Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Thanks, EARS volunteers!

UAN's temporary sheltering deployment in West Virginia is winding down, as the horses are being transferred to new adoptive homes or to rescue groups for foster care and future adoption. Nearly 50 equines who were once emaciated and neglected are starting anew, thanks to UAN staff, the EARS volunteer team, The Humane Society of the United States, the Wayne County (WV) Prosecutor’s Office and the Cabell-Wayne Animal Shelter.

Special thanks to EARS volunteers Shari Neal of Marion, Iowa and Debbie Ferguson of Kildeer, Illinois for taking photos and writing dispatches from the field.

If you want to know a little more about some of the 33 EARS volunteers who deployed to West Virginia, please read the following press releases:

Elaine Allison of Moraine, Ohio

Lisa Ammirati and Penny Beal of Wake County, North Carolina

Colleen Bailey of Cranbrook, British Columbia

Ronda Fraser of Kitchener, Ontario

Joe Schubauer-Berigan of Cincinnati, Ohio

Photos courtesy Shari Neal.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The horses are going home!

We just heard from UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies, and she reports that 7 horses out of the 49 equines rescued from a neglect situation on May 27 went home today!

These seven lucky horses were adopted by local residents and will have lives of luxury in wonderful homes. Two of them were Clifford and Nubbin, a mare with frostbitten nubs for ears.

"We had a very long day, but thoroughly gratifying, especially seeing our guys gettting loaded up and going home," Janell said. "One of the new adopters lives right on the road to the shelter, so we can see the horses in their glorious new surroundings on our way to and from each day. Pretty cool."

The remaining horses, donkeys and mules are scheduled to be transported to equine rescue groups later this week. Each of the animals has received vaccines and $200 in dental care. One horse had been cribbing on barbed wire, which caused a lot of damage to his teeth.

Janell left the shelter for a week and came back to find that the animals had improved immensely. "I was so shocked when I got back to see how shiny everyone looked," she said. "They are just glowing and looking happier and healthier each day. They don't even look like the same horses..."

Photos: A mother and her foal went to their forever home; Charlie was one of the most emaciated horses rescued in Wayne County but is starting to put on weight; a horse named Eve enjoys the pasture. Photos courtesy Janell Matthies.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Rolling along at the temporary horse shelter

Submitted by EARS volunteer Shari Neal of Marion, Iowa

It seemed simple enough. After the rain, the pasture was sloppy and wet so adding sawdust would make it less muddy…right? Who knew that the delivery of sawdust would start a frenzy of horses behaving like dogs -- rolling, kicking and digging? Apparently everybody but me. This is exactly what happened and it was amazing to witness.

The front-loader zipped across the property to the sawdust pile and when the bucket was full, it crept through the pasture gate and the driver carefully dumped its load toward the back of the pen while the horses and mules nervously hovered around the far side, not much liking the sound of the engine. As soon as the machine had passed back through the gate and its roar became faint, one brave horse slowly walked to the pile to see what it was -- after all, it might have been something to eat.

She sniffed it and put a hoof in, as if she were testing the temperature of bathwater, but had to retreat as the engine noise was getting louder and the next load was about to arrive. The driver dumped the second load, spun 180 degrees on a dime, and headed out the gate for more. This time a sniff and a hoof dip were not enough; the horse dug into the pile, throwing the sawdust like a five-year-old child in a sandbox digging for treasure. By this time the other horses and mules were watching, waiting to find out what this stuff was. But they would have to wait as load three was getting closer. Now the piles were getting larger and the machine didn’t seem so loud and scary, so the instant it cleared the gate the exploration began in earnest making the most of the short time afforded them before the front-loader's inevitable return.

The brave mare went to the piles, dropped to her knees and fell on her side. First she pushed her head backward into the soft mound nearly submerging her face. Next she flung her legs from side to side rolling back and forth reminding me of a dog being taught to roll over. The only thing missing was the snausage reward. Clearly the joy in this animated animal was reward enough. Once the others saw this, they too waited for the sawdust delivery man to clear the gate, then went through the rolling dance as the first horse had. First the sniff, then the dip, then the dig, then full-blown, hard-core rock and rolling. Legs flailing wildly throwing sawdust in the air. Butt-wiggling, nostril-flaring, tail-swishing fun. Like nothing I have ever witnessed. An awesome display of equine ecstasy.

