Sunday, February 24, 2008
The 'Other' Herd
I’ve told you many times that without The ‘Other’ Herd, there is no Refuge Farms. And I’ve told you many times of their dedication and commitment to all of the supporting chores that need to be completed in order to keep the gates open to the public. And sometimes, I get the feeling that you read these statements and go, "Yah, yah, yah...".
Well, I want to tell you about yesterday here at THE FARM and when you’ve read this then you can draw your own conclusions. Okay?
You first need to realize that yesterday was the first day of full sunshine and 30 degree temperatures that we’ve had since mid December. It was like crawling out of a cocoon to come outside and have your eyes blinded by the brilliant sunshine on the white snow and now feel your skin tighten with the brutal cold air. What a relief! You could actually stand outside and hold a conversation without rocking to stay warm! And if you focused, you could feel the heat of the sun returning! Wonderful! Finally!
So, the fact that anyone volunteered their time at Refuge Farms yesterday was a miracle in itself. “Cabin fever” was so obvious you could almost see it walking down the driveway with us!
Kathy was here. Of course. Here early to help set up the handouts and the hot water and get the barns prepared. As usual, our leader was here to lead us in the TO DO List that was stuck to the barn door. Thank you, Kathy.
Lynn was here. She just kind of appeared and the next thing I knew she was working at creating poop piles in the barn. Lynn is a hard worker and a thorough worker. No need to check that side of the barn. It will be clean, for sure.
Sabra was here. Good to see her. I had the Helen Keller side in the barn specially so that Sabra could get her hugs from Ole’ Man Cole first thing in the morning. It had been a difficult week for Sabra and that old horse has her heart. So it was important to me to make sure she had access to him.
LB was here. Not one to dally, LB arrived, changed her boots, and went straight in to Blaise’s box stall to remove two weeks of cold weather deposits and old straw bedding. Not one to chatter or complain, LB just gets it done.
Craig was here. All the way from Eagan and in a loaner vehicle because his is in the shop. Calm and pleasant, Craig is rather new to us but a welcomed face already. He brings calm order with him when he arrives.
Cathi was here. Overdressed, as she usually is, but I was glad to see in layers this time. Soon that heavy jacket was off and she, too, was busy cleaning barns of the previous weeks droppings and trying to get the water line defrosted so water could be added to the stock tanks.
Pam was here. Immediately, she took her normal position around here – bent over the PONY! and Gracie stall floor picking their droppings out of sawdust shavings and the rubbings from the round bale in the corner. When Pam is done with that stall, it is smooth and soft again. Not a dropping is overlooked!
FB was here. All the way from Minneapolis and looking very dapper! So good to see her after this cold winter. FB has a way with words, so when the first car of guests arrived, it was FB we all looked to for the tour. Graciously, she walked out to meet our guests bringing the Missions and the love of The Herd with her.
OS Rose appeared later in the day. Her car was laden with laser cartridges and office supplies. Bless her heart and the generosity of her employer! We recycle the laser cartridges and make very good use of every piece of office supplies we are fortunate enough to receive!
So there you have the crew that gave of this beautiful Saturday in February to come to THE FARM and attack the TO DO List. And attack they did! The list was completed in its entirety. And so you get an idea of the hard work involved, here’s the list!
- Clean the barn. Sounds simple, but not so! The manure, in some cases, had been walked on and so a crow bar was used to pry and chip if from the frozen earth. And just how much cleaning was there? Well, the old Allis Chalmers has a big snow bucket on it and I emptied the bucket three times! That a lot of barn cleaning!
- Clean Blaise’s stall right down to the floor. Again, sounds simple, but not so at all! This stall has held Spirit during the cold nights of the past month and Spirit tends to lay down or pace – either one. No simple standing for her. So the floor had wet straw frozen to it and frozen manure packed on to it. But the floor is clean and visible now!
- Move salt blocks down to the big barn. Pam had gifted THE FARM of two mineralized salt blocks for the two sides of the big barn. Lynn took charge and got the blocks down to the big barn from the old barn and got them in their tubs. Again, not quite so simple as it sounds. You see, the Helen Keller tub had to first be chiseled to remove the frozen water and straw in it! But she got it done!
