They say that animals don’t “feel”.
Meet Blackie. At least that’s what we called her, as kids. It may even have been her real name, it’s been so long I’m no longer sure.
That’s Eddy Miller on his rounds with her. Hadn’t thought about Blackie for many years, despite the large part she played in my childhood, so imagine my surprise, if not joy, at stumbling on this image of her online!
She had been doing the job so long that she needed nothing more than the sound of empty bottles being loaded and she would walk, just as far as would be required to drop off the number of bottles in a crate, and stop, waiting patiently for the next chinking cue.
She knew every kid on the street, which ones would offer a rub, and which ones were most likely to harbour the kind of tidbit that horses probably shouldn’t indulge in, yet, not wanting to appear rude, would accept graciously. Despite a wonderfully, easy-going disposition she was no angel: many a prize rose met its demise when Eddy wasn’t watching, causing all sorts of ruckus when caught in the act.
In 1983 a new ruling was brought into force regarding the pasteurisation of milk. The equipment required was too expensive for Eddy to even consider investing in. At one stroke of a mandarin’s pen, an era ended and Blackie was out of a job.
Not that you could tell her that. First day of her “retirement”, crack of dawn, she was at her usual place expecting to be harnessed up. And the next day. And the next…
Whatever passes for confusion in horses, turned to whatever passes for depression. She so missed her routine, that within a few days she had stopped eating; and a few weeks after her forced retirement she was dead.
It is, of course, considered fanciful to believe that animals have the same feelings as humans. Yet, are not humans merely animals?
As a child I came to believe that Blackie died of a broken heart. Nothing I have learned in the years since have suggested a more plausible alternative.