The ride that day started out as every other trail ride we had taken together. Montauk would run ahead or lag behind, searching and sniffing at all the amazing smells the fields and woods had to offer. Finn was steady under saddle. His ears were perked forward and his relaxed gait steadied my nerves and all the day’s worries slowly slipped away. We galloped up the hill and headed into the woods at a comfortable trot. Montauk was at our heels, enjoying the run and the peaceful quiet of the trail. In a few moments, I would find myself laughing until I cried, not something I would expect on a typical trail ride.
Up ahead, Montauk had found a swampy mud hole. It was a deep, black and reeked of stagnant swamp water. Before I could stop him, Montauk ran as fast as he could into the black mess. As he ran, I watched as he was dropped his right shoulder and slid, twisting his body around so that when he got to his feet, my beautiful yellow lab was now a black smelly mess except for the small blond triangle around the top of his nose.
Here I was alone in the woods with my horse and my dog and I all I could do was laugh. I laughed so hard and so loud that I started to cry and my body shook. Montauk stood there wagging his tail as if he had just placed first at the Westminster Dog show. Big globs of mud slid from his body as he looked up to me with a glint in his eye and I could almost swear he was smiling. He had found a moment of bliss and taken advantage of it to its fullest extent. How could I fault him for that?
Finn looked down at him and snorted; his ears pricked forward and then back as he listened to my laughter. So in the silence of the forest and in the company of my two dear friends, I experienced the happiest day of my life.
We finished our trail ride and along the way, Montauk was able to find a clean pond to wash away the muck. I galloped Finn as if he was back on the racetrack. I felt every hoof beat touch the ground until we reached the moment when the fluidity of his movement made me feel like we were no longer hitting the ground but floating above it. The sweat that seeped from his neck smelled sweet and the rhythm of his body felt like we were flying. I could feel his muscles move under me as I grabbed some of his mane for balance. I peeked over my right shoulder and watched as Montauk was trying his best to keep up with us. For a brief moment, Finn, Montauk and I were one.
As we walked down to the barn after that ride, I was content. For the first time in a long time, I was at peace. I had just experienced one of the best rides of my life and at the time, I truly thought I had found nirvana. There were no blue ribbons at the end of this ride, nor was there a shiny silver trophy. Instead, there was an indescribable peace in my heart.
But life does not have a rulebook but it does have rules. And one of those is that nothing last forever. Within six months of that perfect ride, I would be homeless and sleeping in my van in the middle of the cold New England winter on many a night. Had it not been for Montauk I would have frozen to death. And in the short span of two years I would be burying Finn, my soul mate, after complications from a botched castration procedure. The threesome would be no more. There would no longer be a second chance at nirvana for Finn, Montauk and I. I had been given a glimpse at it and for those few minutes, I had experienced complete happiness. With Montauk’s mud covered body, and a great horse under saddle, I sat alone in the woods and had one of the best times of my life. I had a slice of happiness that I naively thought would and could happen again.