It reminded me of how dogs play with sticks and cats play with cardboard boxes instead of the expensive toys purchased for them. Give a horse a pile of sawdust and you’ll have a buddy for life. Since its delivery, they all take turns in the pile several times a day, anytime they need a pick-me-up I guess. And since they have begun to play, they have also begun to relax and open up to the possibility that humans are okay, maybe even better than okay.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Looking out for each other

Submitted by EARS volunteer Shari Neal of Marion, Iowa

Among the 49 animals rescued from neglect in Wayne County, West Virginia on May 27 were two ponies locked in a shed. Here is the story of their journey from crisis to care.

Dillon looked at Murray as if to say this may be our only chance. Murray nodded in silent agreement then together the small ponies pushed through the door of their shed. Their liberators stood in shock, holding empty leads, as a whir of brown and white passed by them and the sound of eight hooves bolting to freedom rung in their ears. Dillon was the larger of the two, only by about three inches, but he took great pride in being the “big one." He liked to think of himself as “the muscle" since Murray had already established himself as “the brains."

Some people said Murray looked about the size of an overweight Great Dane, but he knew he was a fine pony and would be appreciated for his good looks and intellect someday. Hope was all he had to keep his spirits up, locked in a dark shed without food or water. He was grateful to be there with his best buddy, Dillon, who made him laugh because he had a white rump that made him look like he sat in wet paint. Murray had once heard a woman say she thought he had some faint zebra markings on his legs and back. From then on, he was certain he had descended from wild zebras.

Finding themselves suddenly in the sunlight and finally free, the ponies tried to figure out what to do next. Within an instant each had spotted a tuft of grass, raced to it and eaten it voraciously. And then another and another. It had been so long since they had eaten, they ran back and forth across the yard snapping up anything green, not even tasting it and quickly moving on to the next morsel.

All the while, the humans trying to contain them were closing in. In the end, the ponies would gladly trade their freedom for the sweet taste of fresh green grass, and that is what they did. Dillon spotted a field of the good stuff. He looked to Murray for permission and together they plowed through the fence standing between them and grass heaven. There they stood munching as quickly as they could, until the humans finally strolled up and lassoed them. It was worth it.

After arriving at the emergency shelter, the hay came every day. There was always clean water to drink, salt to lick and humans offering to scratch their ears. Murray didn’t trust the humans and convinced Dillon they needed to eat as much hay as they could because they would never get any more. After a few days of stomachaches and Murray’s theory being proven false, they decided to leave some hay for later and trust the humans to bring them some more. Dillon focused on training the humans to rub his nose and liked to taste their hands, while Murray gave his attention to perfecting methods for stealing hay from the horses in the neighboring stall. After all…you never know when you might need more hay! Years of neglect had taught him this hard lesson and it would not be soon forgotten.

Dillon is not thrilled about being surrounded by horses as he doesn’t get to be the “big one” anymore, but he likes his festive red halter. Murray (wearing classic black, as he is not the flashy type) is hoping to find another pony descended from zebras to compare markings with. The two friends are unsure of their future but certain that they are better off in their new home than in the one they left. They have decided to keep a positive attitude and look out for each other as they always have.

Photos: Murray and Dillon in their new digs at the temporary shelter; Murray and Dillon enjoying their endless supply of hay; best buddies, Murray and Dillon scratch each other; Murray steals hay from a neighboring stall; Dillon samples the fingers of a UAN volunteer. Photos courtesy Shari Neal.

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Making memories

Submitted by EARS volunteer Shari Neal of Marion, Iowa

I’ve been told that horses have a memory that lasts a thousand years. While this might be an exaggeration, apparently equines really do have exceptional memories. So what kind of things do horses remember…who brought them hay when they were hungry and how good it tasted? Who exercised them then gave them a relaxing brushing? Who brought them in from the rain and made sure they were warm enough? They remember faces, smells, tastes, touches, sounds, dangers and many other things… the good, the bad and especially the ugly.

My grandmother had Shetland ponies when I was a kid. Everyday she threw the same pony an apple over the fence until the day she threw an onion just to see what he would do…trusting her and remembering their routine, he bit into it and made a terrible face. She laughed and he made a mental note not to trust her again.

