northern New York state to meet him, and immediately fell in love. He was a green 5 year old, just started under saddle the spring before we bought him, and he was going to be a project. I was young and somewhat inexperienced, but figured that the two of us could grow together. On October 18th, 2002, he arrived in Western Massachusetts and he joined our family. What followed in the many years after that was such a powerful story of deep connection, true friendship, and undying love. When we laid him in the ground yesterday, a piece of myself that I will never get back went with him.

With mom and dad, and our fairy godmother Lani

As a young horse, he was afraid of everything. We often called him a silly goose for whatever ridiculous and exaggerated behavior he was displaying at the time, and somehow over the years, the name stuck. He affectionately became known around the barn as Goose, and many of the people who met him in his later years never even knew his real name was Sebastian. Explaining why we called a big, tall, majestic horse ‘Goose’ was always a bit comical and sometimes confusing, but somehow, it just worked.

We shared so much in our 15 years together. He was an incredible teacher — mostly of patience, perseverance, and passion — as well as a wonderful listening ear, a soft place to land when the woes of life felt too heavy, and a beloved companion who saw me through so many different and challenging phases of life. He caught a lot of my tears over the years, endured many slobbery kisses, and tolerated a lot of debauchery with a great attitude always. We had such happy times, but we had darker periods too. The sickness that took him from us used to knock at our door constantly, once even wiping out a pricey insurance policy with a several thousand dollar surgery that would change the course of his life forever. He’d had so many happy, healthy years since that surgery. I think we all expected many more of them in the future. I feel a bit like I took our time together for granted, never realizing how short it might be, but I’m also so grateful for every single moment that we had. He had the power to turn any day around, to lift up even the heaviest heart, and to create sheer joy and magic with a simple look.

He was such a kind soul, with those big, beautiful, soft eyes, and the most wonderfully animated personality. His face would light up whenever he heard familiar voices, and he loved little more than a cuddle at the end of a good ride. Carrots, Rounders horse treats, peppermints, and his friend Alex were among his favorite things. She may have loved him a little bit less than he loved her — the relationship was always somewhat uneven — but they were quite the pair, and they spent years’ worth of happy, companionable days together munching hay and grass and chasing each other through fields. Watching her stare at his lifeless body yesterday was nothing short of heartbreaking.

Goose was my greatest blessing to date. Maybe one day when I marry and have a baby, I’ll have to rethink that statement, but as I rapidly approach 30 and am taking stock of my life so far, I can look at him and think of what an incredible gift he was. He enriched my life in so many ways, and I don’t think I quite knew or acknowledged them all until he was gone. On his last morning, I didn’t even get to say goodbye, a reality I can hardly forgive myself for, and something I will regret for the rest of my days. My parents, Lani, and his most steady human companion Moe were all with him for those last breaths. He was surrounded by so much love as he left us, and covered with so many sorrowful tears in the hours after. I showered him with kisses, on the ears and around his nose, my two favorite places to snuggle in and get a good whiff of him. I was grateful for the familiar smell, and for one last chance to soak it in before we said goodbye forever. I sat on the ground next to his lifeless body for hours, thinking that as soon as I got up and walked away, that would mean it was all real. We would have to share our final farewells. I never ever wanted to say goodbye.

We laid him to rest in a horse-size grave yesterday afternoon, on the property where he spent the happiest years of his life. He had been happy and thriving only a day before, and standing there looking down at him I thought of how unfair it was that he wasn’t given more time, more years, more frolicking in the pasture and time chasing his woman, more carrots and back scratches and trail ride and naps in the sun. It seemed to me then, and it still seems to me now, like a cruel injustice that his time was cut so viciously shortly. Into his grave I tossed a few Rounders for good measure, and then we left him there in the ground to rest peacefully forevermore. It was the hardest day of my life so far. Goose was my kindred spirit, my rock, my best (non-human) friend, my lifeline, my heart, and my whole life. I don’t know what life will look like without him in it, but I do know that it will feel empty for a long while, and a part of my heart will always be reserved only for him. He gave me purpose and meaning, he was a significant part of my personal identity, and without him, I have to completely reconsider who I am, and what gives my life meaning.

Last night, we had my grandparents over for dinner. We needed a distraction from the absolutely gut-wrenching day we’d had, and my grandpa offered a nugget of wisdom that I’m trying to hold onto. He said, the sorrow you feel now is just a measure of the joy you felt during his life. You had so many wonderful times together over the years, and the pain in this moment is acute and overwhelming because of them. Deep sorrow and heartbreak mean that there was something truly powerful and special that was lost. And he was right, what Goose and I had was something I don’t expect to experience again in my life. It was beyond words and beyond sensibility, it was just love, and companionship, and an understanding of each other on a completely different level. Some people might think that’s not possible with an animal, but Goose was a soul mate for me, and I will miss him for the rest of my days.

As I drove home last night I played this song on repeat. While not written for this particular scenario, the words ring so true for me. Today, tomorrow, and for the rest of forever, my love for Goose will extend to the ends of the earth, to the moon and back.

Rest easy, my sweet boy. I will love you always.

Through the dirt and the gravel
Through the years and the miles
Every road that you traveled
Through the tears and the smiles
Through the clear and the muddy
Through the thick and thin
The quiet nights, the howling wind

Through the good and the ugly
The blue and the black
To the ends of the Earth
To the moon and back

Through all of the words
The mean and the kind
Through the strings that unravel
And the ties that bind
From the crazy and the different
To the more of the same
From the coast is clear
To a hurricane

Yeah, I’ll be right beside you
On a roll or off the tracks
To the ends of the Earth
To the moon and back
To the moon and back

Through the bitter and the sweet
The cold and the fire
Lonely cotton sheets
And the burning desire

Until our song is over
Til the stars all fade to black
I’m gonna love you
To the ends of the Earth
To the moon and back
Yeah, I’m gonna love you
All the way to the moon and back

To the moon and back

2 Responses to “An Ode to Goose”

  1. Deb says:

    Wiping away the tears as I read this Tar. Your grandpa is so wise and so kind. Big hugs and heartfelt sympathy sweet girl. We are all so sorry.

  2. Emma says:

    Shedding tears with you as well. So sorry, Taryn. <3 his impact and your wonderful years together are nothing short of amazing.

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