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  • Writer's pictureHelms Hill Farms

Goodbye George

It is with heavy hearts that we announce George’s crossing of the Rainbow Bridge today.

If you ever visited our farm, you very likely met George. At 17.2 hands, he was hard to miss. He usually made his presence known by letting out a horrendous half-ass bray that pretty much everyone on our road knew and recognized. George came to us for retirement in fall of 2019 from his former home at Horsepower Therapeutic Center.

Obviously a stubborn draft mule isn’t super therapeutic, but he fit in very well with our herd. His best friends included our donkey, Gunny, and our mustang filly, Delilah. Not sure if he thought he was small or if he just enjoyed the role of “large, grumpy uncle”.

He annoyed the ever-loving snot out of us sometimes, particularly when he thought it was dinner time and would stand outside of his stall and paw at the door, demanding to be let in. Or when he’d walk over to the round bale specifically to pee in the fresh hay.

George spent most of his life as a carriage mule with his brother, Luther. When he came to us with a saddle, and Ben threw it on him one night for a short trail ride and shot a picture to his owners, it was “oh look, he’s broke!”. He eventually enjoyed occasional trail rides, usually with our matriarch, Sonny, who thoroughly enjoyed matching George’s “slow as molasses” pace. We even took him in the Cat Square Christmas Parade, and he loved every bit of show-stopping attention he received.

We knew when George retired to us that he was not likely long for this world. He and his brother were both mid-twenties, riddled with arthritis, and enjoying being our local pasture menaces.

However, we were also pretty sure he was plotting to outlive us specifically so he could eat the grass off our graves.

Instead, we’d seen the signs that this summer would be his last. His arthritis had progressed to the point where his medications were no longer helping. He’d lost weight and his appetite with it, despite extensive feed regimens, teeth floating, and deworming.

And worst of all, he’d lost his spark. While we’re incredibly selfish for trying to prolong his time on earth as long as possible, we couldn’t help but want more time to love this gentle giant. But in the end, it wasn’t fair of us to try and put him through another winter.

His last days were as nice as we could make them. We closed our driveway gates to let him graze down the lush yard. Bought bags of apples and carrots for him to munch on. Braided his mane for possibly the first time in his life, albeit not very well. He tolerated one last bubble bath (he’s never been very thrilled with all the shampoos, conditioners, and mane/tail/coat sprays as he thought he was too manly to be pampered).

In the end, George was laid to rest on our property here in Lincolnton. He went out in true mule fashion: grazing a few last bites while the sedation took effect and then trying to get back on his feet, almost as if to say “look, I’ve been a pain in your ass for two years, what’s 5 minutes more?”

Thank you to our dear vets at Vale Veterinary Hospital for always treating our boy with the love and respect you would your own animals.

Hug your horses (and mules), a little tighter today. Give them an extra treat, for George’s sake (Granny Smith apples were his favorite). And say a prayer for us. George not only left an empty stall in our barn, but a 17.2 hand hole in our hearts.

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