I'm still shocked that my pony Buddy passed away last week, at the age of 34.

I know that seems ironic, since 34 is old for a pony.

And common sense is that there's an expiration date on being surprised when something really old dies.

But still.

Let me explain.

Francesca and I were hanging out with Buddy at noon on the same day he passed, and he was munching his lunch happily in his stall. He was such an old guy that he ate three meals a day just like a person, since it wouldn't be good for him to have two bigger meals like younger horses.

And then at one o'clock, an hour after Francesca had left for New York, it became very clear that something was wrong with him. He was sweating slightly, plus his heart and respiration rate were elevated.  That signals colic, a digestive problem that can result in death, especially in older ponies.  And I knew he was uncomfortable, even though he couldn't tell me so.

Don't you wish animals could talk?

Although any animal lover knows that animals communicate in myriad other ways, all of which are more eloquent than words.

The horse vet came within an hour because it was an emergency, and he gave Buddy a painkiller right away. When Buddy didn't improve, we loaded him into the trailer and drove him to the horse hospital. Yes, thank God, such things exist, and we in the Philadelphia area are blessed to have the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center.

By the way, four years ago, Buddy had a bout of colic and endured three operations in the space of two weeks, which saved his life. Buddy had had four years of health and happiness, and so have I.  So knowing his history and his age, I was aware that things could go wrong, but that wasn't likely, only a possibility.

So Buddy went into surgery at the hospital, and much later that night, my young veterinary surgeon walked through the glass doors toward me, and I knew from the grave expression on her face that the Possibility had become the Thing That Happened.

Which is a bit of a lesson.

The worst-case scenario exists for a reason.

The vet told me that Buddy's colic was severe and if he survived the operation, his ultimate prognosis was poor and he would suffer.

I couldn't let that happen, and I did the only loving thing: I let my pony go.

Of course, there were tears in the waiting room and then on the way home, driving with a trailer that was unexpectedly empty, then pulling up to the barn with a stall that was an unexpectedly empty, because Buddy was such a presence despite his small size.

And that's the other irony.

He was only 13.2 hands, the size of a child's pony, which he was for many years before I got him.  People laughed because he was so tiny, but I'm only 5-foot-2, and he fit me perfectly. He had a larger-than-life personality despite his diminutive stature, and he was friendly to everyone, begging for food, and game for anything, whether it was a trail ride or the one time in my life that I foxhunted.

(By the way, no fox got hurt, or even sighted.)

I was terrified because I had never done it before, and neither had Buddy, but that didn't stop him.  He galloped past the entire field and even passed the Field Master, or whatever the guy in the red jacket is called. It's considered very bad manners to even get close to the Field Master, much less to race him to a nonexistent finish line, but Buddy was in charge.

Tally ho?

We were saved from foxhunting jail only because we hit a pack of bees, and Buddy and I ditched the hunt and went off on our own.  There are precious few horses that will do that, since horses are herd animals and want to stay together, but Buddy never was one of a herd.

He was distinctly his own little man.

And the fact that he was short but mighty felt familiar to me, because my late corgi Ruby was short but mighty, and so was Mother Mary, who would not mind me comparing her to a dog and a pony.

Because love is the same, whether feathered, furry, or smoking a More cigarette.

You're only as powerful as you think you are, despite your size, stature, or status.

Buddy reminded me, once again, that nobody defines me but me. And also that occasionally, the Field Master needs to be put in his place.

Love you, Buddy.

And thank you.

Look for Lisa and Francesca's new humor collection, "I See Life Through Rosé-Colored Glasses," coming in July, and look for Lisa's number-one best-selling domestic thriller, "After Anna," in stores now. lisa@scottoline.com.