Father's presence re-manes

11-year-old finds comfort in horses after dad's death

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When Dario Georgiou lost his father, he found comfort with some familiar friends -- the horses his father had taught him to ride.

"They helped a lot emotionally," the 11-year-old said, "because when he died, I thought I didn't have anybody."

Willy Georgiou died in March from a heart attack at the age of 45. After her husband's death, Michelle Georgiou recalls her son spending hours in the corral with Socks, Hie and Sonny Boy.

Socks is nearly 20 years old and gentle with Dario. So he can climb on the horse bareback, and can even lie down backward on the animal, and Socks does not mind.

That closeness is consoling for Dario after losing his dad. It's a kind of healing Michelle does not think he would have had otherwise.

"Animals are good for that, you know," she said.

Dario, a member of Cedar Mountain Saddle Slingers, was nervous going into his third Moffat County Fair competition in August, but he still competed in the open class and 4-H/FFA competitions.

"I kind of felt bad because (my dad had) always helped me with (the fair)," he said.

He struggled in the open class but shined in the 4-H event, at least in part because he still felt his father's presence.

"I have a cross on my saddle and when I think about that cross, I think about him," Dario said.

He said his dad helped him walk away with a pile of ribbons and a belt buckle. He took reserve grand champion gelding and grand champion in showmanship. He also won the high point award.

He rode Sonny, who is the same age as him, at the fair.

"Sonny, he's a lot of work if he's in the lot and feeling frisky," Dario said.

He gets up early every morning to take care of the horses before school, then tends to them again as soon as he gets home from school.

"I spoil them sometimes," Dario said. "I pour grain on top of the hay."

This responsibility, Michelle said, is something she's grateful for. Dario helps out quite a bit at home to keep their life as "normal" as possible.

As Michelle continually searches for ways to keep Dario's lifestyle stable, the loss has been a strain on her as well.

"I'm the mom and the dad," she said. "It's hard, but we have a lot of help from family and friends."

In the meantime, Michelle and Dario have a memory box of pictures, patches and other mementos to remember Willy. She just hopes Dario finds ways to keep his father close to his heart.

"He misses that tight bond he had with him," Michelle said. "His dad was his hero."

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