Sunday, May 15, 2011


The Saga of Dude Continues!

Just last April - a mere six weeks ago - I wrote to you and told you of "The Bravest Woman I Know". I told you the love story of Dude and Wanda. A "magic horse" and a woman. And how, tragically, the love between the two of them was tested to the point that Wanda had called and asked me to retrieve her Dude.

Against my better judgment but doing everything I could to support Wanda and her current needs, I did just that. On a Thursday morning in April, I drove to Wanda's town and loaded Sophie and watched as Wanda loaded her Dude into my trailer. And I closed the doors. I could hear the breaking of her heart as I latched those trailer doors. Wanda was strong but her face and the posture of her body told me of her severe inner pain.

Dude came back to Refuge Farms to live until a new owner could be found for him. Several people stepped up for this hero of a horse. Some would have been fantastic homes for Dude. Some would not have been good homes for him. No, instead, some were interested in acquiring Dude to "turn him over". I did my best to be polite and open with everyone who raised their hand for Dude but I kept quiet. I had an idea brewing in the back of my head . . . .

Dude was a gelding now. He had arrived at Refuge Farms as a stallion but we had gelded him as soon as Dr. Brian felt he was strong enough for the procedure. Dude was a chestnut. Now a shining, glossy chestnut color, at that! And he had white socks. Four of them. Socks almost up to his knees. White socks and white hooves. And he had the white markings on his face. Almost too much, I feared. Dude just didn't have a strip on his face, his entire face was white except around one eye. I was worried there was too much white on his face . . . .

And he had those blue eyes. I prayed that his eyes had wormed their way into the heart of someone I had in mind. Oh, I prayed that their brief encounter a while ago would have left a mark on this man's heart. I prayed that Dude was destined to go to the man I had in mind for him.

One telephone call on a Monday morning and I had a good feeling. The man was interested. Yes, he remembered the horse. Remembered him well. The man wanted to talk with Wanda about him, however. He had questions and wanted to talk directly with the woman who had worked with him and had brought him from a standing stallion to an easy riding gelding. I was just the go-between but I did all I could to encourage them both. I arranged the telephone call between the man and Wanda. And I prayed a bit more.

Wednesday evening my telephone rang. It was the man. He had spoken with Wanda and he had talked it over with everyone involved. Yes, Dude could be adopted by this man. That is, if that was still alright with me.

Was it! I was elated! Barely able to contain myself, I expressed my joy and relief at my dream coming true! Yes, this arrangement was just fine with me. Just fine with me, indeed! When should we transport Dude?

Trips to Arizona needed to be completed. Family health issues needed to be dealt with. And so it was decided that late-April or early-May, Refuge Farms would deliver Dude to his new owner. And it was a good placement. I had not one worry about delivering Dude to this man.

As I told people, "If Wanda had to give up Dude, this is the best place for him." And I meant it. Dude was landing on all four feet. Again. A second chance at being loved and cared for. This was one lucky, lucky horse.

So just his week, Dude was moved from Refuge Farms to his new home. A home full of other geldings. Chestnut in color. White socks. And white strips on their faces. Dude was loaded here and unloaded there. His head was high and his eyes were wide open as he surveyed his new surroundings. The handler walked around Dude and asked for each foot. All four feet were lifted as Dude was busy soaking in the new smells and sights. I stood and watched and breathed a sigh of relief. The first test had been passed. Dude was home. Again.

So just where did Dudely end up landing? Think back. I'll ask you to ponder it just as I asked Wanda to ponder it early last April. I said to her . . .

"Wanda, I want you to think back. Think back to the last six months and the things we have done together. Things you did for Refuge Farms that you normally would not have done. Tell me who you were introduced to because you did those things. Who you met that would be the ideal home for this precious horse of ours that we call Dude. Think, Wanda. Who do you think is adopting Dudely?"

My dear friend, Wanda, does not cry. Never seen her cry. But her voice cracked as she thought for a moment and then asked me, "Sandy, is Dude going to the Shriners?"

"Yes, my friend. Dudely has landed with Dick and his horsemen. The home of all homes. Dudely has landed on all four feet, Wanda. He'll have a wonderful, safe home for the rest of his life."

And so, earlier this week, I delivered this horse one more time. To a man that I trust with Dude. And there aren't too many people that I trust with that horse. You see, as Dude walked away at the Zuhrah Horse Barn, I could not help but be selfish for a moment and cry a bit. Because, you see, I love that horse. I have seen him down and about dead. I have seen him use every bit of his strength to stand just long enough so that he could pee. I have seen him collapse onto the ground again only to nibble on some grass or some feed.

And I have seen him get stronger, day by day. Until after six weeks,
he was gelded and then I focused
on "putting some meat on this boy". I found him with the puss-soaked chest and jaw and waited while
Dr. Anne restored his jaw. And then I cleaned his jaw three times a day and watched him as he healed.

And then, I watched the miracle of his rebirth. Dude became strong and he learned how to be a horse. The big mares here taught him how to socialize and how to be a part of a herd. And this proud horse continued to develop his muscle again and to use the feed he was given to build his body. And to grow a shining coat. And to grow new, normally shaped hooves. I watched this dead horse come alive again. And in the process, I fell in love with him.

Delivering Dude to Wanda, I had told you, was a true test of our commitment to this work of rescue. No one in this organization wanted to see Dude leave these barns. Many would have been happy to have him hang around. But a home with Wanda was a great fit and so he was delivered. And I cried. But I knew he was safe.

Earlier this week, we were tested again. Dudely had been back and had just fallen into the routine here at THE FARM. Spirit had recognized him as had all of the others. And he became the "big man on campus" once more. But a home with Dick at the Zuhrah barn was a great fit and so he was delivered. And I cried. But I knew he was safe. Again.

So, yes, Dudely is now a member of the Zuhrah Shrine Horse Patrol in Maple Plain, MN. And I could not be prouder or more grateful to the man that I entrusted him to. Thank you, Dick, for even considering Dude. I rest well knowing this horse is set for life. And that he is in the best possible hands with you and your team.

I'll give Dude a bit of time to meld into his new surroundings and then, on a nice summer day, I'll drive to pick up my friend, Wanda. And we will head to the Zuhrah barn and Dick and Wanda and Dude will have time together. The two humans who love that horse will spend some time sharing notes about him. And sharing their love of him.

And I'll stand off to the side and smile. And be so proud of what Refuge Farms does. We rescue. We rescue the diers. Diers like Dudely. I'll stand there and look at Dick and Wanda and Dude and be so grateful to be a part of this Mission. And yup, I'll cry a little.

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd and a Very Happy Dude!

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