Lucy Jensen

I nearly broke into tiny irreparable shards, when there was nothing more we could do to help him and my horse was finally laid down to his eternal sleep at Solace. It was April 2, 2019, early in the morning. As the strong medicine filled his veins and he fell to the ground, I will never forget the look of peace on his face, his hooves in running position and face raised to the streaming sun.

Since I could not bear for him to permanently leave, I had his body cremated so that he would always be with me (also sprinkled in all the places that he so loved) in a large box in my living room. Naturally his spirit was still everywhere, but regardless, I was inconsolable for a very long time. I pledged that I would never again have a horse in my meadow, the pain was too much to bear when it became time to say goodbye.

When you love big, you fall hard, and this no longer surprises. “Normal” people could not believe how I grieved over my best friend. He had seen me through such tough days. We had learned to trust one another so intensely I thought he might be the one that gets to live longer, and I would need to go first; like an old married couple.

A year ago, the neighbor across the street with his mini ranchita brought a horse to his meadow that hugely resembled my dearly beloved. When I first caught sight of the flea-bitten grey, I had to pull over the car and take a picture. It was uncanny. Over the past several months, I would look for her every time I drove past. I’d linger at the curve in the bend, checking to see if she had food and water. The ranchita dude was not the best caretaker of such an impressive beast — or, truthfully, any animal.

I had rescued my dog Winston Junior from there the day Winston Senior died. Junior had been dumped with a broken leg and left to be eaten by a pack of coyotes. He’s now doing fine. Then I rescued my pig, Sally, from there also. She was a victim of pure neglect, also meanness for sure. Was I going to have to rescue this horse also? I had pledged there would be no more horses at Solace. Was I going to break my own promise?

My neighbor and I would take turns in checking on the mare. One furiously hot day in high summer, I just had a feeling the dude hadn’t been by. I called the landlord to the property and told him that the animals needed a well-check, and I was going to have to break the lock to the gate. He was fine with that. We went into the meadow and, sure enough, the animals had no food or water. I was so furious.

This was the beginning of regular welfare checks on the animals there that included chickens, a dog and horses. The place was ramshackle with broken glass everywhere. The ranchita dude must have heard on the grapevine that there was a livid Brit on the property and swiftly headed over to where we were busy filling up the water troughs for the thirsty creatures. We had also got pet food and hay from Solace to fill their empty bellies.

Fortunately, my husband was there, or this guy would likely have received more than just the benefit of my sharp and furious tongue. In short, he asked for a second chance. I consulted my vet and she said that that is what animal control would grant, if asked. He was given this second chance that he did not deserve and rapidly failed the test.

My neighbors and I rallied to save these animals from this diabolical situation and the ranchita dude finally released them to us, naturally at a considerable cost. We bought hay for the horses and started to work on gaining trust long lost. I kept hoping that the flea-bitten grey would find a fabulous home that wouldn’t require mine, as her colt did and the other grey with her and the appaloosa earlier. It didn’t happen.

I would watch her all on her lonesome in my neighbor’s meadow. She would be anxiously car-watching and hoping that today she would be able to eat, the same as yesterday. There’s nothing like an animal that is insecure about food. Most of my rescues are that way, Winston Senior certainly was, and it is a sad sight to behold.

I would go over there and chat to her and brush her. She was sweet with old-soul eyes and a few war wounds on her legs. She looked so like my boy. She had certainly had her colt in the vineyard when she had broken out of her pen one night in terror and delivered the baby all alone amongst the vines. The vineyard workers had called one of our neighbors and she had been found and returned in a horrible mess. Fortunately, there was no lasting damage done to her or her colt. No thanks to the ranchita dude. I tussled with the decision about what to do.

My boy Winston came to me in a dream and told me it was fine. The mare needed us, and she should make her home here, as he did and does — and so many other animals before. And so it was that we decided she deserved a better life among the lost and found souls at Solace. We were going to pay the price asked and bring her home.

She is now safely nestled in Winston’s former stable, surrounded by all the abandoned souls that also found their eternal homes at Solace. And this is what we do. Rescue and love the unwanted and restore hope to the hopeless.

“Our farm is finally full!” the husband announced gleefully, and I realized what he meant. The missing gap had been filled. The universe had aligned to make it so. I made a mental note that we had also added two turtles, one very large dog and a beautiful mare in the space of less than a month, but who’s counting.

When we first started South County Animal Rescue almost six years ago to the day, it was because the need was so huge and the resources so slim in our area. Not much has changed in that regard, except that there are many more Animal Champions out there doing free and difficult work, day and night.

Definitely fewer animals are being euthanized and given up on these days; less dogs and cats are having litters. Surely people are learning about animal responsibility, commitment and husbandry? I’m not so sure about the last part, but we all soldier on in that regard to educate the ignorant and assist those without resources.

For my part, I am so full with delight that Mary the Mare has found her forever home with us. Now I don’t have to watch for her every day and wonder whether she’s eating and drinking. Now I know, for sure, that she is here with us. She is safe and she is loved. My promise of the past has fallen by the wayside because it needed to. Winston gave his blessing, and all is well with our world.

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Soledad columnist Lucy Jensen may be reached at [email protected].


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