9 of 9: Welcome Home Chuck

Horses can sense your excitement, and knowing this, Molly tried her best to act like she was calm and confident as she walked Chuckles around the trailer.

Molly recalled Natalie’s tales of their adventures together. How after his short-lived racing career, Natalie had competed with Chuckles at a variety of equestrian events…like eventing and jumping. They had quite a history together she had said, “We jumped as high as the jump standards would allow,” she had beamed. Molly marvelled at Chuckles, what a stunning animal. Sure, he was a little worse for wear now but she would fix that. She wondered why Natalie had stopped competing with him, but had never asked. 

It occurred to Molly that she had nothing to protect Chuckles legs for the trip. All of the horses at the farm where Molly took lessons wore leg protection when they trailered. She didn’t want him to kick himself during the ride back to Frank’s farm.

Wolf suggested they look at what Natalie had left behind, maybe there were some boots in there he could wear.  As luck would have it, right at the top of the big blue tupperware container of Chuckles stuff was a set of four fuzzy legs wraps, presumably for shipping.  

On the tub was written, “There is something about the outside of a horse, that is good for the inside of a man” – Ronald Regan”. Molly loved that quote, except that it was actually a quote by Winston Churchill. A reminder of how much younger Natalie was than Molly.

Wolf helped Molly put them on her horse, showing her how to wrap them and which leg to put which boot on. When it was time to put Chuckles on the trailer, Molly handed the lead rope over the Frank. She had never loaded a horse onto a trailer before, and no way she was going to learn how today.

After walking a wide circle, Frank led Chuckles up to the trailer with momentum and purpose. As they reached the step up, Chuckles stopped. He seemed to want to take a good look inside before getting in, and Frank let him take his time.

Frank reassured everyone that it was fine, and he again walked Chuckles away from the trailer, in a large loop and then back towards the entrance and this time Chuckles stepped up and in without hesitation. Frank tied him in with a bag of hay and in easy reach if he wanted to nibble at it during the trip. Chuckles would have taken many trips in a trailer before, so this wasn’t new for him.

In the process of walking Chuckles on, Wolf’s husband Steven had gotten stuck between the horse and the back corner while he had been trying to help guide him all the way in to the roomy livestock trailer. His face showed a flicker of fear as he realized Chuckles back end was between him and the exit. Darting his eyes between the horse and his narrow escape path, Steven took a breath and quickly side stepped past the haunches and moved off the trailer.

As they pulled out of the driveway of the farm, Molly heard a long, loud whinny come from Chuckles. She imagined, although it seemed silly, that he was calling to Natalie as he was leaving. He must have wondered what was happening and why she hadn’t been there to say good-bye, his best friend for so many years. 

They arrived at Franks farm in about an hour and a half. Chuckles walked off the trailer and seemed ok, a fact that relieved Molly. He could see the other horses in the field and gave a few excited snorts. His head was held high, showing his alert he was to his new surroundings, but he never looked afraid, only excited.

Molly smiled so hard her front teeth were dry as she walked Chuck around the property, letting him eat the grass and trying to be as calm as possible while he settled in. For starters, his name was now Chuck, not Chuckles. Chuckles sounded like a carnival clown name. Chuck suited him much better. Molly had been told years earlier that changing the name of a horse was bad luck, so this seemed a good compromise.

Bon appetit Chuck :)

Natalie had confirmed Chuck was current with his vaccinations, so he would pose no risk of disease to the other horses. Still, they would integrate him slowly, first letting them meet over the fence before putting them within striking distance of each other. Sometimes, when horses meet for the first time, the process for determining who’s in charge can be quite dramatic and scary to watch. Other times it’s uneventful. Regardless, it’s the nature of horses to meet and decide these things on their own terms.

What Molly would be in charge of, was clearing up Chuck’s scabs, and making sure he put some weight back on.

Chuck arrives at the new farm, and gets to know his surroundings.

3: Mid-Life Crisis

By the time she climbed out of the back onto the snow, cars were starting to pull over and people were getting out and walking over to the wreck. 