- Fill the birdfeeders and suet holders. This is kind of a fun task. Gets you out in the yard and away from manure for a change! There are nine oiler feeders in the yard and two suet holders. Fun but tricky! The tricky part comes in finding them all! LB took care of this one, though. Done!
- Sort and pack ink cartridges. An inside task that FB and Craig handled completely. We take in used ink cartridges and then have to sort them and pack them for recycling. Why do we do this? It brings in a bit of money for The Herd, of course!
- Sort and pack laser cartridges. This was a garage task to sort a pile of laser cartridges that had accumulated and then pack them for shipping. To do this, you need to be able to read LX6 or Q9682A and keep all the numbers straight. Again, we do this for a bit of money for The Herd. Sabra and OS Rose handled this one.
- Not even on the list, was the chipping and cutting of the ice so the big door to the Helen Keller side of the barn could close again. The melting snow had built up so that the door couldn’t be closed even if I had Herculean strength! I really didn’t see this happen, but I’m guessing that Kathy was in there someplace!
And during all of these tasks, we received and greeted thirteen guests. Each guest received a tour, some hands on time with a horse, and was offered a cup of hot chocolate to stay toasty inside. Thirteen people drove to us from the Twin Cities and Menomonie and even Spring Valley to check us out and get a horse fix.
I got to meet Sally from Spring Valley and put a face with the emails! We had “Joy” in the barns! Beth came and I know her from somewhere. Finally, I had to tell her why I was staring at her so. She suggested maybe I knew her from a previous life? Maybe… Emma and her Dad came. Very educated young lady, that Emma. She’s been reading books about horses!
This is the part of the day that makes us all relax and remember why we do all of the tasks on the list. The opportunity to tell the story of Spirit and Gracie and Addie-Girl. The opportunity to explain why Jeri-Ann is only two and a half years old and so darned huge and healthy! And to confirm that the big, grey tank in the pasture is really Babee Joy!
What I admire most about these people who come to give of themselves to THE FARM is that these people give of their time and their talents and their hearts and they do so with humor and smiles and true compassion for each other as well as the horses. Throughout the day, you would hear laughter and joking and the aaaahhhh’s of seeing something special. These people truly care about one another.
So there! That was how nine people spent their Saturday. Nine people drove to Refuge Farms and pitched in to attack a TO DO List and enjoy some time in a barn together on a sunny Saturday in February in Wisconsin. Now, I ask you, what is your conclusion?
See? Refuge Farms would not exist without The ‘Other’ Herd. I know that and now you know that, too. The ‘Other’ Herd is very special indeed. Maybe now you have a bit of an understanding and appreciation for when I say, again, how fortunate Refuge Farms is to be surrounded by a group of caring Human Beings who work hard so we may remain open to the public.
Thanks, crew! Hugs of thanks to each of you! From me and The Herd!
Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Dealing With Death
This has been a winter to beat all winters. I cannot remember when I have been so overrun and exhausted from battling the cold and the winds. The darkness of death seems to be hanging right over my right shoulder all this season and I am fighting hard with every single breath to keep it at bay.
But I’m seeing now that it is not The Herd that is in jeopardy this winter. No, it is the friends and family of the people around me. It is the people around me who have been battling the darkness of death this winter.
One of The ‘Other’ Herd was here to lend her hands to Facilities Management yesterday. (That’s a fancy way of saying “cleaning barns”, by the way.) At one point I asked how she was doing and she said, quietly, “Okay, I guess. I’ve just been dealing with six deaths in the last seven months, that’s all.”
How do you respond to that? How do you comfort that person? What can any other Human Being say to that Human Being? The canned, “Oh, I’m so sorry. It will be okay. Time will heal.” response just isn’t in my vocabulary. My heart hurts for her and I cannot find the words to comfort her or lend my understanding. I’ve never had to deal with six deaths in seven months. I can only relate to several deaths in a short period – nothing on that scale, thank God! So to offer any words at all seemed too trivial and too small. What I offered was my ear. And I opened my heart to listen – truly listen – as she recounted all those that had crossed in her life in just the last thirty days.
