Are you caring for someone today or have you done so in the past? Either way, how do you define the word, "caregiver"?  Like so many words, the definition is heavily dependent on the definer perspective and on your personal experience with observing or perhaps being a caregiver yourself.  Everyone's experience is, of course, unique, but even so, many of the same essential characteristics are universal to all great caregivers.  And, caregivers come in all shapes, sizes and life forms as we have learned as we've watched our 4-legged family of dogs, cats, horses and donkeys look after each other over the past 22 years.  

Shown in the photo to the right are Jessie, the beautiful fellow taking a rest.  Standing attentively behind him is awesome Miss Velvet -- who is most always at his side (both Tennessee Walkers).  She is indeed an essential caregiver when it comes to Jessie's spirit and mental health. We will always give her lots of the credit for significantly bolstering his will to live.

Jessie was severely abused before we were blessed with his coming into our lives over 20 years ago.  He has seemed to relish his time and adventures with all of us, proved to be one great and strong horse to ride and he is definitely our barn clown and a tough, but loving leader of our little herd of donkeys and horses.   He is absolutely the best and smoothest horse I have ever ridden especially when cantering or galloping on long stretches of trails or roads.  And, yes, Jessie could tax me at times too. For example, he would ocassionally have attitude snits while out on the trail. All of us need attitude adjustments from time to time, right?  His challenging moments, however, included sudden rearing and walking backwards at a dang fast pace. Rearing is never good, but the walking backwards antics, could be a bit nerve-wracking as well especially when we were on tight high altitude mountain trails with no room for error.  Fortunately, though, his bad attitude moments were few and far between with me, but not so when others would try to ride him (so we had to stop letting others ride him eventually). 

Today, ol' Jessie needs to lie down often due to his very tender and painful front hooves as he struggles with extreme lameness, old age and Cushings disease.  I haven't been able to ride him for many years now in order to help slow down the progress of his hoof issues.  We have and continue, of course, to do everything we can to reduce his pain and keep him comfortable. We also have brought in and consulted with farrier specialists, vets and many others to advise us and help sweet Jessie.  We also depend on these amazing horse experts to help guide us to ensure we are not holding on too tightly if that tough decision must be made to put him down.  Unfortunately, that day is getting very close, but in the meantime, we're all part of his loving and loyal caregiving team.

The "all" includes me, my hubby and all the rest of Jessie's loyal followers (Miss Velvet along with seven of the sweetest donkeys you could ever meet. Over the years, we have lost 3 horses and 2 of our donkeys to death, but each of them lived long, good lives here at Little Hee Haw Farm.

Velvet rarely leaves Jessie's side and the donkeys nuzzle him with gentle nose kisses and stick nearby his V.I.H. (Very Important Horse) indoor/outdoor infirmary "suite" during the days and nights.  Besides the emotional and mental support, they also play a key role in keeping guard to ensure unwanted mountain critters like coyotes and bear stay the heck away.  Each of the four-legged barn gang are indeed dependable and faithful caregivers and Jessie is one lucky horse to have them looking over him -- just as they have been blessed to have such a loving and great herd leader as Jessie is to them. 

Top notch caregivers serve a huge and critical role in the welfare and care of others (whether 2 legged or 4 legged).  They each bring they unique talents to their important roles, but they also have several things in common -- they have strong spirits, they are caring, unselfishly attentive and loyal.  And so it is with Jessie's animal caregivers - they instinctively stay by his side and no doubt will keep doing so until the very end.  Their attentiveness and bond with Jessie makes all the difference as he faces the challenges of his disability, aging and what no doubt is his final chapter.  

Please make sure  you thank the caregivers you know often and let them know how highly you value and respect their work - theirs is no doubt one of the most challenging jobs on earth - both mentally and physically.  As for me, I am heading out to the barn now to give extra hugs and oat cookies to our Jessie, Miz Velvet and all our donkey caregivers - they are indeed every bit as important and needed in Jessie receiving the best of care and comfort as are his medications and proper vet care. 

~ Caregivers are  the real Super Heroes. 

They are just disguised in comfortable shoes and clothes

Or --- with furry suits and really long ears ~

Woodburning project I did in honor of Jessie and his buddy, Willie B

About the author 

Nancy Byerly Jones

Nancy Byerly Jones and her husband reside on their mountainside ranch (“Little Hee Haw Farm”) with an energetic “family” of horses, donkeys (large and miniature), dogs and cats. Their favorite pastime is sharing the joy and fun of their animals and ranch life with their family, friends and clients.

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