Molly wandered in a fearful haze until there, she saw her.  There was Betty, standing at a distance in a cornfield.  She was facing Molly but didn’t come forward. Molly tried, in the most encouraging tone she could muster, to call Betty over as she walked towards her. She didn’t recognize her own voice. 

“Oh God don’t run away Betty, it’s me.”

Betty slowly began to wag her tail and tentatively came toward Molly.  She looked like a dog who had been reprimanded for stealing food from the kitchen counter and wasn’t sure if they were forgiven yet.  Miraculously, she appeared physically uninjured. 

A man and woman came over asking questions, which Molly couldn’t understand, or answer. The man handed Molly her phone, “I think this is your phone,” he said. Molly took the phone but couldn’t remember what to do with it and handed it back. The man informed her that his friend had called 911, and it wouldn’t be long before help arrived.

Molly felt cold, and realized she didn’t have a jacket on. Gently taking Betty’s collar, she meandered back towards her car for a coat and a leash, both of which she found strewn about in the snow.  

She needed to call someone, she needed to call Frank. He needed to come get her. She took her phone from the man and still, she couldn’t use it. She handed it back and asked him to find Franks number and dial it for her. It rang and went to voicemail. She tried again, voicemail again. Why wasn’t he answering? She thought. He always answered his phone. 

She tried to reach him for over an hour, calling his cell and landline. When he finally picked up she cried, blubbering out some details and a rough description of where she was. When Frank arrived, he apologized that he had, unbeknownst to him, dropped his phone in the barn while doing chores and hadn’t even noticed it was gone. He was walking by his house when he heard the landline ringing inside and had thankfully gone inside to answer it.  

Fast forward to March 23, 2019 and things are quite different.  Like, for example, Molly was six years older and having what seemed suspiciously like a mid-life crisis.  She was turning 44 years old. 

She had slept well the night before, and was planning to make a list of everything she was grateful for as a way of celebrating the day… the day she was born. The list included the health and welling being of her dog Flicka, her horse Benjamin, her family, friends, her own health. Health was a bit of a big deal as there had been a lot of death and disease in Molly’s family fairly early on; and it just kept on coming over the years. It was never something to take for granted when things were settled down in the death department. She’d also lost her first two Great Danes quite young, young for a Great Dane even, to very sad circumstances. She was grateful her current one, although recently diagnosed with Addison’s disease, was still alive. So, a list seemed like a good thing to do. She’d read in a self-help book that writing down what you’re grateful for is a good thing to do, gets you thinking in the right way.  “The right way…huh,” she thought.

The day ahead looked promising, the sun was out, Frank was down to visit and they were making plans for the day. Frank had asked her to come out and watch the Kincardine farm the following week while he was away, which was very enticing. Molly was unemployed and not having much luck finding work since she finished her contract job at the local government services office. In fact, she hadn’t had much luck finding work since she quit her job in 2017.  While she didn’t regret the decision to do it, she had never really planned out what to do in her career after that; except a vague sense to “do good”. The motivation had been to get away from her old job, and take some time off follow other dreams, which she did. But she had no intention of going back the way she had came.

2: Where’s the dog?

A millisecond later she recognized the car was sliding, and tried to correct its course – but over-corrected.  The back-end of the car swished one way, and with another small correction, it swished the other way and then… Molly was no longer in control of her vehicle and it truly seemed to take on a life of it’s own, swishing back and forth making bigger and bigger fish tails along the highway, with increasing momentum.  Molly just froze, and a slow motion effect set in, just like in the movies. A surreal understanding that you are completely and totally out of control as something enormous takes over your life. It could all be over in a second.

This is what imminent death must feel like. Here it comes.

The car went from fish tails into a complete 180 degree turn, spinning across the highway and through the oncoming lane. The force of the car was jarred when it met a pile of dirty melting snow and dirt on the curb, launching the car into the air, flipping it. It finally came to land with the driver side of the car jammed in the ground.


When Molly came to, after what must have been just a few seconds, she couldn’t move and couldn’t get out. Her brain was struggling to deliver this information having sustained a whollop to the front and side of her head, with no air bags deployed.  

Where’s the dog, why can’t I hear Betty?

