Animal Abuse, Michael Vick, and So Many Shades of Grey

Cheyenne 1

I hate people who abuse animals. Hate them. One of my favorite recurring daydreams is the one in which I get to decide exactly how to punish Michael Vick for the crimes he committed against his pit bulls. Should you corner me at a party after a glass of wine or two, I will gladly share those plans with you, and you will be shocked by the intensity of the sadistic scenarios this self-professed, tree-hugging, vegetarian pacifist is capable of concocting. Really, I scare myself.

I have been rescuing animals most of my life, but the past 11 years, since my husband, David, and I began intercepting horses from slaughter and bringing them to our farm for rehab, have been the most intense. The things I have seen . . . and the disturbing, yet infinitely satisfying, daydreams I have about how I would love to punish the perpetrators of these horrors (really, Mr. Vick – you never want to run into me in a dark alley as I would make up for my lack of size and weaponry with an overload of passion for those pit bulls.)

And then there are days like yesterday, which give me pause .  . . oh, how I hate to pause . . .

I had a long list of things to work on, and had made a pretty good dent, but at 2 p.m. I got a call from Karen Lombardi, one of our local animal control officers, who told me she was on her way to investigate a complaint about a horse that had supposedly been shut in a stall for the past two years and was knee-deep in muck and slime. Karen did not have a horse trailer, and she wondered if I would be able to help move this horse if needed, and if I had an open stall. I did a quick rearranging of stalls in my head, and agreed that she could be brought here in a pinch. However, at 3 p.m. I had a pit bull coming for a farm visit that I needed to spend some time with as I was hoping to help find him a home. I asked my trainer, Ashley, to hitch up the trailer and head over to get the pony. Oh, yeah, and I should also mention that I have seen so many God-awful animal situations, I truly was not feeling like seeing yet another; I was more than content to focus on taking care of the pony once she arrived. Why encourage myself to foster yet another sadistic, retaliatory fantasy? I mean, it just can’t be mentally healthy, these punishments I concoct . . .

I busied myself in the barn, but my phone rang again, and it was Karen telling me the horse might need to be sedated as the conditions were appalling and the poor thing was terrified. Dammit. I was going to have to witness it first-hand . . . I thought about a punishment scenario for Karen, but instead, I grabbed my medicine box, hopped in the truck and rushed to the scene, only five minutes from my home.

A state police car flashed its lights at the bottom of the drive near our horse trailer. I walked through the trees and up the rutted, rocky drive where I encountered waist-deep grass filled with trash and junk. Wow. Where was this horse? A narrow path wound uphill, and I followed it until I heard voices, and then finally found a crowd of people huddled near the entrance to a small barn, the back half of which was caved in. OMG. I didn’t want to go inside. But, of course, I did. And found my worst nightmare.

Karen and Ashley stood at the horse’s head, trying to keep her calm, while Paul Neidmann, our other ACO, used a crowbar to take down the side of the stall. This pony had actually been nailed into a 10 by 10 foot space. The horse was caked in filth, but that wasn’t my initial concern; I desperately tried to see her feet because if they hadn’t been trimmed for two years, getting her down the hill was going to be more than challenging. The pony, however, was sunk nearly a foot into the slop so I had no idea what the extent of the damage was.

I slipped past Karen and Ashley and gave the horse a small injection of a sedative, expecting the worst possible reaction, however, she didn’t flinch. It would be a few minutes before it kicked it, but it would take at least that long to get her out of the barn. Paul finished removing the boards, and we started coaxing the pony out of the stall into an aisle that was less than two feet wide. The mare wrenched one front foot from the sucking mud and we saw the worst case of overgrown hoof we had ever witnessed. The walk down to the trailer, through the overgrowth and down the rutted drive, was going to be the longest of this pony’s life.

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