I keep meaning to write down this story before it slips into the ether of my terrible long-term memory.
A few weeks ago, we were watching ESPN, and there was a segment about the upcoming Breeder’s Cup. We’ve never once watched (or been interested in watching) a horse race, but they kept talking about this amazing horse named Zenyatta. She was notable because she was a female, which is unusual for a top racer, and because she’d never lost any of the 19 races she’d run. The Breeder’s Cup was going to be her last race.
So, we decided to watch it. It was actually really exciting. Zenyatta’s style is that she starts off dead last, WAY behind the rest of the horses. She stays there until about 2/3 through the race, when she pulls out all the stops and blows everyone away. In this race, that’s what she did from the start, and we all cheered and got really into it as she passed horse after horse. Finally, she’d passed up all the other horses but one—a male horse named “Blame”—to whom she lost by a literal nose at the last second. Way more exciting than I ever imagined a horse race to be.
About two minutes after the race finished, Dolittle came over and buried her head in my lap. Knowing her and her horse whisperer tendencies, I immediately knew what was wrong. She was literally living vicariously through Zenyatta. See, Dolittle wants to be a horse more than anything. She loves riding horses, being around horses, but her true desire and mission in life (were it actually possible) is to BE a horse. She also has a naturally competitive streak. I’m quite sure she saw herself out on that track, and watching Zenyatta lose hit her like a ton of bricks.
The next day, ESPN was on again, and they replayed the race. And once again, Dolittle teared up and came over for a hug. I comforted her as best I could, explaining how great Zenyatta raced. After a moment, she looked up with her big, teary blue eyes and asked, “Mama, is Zenyatta still a champion?” Oh, little darlin’. Of course she is. J