I am an animal rescuer. Some folks don’t understand why I spend so much money and time trying to save the body, mind and souls of animals. Sometimes I feel like a warrior fighting a battle against evil. Saving animals from unspeakable human corruption is a simple and straight forward fight in a time of mass confusion. It’s so clear what is right and animals are always to darn grateful and appreciative of the help they get from people.
I don’t understand how people can damage animals. Do they not see the love, innocence and trust that animals have in humans? Why would anyone want to hurt a loving soul? Money: the right to profit off the bodies of animals is the number one reason animals suffer. Puppy mills and commercial breeding facilities are a cesspool of infection, neglect, starvation and cruelty and these facilities continue to operate legally in Canada. Ontario just declined to ban puppy mills because it would infringe on a person’s right to profit and the current laws are good enough. People can be so disappointing.
I see the pictures of the suffering souls and feel a visceral response deep in my gut. I want to help. I want to do something. My heart is sewn on my sleeve and I openly proclaim: I love them. The unwanted, the neglected, the abused and the forgotten. I remember them in my thoughts and shed my tears as a path for them to find their way home. Wherever that home maybe
In the fall of 2012 Brent and I decided to adopt a horse. We had several legitimate reasons: to save a life, as a friend for Autumn, so we could both ride and to brighten our lives. I would frequently peruse www.petfinder.com in search of a rescue horse. Of course we’d only get a rescue!
While searching for a suitable rescue horse I came across the profile of a blind appaloosa mare that had been saved from going to slaughter. There was a picture of a sad, thin pony with a head tilt and a blue eye. She had the most amazing spots and colouring and the sad way she hung her head in a gesture suggesting failure stayed with me as I continued my search.
There were so many horses looking for homes that I was filled with a sense of sadness. How can there be so many unwanted animal?. I beg people to stop breeding, but the dollar signs are too enticing. We trade lives for money and then eke every last dollar out of the animals until they are withered and dead.
With all the horses I saw on www.petfinder.com I still spent hours thinking about the little blind mare until I started dreaming of her, her life and her demise. I try to be reasonable when taking on new animals knowing what we can afford and what we can handle. I knew that a blind horse wasn’t riding material, she’d have special needs and she was very small. Way too small for the likes of me or my husband.
Several weeks later we rescued Turtle, a six year old thoroughbred from the race track who was a great match as a pal for Autumn, a good solid riding horse for both of us and his silly personality enriched our lives. I was delighted with my big black gelding, but I kept dreaming about the blind mare.
A few weeks after getting Turtle Brent asked if we could take a day trip to help friends move north of Peterborough, Ontario. We would use the horse trailer to take their stuff up and help unload into their new digs. Funny, I thought, that little blind mare is up near Peterborough and we’ll be driving home with an empty horse trailer.
Brent and I agreed to help our friends and the week before we were leaving I started up a conversation that went something like this:
Me: So, since we’re going to be in Peterborough with an empty horse trailer…
B: You’ve been thinking about that blind appaloosa again.
Me: Yeah. I know. Horses are expensive and we have a good match with Turtle and Autumn.
B: What was her name again?
B: You’ve already contacted the rescue haven’t you?
Me: (smiling) Yes. Just to get her story.
B: You have a big heart. I love you.
Me: I love you too.
B: So, what time do we pick her up?
On our long drive to Peterborough I told Brent the story that I got from the horse rescue. The woman who ran the rescue spends much of her time at the livestock auction trying to save horses from slaughter. She’d seen Splash come in with her foal (baby horse) in the spring. The foal was auctioned off for $100 in early summer leaving Splash to sit at the auction house for months. The auctioneer had bought the horse and was making a deal with the “meat man” to send Splash for slaughter.
It is unethical to send a handicapped animal to slaughter because of the way the animals are transport. All the horses are loose in a transport truck where a blind horse would be trampled to death. This was considered cruelty to animals. The other problem is that grey and appaloosa horses are not used for meat because they have a high chance of developing melanoma and meat infected with cancer should not be consumed.
The auctioneer was making a shady deal with the butcher over Splash when the rescue approached the auctioneer and offered to buy the little blind pony. The auctioneer sensed an opportunity to make some money off a useless blind pony and sold Splash to the rescue for more than meat value.
Splash came into rescue and because of her special needs a foster home was found that might be suitable. Often good intentions and good hearts are not enough to care for a handicapped pony. The foster home said they could not care for Splash any longer. The rescue was doing their best, but Splash could not be turned out in general population because she was too vulnerable and would be at the mercy of the bullies. I knew someone needed to step up and give this pony a chance.
It was time to arm myself with sword and shield and call out to my inner Animal Warrior.
We were late driving back through Peterborough to meet Splash and I worried she wouldn’t go in the trailer if it was dark. Brent started laughing and I stared at him in wonder until he said “Honey, she’s blind. She doesn’t know its dark.”
We arrived at the barn after 9pm on a Sunday night and the woman met us in her century old concrete barn. There were so many horse looking for homes. She pulled Splash in from a small paddock where she was standing alone. Splash was nervous and paced around the barn looking for food. She was skinny and her coat was dirty and dull. Her left eye had the tell tale signs of moon blindness – and affliction that often affects appaloosas. Essentially, moon blindness is an untreated infection leaving the a sightless blue eye.
This was a sad case of neglect, but it was her right eye and the old scars on her legs that told the story of her abuse. Splash’s right eye pointed down and she had a funny head tilt that suggested a head injury. Her legs had thick scars and she would panic if you tried to touch her legs. Someone had tied this pony up and she probably flipped over backwards smashing her head on the ground or perhaps they tied her and hit her in the head. We don’t really know. I wish the animals could talk, but we have to learn to read their stories through their bodies, personalities and sadly, their fears.
Brent could see the tears in my eyes and he quietly opened the back doors to the trailer knowing Splash was already our pony. With gentle hands and a bucket of grain we led Splash onto the trailer where she busied herself eating hay. She was quiet on the ride home and Brent said he’d never seen me look so happy. I felt like my heart had grown two sizes too big.
Once at home we kept Splash in the barn until morning and let her out with her new horse friends. For Turtle it was love at first sight, but Autumn would take a little time to warm up to the little pony.
Splash needed a few weeks to warm up to her new people too. After five months Splash has filled out and looks healthy. She manages to find her way around the paddock using her nose as a white cane and the sound of the other horses as her safe zone. She often bumps the fence, but can find the water trough and hay very well.
We can touch her legs now, but are still working on picking up her feet. She likes to be brushed and even lets the kids sit on her back. She follows me around the paddock like a puppy and nickers in welcome at the sound of my voice. She’s one of the most loving equines I’ve ever encountered.
Sometimes Autumn can be a little pushing, but if Splash is in the barn and Autumn is outside she starts calling for her favorite girl pal. Splash is quick to answer.
Splash is an inspiration. It is amazing to watch her navigate her surroundings, but even more amazing that she is allowing herself to trust people again. She greets me every day with a happy nicker and an eager expression. I get to start everyday with a smile.