And then another one of The ‘Other’ Herd just lost her Mom on Valentine’s Day. She seems a bit relieved, almost. I think it is the relief of knowing that her Mom is finally no longer trapped in a curved, painful body and has now moved on to a life everlasting. It’s the stress of what’s coming, too, I’m sure. The visitation and the funeral. The funeral on her Mom’s birthday, of all things! The finality of it all. I know that part of the process has made me be giddy-like. The procession that we put ourselves through… This woman says she sees her Dad in the eagles. And she spotted an eagle yesterday. That brings her comfort and she feels close to the parents who have now both crossed.
And yet another one of The ‘Other’ Herd just lost her Grandmother and her daughter lost her Great Grandmother last week. Sadness again as a voice is quieted and a presence never more smelled in the room. Felt, but not smelled again. In both of these instances, I pray that these women realize the gifts that they were given! To have your Grandmother with you as you have your own children! To actually have and hug your Great Grandmother! The gifts! The absolute treasures they have been graced with!
And a dear friend of mine spent some time at THE FARM this past week. Still struggling with the loss of his young adult son. Still looking for a clue that his son is “okay” over there on the other side. Still seeing him in eagles, too. And taking an accidental spill of gasoline on his Organ Donor bracelet as a sign from his son. Still looking for assurances in the words of a medium hired to connect to the spirit of this son of his. Why the medium? Because he says he doesn’t have that belief or faith that his son is okay on the other side. Still looking…
For all of these people, I pray for their peace. Death is something that we must all face in our families and friends at some point. How we face it is the key. Do we go through the procession and then act “normal” again? Trying to tuck it away and never completing the stages of grief? Do we go through the procession and then struggle when everyone else returns to their normal lives and leaves us here all alone with our questions? Do we allow ourselves the time to cry? To remember? To laugh? And then to say good-bye? Do we give ourselves the time to find the courage to stand on our own now that our support is gone?
I have faced death too many times in my fifty-some years – my Dad, my Mom, my Sister, my fiancé, my closest friend, and my dear Andy. These losses have given me a wisdom that I truly wish I didn’t have. These losses have given me recognition of the phases of grief so that the understanding of where another person is in the process allows me to be a support to another Human Being in their time of death. I know what it’s like to have someone tell you, “Time will heal your hurt.” Time doesn’t heal a darn thing! I know what it’s like to have someone say, “If you need anything, just call.” No, I won’t call you. If you truly care for me, you will call me! I know the isolation that comes after the funeral. I know the quiet. The ear piercing quiet.
During these death experiences, though, I’ve learned many lessons that come back to help me now when a Human Being or member of The Herd is crossing that final bridge. I’ve learned to talk to the creature that is crossing. To tell them it is okay to die. To sing and rejoice as they cross. To cry for my selfish loss but also to rest knowing they are finally free. And to listen and look for the sign that they are fine. And back with me again. Is that sign an eagle? A rainbow? A lost email found again? A bird’s singing? Who knows! We all see normal, everyday events and interpret them as signs and to be what we need and want them to be. But whatever we see or whatever we hear, we must allow the sign to penetrate us and give us calm. Give us peace. And give us the courage to face our days without the physical smell and presence of that other significant Human Being or creature any longer.
Death is the inevitable conclusion to what our bodies do that we call “life”. But death, to me at least, is just the start. Death is the end of my body’s life and the very start of my soul’s life! Death is just the beginning of the really wonderful part. I have faith that what lies on the other side makes this side pale in comparison. I have faith that those that I treasure – Human Being and creature both – will welcome me and I will finally be allowed to rest. Truly and wholly rest. Rest amongst them and in total and complete harmony.
Perhaps the greatest lesson that I have learned in dealing with death is what I would give to each of my friends as I now watch them deal with and pass through their own phases of dealing with a death. This lesson is a simple statement but truly, truly tells the whole story:
Instead of mourning the day they crossed, why not celebrate and rejoice for the years they were with you and the sheer gift of having them in your lives?
You are alive today. Enjoy today, people. Tell those you love that you love them. Hug someone close today. Smile from your heart today. Breathe deeply. And give freely today.
Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Here we stand at a time in history in our country where we fight against terrorism. This is a contradiction. When do we discuss peaceful resolution? Our country tends to take the "we are right" position. Then we plough through till the end killing and maiming along the way. Where is even the potential of a peaceful resolution?
We are one of the few countries in the world that does not eat horsemeat. Remember we are a nation of people who are "right". Therefore eating horsemeat is wrong, right? The animal rights activists just want the issue to be gone. They want it stopped. In their minds they are right. If this happens, the result will be a new kind of terrorism for the horses they have "helped". There will be dumping and starvation and the backyard breeders and even papered breeders doing a "good" job will not catch up by downsizing for a number of years, if ever. They see the dollar value of more papered horses. Perfect horses.
When someone goes to counseling for child abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse, etc., they are told to stop. Stop the hurting. But unless you give them something to take the place of this abuse they can't stop, based on their previous life experience. Without having a new behavior learned to take the place of the abuse, the abuse will continue in some form. They will hide what they do. It may go unnoticed, but the abuse, now looking slightly different, will continue.
Mankind is a creature of habit. When you have a learned habit it is difficult to stop or even to begin to change after recognition. We need many repetitions of the lessons and support to change.
We have the recognition. Brutally killing horses for food after awful shipping conditions is inhumane. But if you look at humanity as a whole and think that folks that don't think twice about hauling a horse under the previous conditions are going to stop abusive and neglectful behaviors just because you make it impossible for them to go to a slaughter house then you need to look at humanity as a whole again.
Someone needs to step in with a managed humane program for horses. We have it for dogs. That is at least a start. The U.S. Humane Society is not currently set up to handle the numbers of horses that need to be evaluated and mercifully put down should that be the need. They have, however, dealt with the people and understand that if you take away the Humane Society for dogs and cats, the problem will still be there. There would be more abuse and neglect. That is where we are headed if the slaughterhouses close.
They should be closed as they are. Maybe there need to be more locations, well managed by some of these folks that are screaming humane treatment of horses. Maybe a tax credit for horse owners that don't breed.
The horses need the options. Now they have fewer options and their future looks scary. Yes, our feelings need to be in there, right along with theirs. We can't abandon them to a situation of terror, but we cannot in any honesty or ethics assume that if this slaughterhouse condition is gone that the problem is gone. How blind can we be?
The terror will still be there. It will have a new face, that of starvation and neglect and abandonment. And we will have allowed it to happen. More than that, even, we will have encouraged it.
There needs to be a peaceful resolution as much for our own hearts as for theirs.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
The Night of Thanksgiving
You had to have been living in a cave to not know that Siberian, frigid air was coming down upon us. The television and radio stations had been warning us that the coldest weather of the season was about to land on us with a thud. Be prepared, they said, and be careful.
To confirm that their predictions were true, everything was closed Tuesday morning – entire school districts, colleges, health clinics, even businesses were closing to get their people home before the truly frigid air and the heavy winds made it dangerous to even cross the street.
Throughout the day, I had ventured out to the barns to check on how we were coping and if I needed to take extra precautions other than those I had already planned for the night. PONY! and Gracie and Spirit had been put in their stalls on Monday evening with the threat of rain. It had rained, in fact, and now the entire world was one very slick, shiny sheet of ice. Ice that had no grit in it at all. Ice that told you it wasn’t a matter of if you were going to fall, but simply a matter of when and how many times.
At the 2pm check, I noticed the winds were kicking in. Strong northerly winds that brought a sharp, cold breeze right around the corner of the Helen Keller side and made the inside of the barn drafty and very cold. We needed to tolerate it for another couple of hours, though. I couldn’t close the doors yet – not until 4 or 5 pm, I thought. No snow yet, just the winds. And the dropping temperature. By 4pm, it was already 10 below on the thermometer outside the back door.
I caught the very lead-in of the 5pm news and saw the wind chill levels. That did it. I was closing up the barn tonight. Good thing The Herd could stand tied for long periods of time because tonight, they would spend the night tied to their feeders and I would walk them to the stock tank for water. They would have hay put in front of them but I would leave them tied so that I could close the doors and try my best to keep the 40+ below wind chills outside.