The memory came back of the last moments before impact, where the car had been flying through the air. Molly had felt Betty’s body fly past her head, between the front driver and passenger seat, she heard and felt the dog scramble in mid-air, her 130 lb body passing by like a sack of potatoes, catapulted from the back to the front, thumping the dashboard and then Molly had blacked out. 

Betty was nowhere to be seen or heard. Molly tried to call her, but her voice croaked, raspy and weak. She tried again to get out of her seat but couldn’t, she felt stuck.  She sat back again, and fumbled for her seatbelt, but couldn’t remember how to undo it. She touched her chest and realized she was attached by a seatbelt. Running her hands along the strap, down to the release button, she pressed it and felt the seat belt let her go. Her body slumping into the open space, unrestrained. She tried to open the drivers side door but the door was bent inward from being jammed into the ground.

Panic was starting to set in. Was Betty dead in the back?  Molly still couldn’t hear anything and hadn’t been able to turn around.  She turned to look for the dog and saw that the rear window had been blown out, along with all of her things, onto the ground outside, and still no Betty in sight. She had to get out and find her. 

Grasping the passenger seat headrest she pulled herself through the middle of the front seats, into the back seats and then pulled herself over and into the hatchback area. Still no Betty.

She couldn’t breathe. 

1 of 9: Setting out

On March 22nd 2013, Molly was in a ditch. More specifically, she was about to be catapulted into a ditch. 

She had taken the day off to drive to Kincardine and see her fiancé for the week-end. It was her birthday tomorrow. It’s a little under three hours drive to get to Kincardine from Burlington, so if she left in the morning, she’d have the whole day to enjoy. Spring had started the day before, the sun was shining and only the largest of the snow-plowed drifts remained, dirty and melting, after a long, cold winter. 

She carefully packed, ensuring the comforts of the suburbs were easily accessible from her bag. The town she was headed to was somewhat remote and Franks home, affectionately referred to by Molly as the “the cottage”, was cozy and equipped with the basics, but no more than that. After a quick check to ensure she had enough dog food for her Great Dane, Betty, they were off.

As she drove out of her townhouse parking garage into the sunlight, a wave of relief and excitement washed over her. Something about setting out on a trip, leaving the daily grind of work behind and having a place to go where someone’s waiting for you.  

As she settled into the drive, Molly checked the rear view, catching a view of Betty, sitting up, ears perked, watching the traffic go by, unaffected by the large trucks roaring on the highway. Such a good girl.  Reaching for the radio dial she tuned into the local pop station for a song that fit her celebratory mood and settled on a predictable top ten count down. 

About an hour into the trip they had reached the end of the Guelph city line and headed onto Highway 89, a busy transport truck highway. The road was marked at a speed limit of 90 km an hour with a couple of adjustments for tiny towns where the limit went down to 50 km for the length of the little towns intersection. Typically this was about the length of two eye blinks.  It was a fast highway and if you stuck to the speed limit, you were likely to encounter an obnoxious driver going well over 120, dangerously passing you, narrowly missing an oncoming car or truck in the process. 

It was around 10 a.m. and the sun was coming out on a brisk morning.  You could feel spring just around the corner. Molly hadn’t encountered any of the crazy week-end drivers yet. They tended to come out around 2 p.m., furiously making their way to cottage country on Lake Huron. A key detail to mention is that Highway 89 is quite straight, except for one area where it snakes a little to form a fairly sharp “S” as it passes through two farmsteads and weaves around their old stone landmarks.

Molly was going the speed limit in her little hatchback and was looking ahead bopping along to the number 2 song, some overly produced piece of crap with an undeniably catchy melody to it.

She considered whether to pass a small, slow moving vehicle up ahead.  A confident driver, Molly had no issues navigating slow moving vehicles and felt they were quite dangerous on a highway.  As she contemplated the bumper of the car ahead, she headed into the the “S” curve of the highway.

It was at this moment she felt a subtle and unnatural shift, followed by the spine-tingling awareness that something terrifying was about the happen. In that second, she could feel the car continue straight when it should have followed the curve. Molly stiffended as the thought of black ice flickered across her mind.