SANDPOINT — Robert “Bob” Lynch is a cowboy and there isn’t a time when horses haven’t been a part of his life.
From the time he was a child up until a few years ago, Bob rode horses. He loved being around them and couldn’t imagine life without them. Even after being thrown from a horse and breaking his neck in two places, his wrist and a couple of ribs, Bob was back up on a horse within a year.
It was, his wife Mary said, the thing that made him the happiest outside of his family. And up until a few years ago, the family owned Hang ‘Em High Ranch in the Priest Lake area — 99 acres of cattle and horses.
“From the time he was a little bitty kid, he had horses all the way through before we moved (to Sandpoint) 2 1/2 years ago,” Mary Lynch said. “We had a cattle ranch in the Priest Lake area, basically 99 acres of cattle and horses.”
The couple rode horses all the time, even roped together with Mary Lynch working as the header and Bob Lynch working as the healer. Horses had a special place in Bob’s heart and even after the throw in 2002 when he broke his neck, he was determined to get back up where he felt he belonged.
Now in hospice care at The Bridge Assisted Living, Bob’s wife, Mary, said her husband doesn’t have long left to live. His one wish, he’d told his care team at Auburn Crest Hospice and family, was to be around a horse just one more time.
Friday, Mary Lynch, Auburn Crest staff and Bridge Assisted Living officials made that wish a reality thanks to the kindness and willingness of Silver Valley resident Candi O’Neill to bring her miniature horse, Jellybean, all the way to Sandpoint.
Jellybean’s gentle spirit and easy-going, friendly nature make her ideal to take into nursing horse and other facilities, O’Neill said after leading the miniature horse down the hallways with one of her kids riding bareback as the facility’s residents watched the procession from the dining room.
O’Neill, who takes the 10-year-old horse into a nursing home in Kellogg during their annual Western Days event, said Jellybean is a favorite with the residents and staff, bringing them a reminder of their youth.
“Everyone loves her,” she said.
The idea seemed to come together like it was meant to be, Mary Lynch said. It didn’t take long to set up — from the mention that Bob wanted to be around a horse one last time, to her reply that she’d read there were service ponies, to Jellybean’s visit on Friday.
Mary Lynch teared up watching as Jellybean was walked over to Bob’s bed, nuzzling closer as he reached out to pet the miniature horse’s mane, his fingers threading between the strands of hair before rubbing behind her ears. As his eyes drank in the sight of the horse at his bedside, Jellybean dropped her head onto the sheets and rested it by Bob’s side.
Mary Lynch watched from across the room, eyes welling with tears.
Later, after Jellybean was led from the room to give Bob a chance to rest, Mary Lynch smiled brightly as she recalled what had happened a few minutes before.
“This meant a lot,” she said, emphasizing the last two words. “Just for him to be able to touch and to feel a horse again and to have the smell of a horse … “
She paused, taking a breath in an effort to hold back tears. “It meant a great deal to him.”
The couple has been married more than 30 years and have seven children between, as well as many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The ability to give Bob this gift means so much to the family, she said.
“This is a joy, to see someone I love, to see this outcome and everybody working to make it happen …” Mary Lynch said, her voice trailing off. “I am so excited about it, it means so much to him. He’s an awesome man.”
While their anniversary is just over a week away on Sept. 16, Mary Lynch’s voice trails off as she works to hold back more tears.
“There’s not much time left,” she said softly, “but he’ll go to heaven with the Lord, he’ll be at home up there and I’m going to join him and then when we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that is going to be.”
Caroline Lobsinger can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @CarolDailyBee.