I started with the Helen Keller side. PONY! and Gracie had blankets on but were both shivering, so I brushed them, put their blankets back on them and another layer of blankets on both of them. With a bit of feed to munch on, within 30 minutes or so they both had stopped shivering. Lanna had come in the barn as one large quivering mass. I brushed the snow off of her and blanketed her. She instantly calmed down and slept at her bucket. April and Addie-Girl were brushed so the snow and ice didn’t melt on them. And Ole’ Man Cole was brushed and double blanketed as well. No one seemed to mind the weight of the extra blanket. In fact, PONY! licked me while I put his second blanket on him.
With the Helen Keller big door closed, the breeze in the barn was drastically reduced. The thermometer in the barn read 10 below. Tolerable. Very tolerable. Professor called to make sure I was okay and I told her I was halfway done – only had the Gelding’s Side to do and then I could go in and warm up for a while. All of her kids were tucked in for the night and she was inside so all was good at the Annex.
I hooked the Gelding’s side and marveled at how tough they were. The layer of ice and snow on the back of Handsome had to be two inches thick! They had frosted whiskers, frosted eyelashes, frosted ear hairs, and frosted tails. But they were snorty and happy to come in and be tied to eat. When I tied everyone that had come in I stood in the center of the barn with a remaining collar in my hands. Miss Bette had not come in the barn.
I walked outside expecting to find her around the corner – she sometimes stood there waiting for me to signal her that Unit was tied and so it was calm enough now to come in to the barn. No, Miss Bette was not around the corner. She must be standing in the round bales out of the wind. So I wandered through the maze of round bales just East of the door and called for her. No Miss Bette to be found.
My heart started pounding in my chest. Even though I was freezing on the outside, I was sweating under my clothes. Where was Miss Bette? My mind told me calmly, “She’s out by the poplar tree. She went there to die.”
I went in to the barn and looked just once more. Had she slipped in without me seeing her? Nope. No Miss Bette to be found. I grabbed halters of every style, 3 lead ropes, 2 collars, and headed up to the house to get a flashlight. Back out in the pasture, I walked the fence lines and the area back by the poplar tree. I cried to Ruby and Joseph and Hannah and RedMan to help me find her! Don’t let her be out here by herself! Not tonight in this terrible, terrible blizzard!
I zigzagged the pasture, walked the dry run, and retraced the fence lines – no sign of Miss B. She must be up in the hay bales! I walked the hay bales once more and could not see her. Going back in to the barn, I dropped all of the tack and kept only the flashlight. Then I grabbed a manure fork and turned the handle to the ground. Like I was poking a cake just out of the oven, I began to poke the snowdrifts around the round bales. She had to be in here! She wasn’t in the pasture – the gate wasn’t open and I hadn’t seen a break in the fence! Miss Bette had to be in the snow in the hay bales!
I poked and poked and called to her. “Miss B! Miss B! You need to show me where you are! Miss B! Miss B!” I realized she probably couldn’t hear me but I had to do something! I felt so damn helpless! I couldn’t find her and she would freeze to death in this storm!
I worked my way back to the last row of round bales. Putting the flashlight under my chin I was able to use both of my arms to poke in the drifts. Then I saw something. I dropped the fork and aimed the flashlight. One huge brown eye had blinked. Miss Bette was right in front of me – completely buried in a drift of snow. Dear Lord!
I knelt at her head and told her that I had found her! She should hang on! I needed to get some equipment to get her out of the hay. You see, she had fallen on the hay that was on top of the sheet of ice. And when she went down, she had landed on her bad side. She needed to be rolled over so she could get herself up! My mind knew she had been there for quite a while, but I refused to hear it. The snow, I told myself, was a great insulation to keep her out of the wind. I would not hear what my mind was muttering in the background!
I ran back in to the barn and got all the lead ropes I could find. I tied them together and made a huge “V” out of them. Then I tied the ends to each of her lower legs – one in the front and one in the back. I apologized to her if I had hurt her bad leg but I told her that we could get that to heal – we had to get her over!
