Karen Peterson

Karen Peterson: Missing my buddy, but so glad I knew her

Karen Peterson and her horse, Zoe, outside their Gig Harbor barn.
Karen Peterson and her horse, Zoe, outside their Gig Harbor barn. Courtesy

It’s that face I’ll miss.

Reaching out around the corner when I opened the door and turned on the light. Ears up. Eyes eager. Unconditionally happy to see me and get on with our next adventure.

So many of you know that feeling because you have furry friends of your own — canine or feline or equine or something more exotic — that are thrilled all over again every time they see you.

I lost my friend last Sunday when my horse of seven years, Zoe, died suddenly.

It’s a loss that feels deeply personal, yet is almost universally understood.

Zoe’s entrance into my life was well-timed.

I’d grown up with horses, but been without one for 25 years while we moved our Army family from continent to continent. There’ll be time for horses again someday, I told myself.

Then, all at once in 2008, our youngest son left for college, my best friend moved to Sicily and my husband took a job that had him on the road for half of every month. The house became jarringly quiet, and time was something I had too much of.

I decided to take a riding lesson once a week. Nothing more. But in what seems now like an inevitable progression, within six months I’d bought a horse.

Also in 2008, I became editor of The News Tribune, a job I was honored and excited to take. It was my opportunity to help lead a talented staff of journalists and to serve my term as steward of this community treasure, the TNT.

Being an editor at any time is demanding, but the past eight years came with the additional challenges of the Great Recession and an industry struggling to survive technological and cultural upheaval. We have been forced to lay off longtime staff and to cut pages of valued coverage. We must continuously think and rethink our business for this rapidly changing world.

That’s a tough day’s work, especially when it’s capped with a call from a reader saying you’re an idiot or a shill or a bad person for cutting a story, or publishing a story or changing a comic.

On those days, I was glad I’d brought my barn bag. I’d stop by the ladies room on my way out the door and change into my riding pants and smelly boots.

Zoe wasn’t an easy horse to be around. She was strong-willed and outspoken (leading some to say we were a perfect match). But she demanded my attention and took me away from the troubles of the day.

I know she made me a nicer person to my husband and my colleagues, and maybe even our readers.

So many people reached out last week with a hug or a funny story about my horse. Others could muster only a saddened look and shrug of their shoulders, making it obvious they’d been in my place before.

It seems almost silly how deeply we fall in love with the animals in our lives, especially when we know that will make the loss even harder.

This is terribly cliche, but hug your kitty a little tighter, give that pup another scratch behind the ears, sneak one more carrot to your gelding or your mare. Thank them for lowering your blood pressure and liking you even on the days when no one else seems to.

They are a blessing and make our journey through this life so much richer.

Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434, @TNTkpeterson