I placed the “V” over my chest and grabbed a wooden fence post. I pulled with strength I didn’t even know I had. I was desperate and Miss Bette was dying. I could see that and I started to hear it. I pulled and pulled and looked back – the snow wasn’t even disturbed. Miss Bette wasn’t trying to help and there was no way I could turn her by myself.
My mind raced! My truck wouldn’t work – it couldn’t get through the drifts and would only spin on this ice covered with hay. I knelt by Miss B’s head one more time and told her I was going to get the tractor. Hang on!
The Allis didn’t even click. Dear Lord! I ran in to the house and grabbed the phone book. Someone had to be home and willing to come out on this frozen night to help save the life of a horse! Alan’s tractor wouldn’t even start, he said. No answer at Matt’s. No answer at Howard’s. Rick’s number was busy. Brian had a tractor that would start but it would need to be plugged in for 2 hours. We don’t have that much time, Brian. Can you think of anyone else? Laurie said that Joe was on the road back from South Dakota. Rick’s number was busy. Eric wasn’t going out in the storm. No answer yet at Matt’s. No answer again at Howard’s. I left a frantic message on a cell phone that was turned off and knew that message wouldn’t be the answer. I sat in my chair and prayed for the answer. What to do???
Going back out to the pasture, my arms were filled with quilts. I unburied Miss Bette and covered her with quilts. Miss Bette would not die out here alone. If I had to, I would crawl in next to her and I would sing as we waited. Oh, Miss Bette, I am so sorry! Dear God, what do I do???
I pounded on her sides, her hips, and I tried to bend her hind legs. They were as stiff as boards. I then did something purposely to irritate her. I needed to see if she wanted to come back or if she wanted to continue on her path that she seemed to have started. She was not moving or responding to my calls or my poundings and I could hear some gurgling... So I rubbed her face and eyes and pulled on her ears – she hated that! If she responded to that then I knew she was still in there and I shouldn’t give up!
I rubbed and pulled and she tossed her head at me and told me to stop it! I laughed at her! “Miss Bette! You’re still in there! You’re angry! Okay, I’m going to call again!!! Hang on, Miss B!”
I covered her totally with quilts and threw snow on top of the quilts. I tried 3 more people and then I tried Rick one more time. It rang! He answered! Rick! I need help! Bring the skid steer!
We both hung up and I ran back out to Miss B! “Help is on the way! In just a few minutes, Bette, we would have you rolled over and this would be over!!!”
I put myself right on top of Miss B and pretended I was swimming in warm ocean water. My kicking legs beat on her hips. My flailing arms beat on her chest. My bobbing head irritated her and beat on her neck. Miss Bette struggled a bit under me and I was so happy to feel that! I “swam” on her until I heard the skid steer.
Rick arrived in seconds – without any talking, we rolled her over and she tried to get up. Her hind legs weren’t working at all and she fell down. Hard. Not a good sign. If the hindquarters were gone, Miss Bette would not be able to stand and then it was time to call Dr. Brian.
Rick moved some hay to give her some better footing – maybe she had slipped on the ice? We rolled her over again and this time she did the same thing. That hip and leg that had been under her was so stiff she couldn’t even straighten it to stand on it. She fell again. Hard.
One more attempt and I could see Miss Bette was using up all of her energy. She didn’t get up as far and she fell more quickly. We had to get her out of the wind so she could warm up and so I could rub on her to get the blood flowing. We had to get her out of the wind!
I put a halter on her and told her just to lay still. Not to worry. This would be scary but it would get her in to the barn. Rick then gently backed up the skid steer and drug Miss B. in to the barn. Oh, that underside took a beating – the frozen manure, the frozen ice ridges! But she lay still – either from fear or apathy – but after a long haul she was in the barn.
I closed the door to block the wind and moved Josephina out of the way. The other horses were wide-eyed at a skid steer in the barn and Miss Bette lying on her side. But miraculously, no one broke a lead rope and everyone stood at their places. Amazing!
Starting to work on her hind legs, I saw the leg that had been under her all this time. My first reaction was that it looked like a turkey drumstick just out of the freezer. The hair was wet and frosted. The leg was rock hard – not muscle hard but frozen hard – and the meat was gray in color. This was the problem and so I began to rub it and trying to get it to bend. I put the hoof in the center of my chest and pulled on her hips. Once again, I pulled for all I was worth and the leg didn’t bend. More rubbing and more attempts to bend. Finally – the leg started to bend just a bit! Good! I continued rubbing and bending until Miss Bette told me to stop.
It was a while yet but soon she tried to get herself up. Same thing. Those hind legs were too stiff and she would fall back down. Hard. My fear now was that she would break ribs or a hip in one of these falls. Outside when she fell, she fell on snow and hay over ice. In the barn when she fell, she fell on frozen ground – no sawdust or hay or anything! Just rock hard ground!
Miss B. was nervous and so she was sweating and shaking – this is a very good sign! She cares enough to be nervous! Wonderful! The Miss B. I had seen outside didn’t care. This one was nervous. She ate hay and feed offered her – nervous eating, but she ate. More good signs.
One more attempt to get up and she started to fall in to the stock tank. Dear Lord! Rick dove toward her and pushed her up against the wall. She steadied herself there and then got her legs – all 4 of them! – under her! She was standing – very, very weak and shaky – but standing!
For the first time in hours, I took a breath or relief. Now, if she can just stay standing. Forty-five minutes passed before she tried to move. And then she was so stiff legged that she only shuffled two or three inches forward. But she moved all four legs – only inches, but they moved!
I began the job of brushing off the ice and snow to help her dry off. She was soaking wet and in this cold, I knew pneumonia was the most logical next thing. Whenever she leaned or looked weak, I backed up. Miss Bette was very unsteady on her legs and when she leaned she was either trying to move or about to go down. But she didn’t go down again. Miss Bette was back, I prayed.
Rick backed the skid steer out of the barn and I followed him up to his truck. A quick hug and he was heading back to his warm house. I grabbed more quilts and headed out to the barn. The next four hours were spent putting two quilts on her – one on her shoulders and one on her hips – and then a heavy horse blanket over the quilts. I would let that sit for 20 to 30 minutes and then replace the quilts with dry ones. The amount of sweat and melting ice coming off of her kept soaking the quilts until 3am or so. By then, she was still wet on her skin, but her coat was dry enough that I put 2 heavy horse blankets on her and headed in to the house to thaw out myself.
As I sat in front of the pellet stove waiting for my jacket to thaw so I could unzip it, I realized that Miss Bette had come very, very close tonight. I hadn’t counted heads at 4pm and so she spent another two hours in the snow waiting. How desolate! The prayers began. I said prayers of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving for that big, brown eye that blinked in the snow. Thanksgiving for the piles of quilts given to us by those who know we need them. Thanksgiving for the sturdiness of this little workhorse. Thanksgiving for her willingness to come back to us once again. And most of all, thanksgiving for Rick. Without a mention of the cold, without a moan about the weather, and without a mention of the risk to himself or his equipment, Rick came up on this hill during the Storm from Hell. And he saved a life. Miss Bette was surely to die in that snow bank had it not been for Rick. I hung my head and said a deep prayer of thanksgiving for Rick.
So, it is Sunday. Five days later. And I sit here now with tears streaming. I can finally let it all go. The panic and the fear and the desperation and the grief. Oh, Miss Bette! I wanted so to help you and was so unable to! Oh, dear Lord! The feeling of helplessness! And the complete and utter relief at the sight of Rick’s headlights.
Miss Bette and I are both recovering. She still has a blanket on her for warmth and she is very, very stiff. I’m sure her one side is bruised and sore from being drug over the frozen ground. Her bad leg is swollen and cool but it is warmer than on Wednesday and she is starting to move a bit more easily. Her gums are a good pink again. She is eating and thinking about drinking some water. And I hug her several times a day. I whisper in her ear that I’m glad she came back to us and I tell her of all the work we have yet to do together. She lets me whisper to her and then she pulls her head away, turns that same big brown eye to me, and flicks her ear.
Miss Bette and I are now pals. Not the showy kind, but the kindred kind. We have something in common. We have The Storm from Hell that turned in to the Night of Thanksgiving!
Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and Miss Bette