What will these horses remember? Having no shelter or being locked in a shed, not having enough to eat, times when there was no clean water, aching overgrown hooves, injuries left untreated, ailments ignored, no social interaction, no bonding or attachments, no exercise, neglect?

This has been their experience with humans. This is what they remember. This is what has been played out since the day they arrived at the emergency shelter. Bad reactions to hands offering kindness, kicks for those who got too close, nips on elbows, lunging at fences trying to get at those who walked too close. This is what must be undone. Good memories must replace the bad. Trust must be earned. These animals are not blank slates. They have had a lot of bad words written on them but it is time to get out the eraser and a fresh piece of chalk and begin to write their new story.

It has already begun. Horses who wouldn’t let people in their pens to clean will now allow petting. Horses who have been fighting for food because they are afraid they might never get any again are beginning to relax as they have figured out that more hay will be coming each day. Horses who were rigid and cautious are melting to the touch of an EARS volunteer giving them a good scratching. New, positive memories are being made every day. Slowly trust will be established through thoughtful human contact and their new lives will begin.

Will they remember what has been done to them and by whom? You bet. And they will also remember who brought them out of that painful existence and into this safe place filled with fresh food, clean water, companionship and affection.

There is not an EARS volunteer among us who is not grateful to be a part of their new story and not an animal among us who will ever forget what a small group of dedicated volunteers has done for them.

Photos: Lisa Ammirati of Fuquay Varina, North Carolina and Soda Pop; the mule who was locked in the shed is now comfortable enough to lay in the sun; Chance is the skinniest of the rescued horses; a horse who is cautious but is tolerating more contact every day; Cheryl Derasmo of Clayton, North Carolina gives one of the horses some affection.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Great things are happening for the animals

Submitted by UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies

It’s another long, hot day here in West Virginia. The animals are still improving rapidly and we’re seeing great things. Horses who were terrified of us on day one are now eating out of our hands. Horribly infected wounds are now showing clear signs of healing, with healthy new skin showing through. The animals all are exuding a peaceful feeling and seem completely content.
We are starting to get to know their personalities and their quirks as well. Jack has become our official 15-minute time clock, braying loudly every quarter hour on the dot. He also lets us know when we’re late in the morning or when he’s getting low on hay. Around closing time every night we wait for his calls to echo throughout the barns so we know it’s officially “quitting time."

Clifford the Big Red Mule has become our mascot. He is by far the friendliest, most sociable of the bunch. If there were such thing as a lap mule – he’d be it. He snuggles up to us every time we try to clean his stall. It’s a bit of an impediment – but we all enjoy his overtures.

The Apaloosa who was spinning in her stall is now grazing contentedly out in the back pasture near the pond. You would never guess what some of these guys have been through. They are all so calmly and happily eating and drinking away their days, sometimes simultaneously.

Our token stray dogs have become ideal companions. Crash and Howard have learned the schedule and wait patiently for us in the morning. They play and play and play all day and when they are too tired to run around and play, they lay next to each other and continue to roll around and lazily play.

The dogs have learned to stay out from underfoot and stay away from the horses, and they happily play in the pond while we tend to our chores. At night, they are more than ready to go back to their stall for dinner and crash out for the night. They remind me of two boys on summer break. I almost wish they could stay here forever but I know they have very bright futures and someone out there will be very lucky to adopt them.

Photos: Jack, our faithful timekeeper; Clifford the Big Red Mule; Howard, the third dog to show up at the temporary shelter.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Road warriors help victims of animal cruelty

UAN's Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteers travel to temporary shelters at a moment's notice because they want to help animals rescued from crisis situations. Meet two of the EARS volunteers who spent Memorial Day weekend caring for 49 horses, mules and donkeys rescued from neglect in West Virginia.

Rhonda Fraser
A broadband team lead for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs in Guelph left home on Wednesday, May 26 to assist at the emergency shelter. Ronda says her coworkers and friends wouldn't recognize her in her UAN "uniform" -- khaki pants, work boots, a red t-shirt and a wide-brimmed hat -- and that setting up the shelter was very hard, physical work. But it was well worth it to see the animals get the care they deserved. Read more >>

Elaine Allison
Deputy mayor of Moraine, Ohio, Elaine put aside her public service hat and picked up a wheelbarrow and work boots to help the equines rescued from neglect in West Virginia. Elaine is the Vice President of Business Banking at PNC Bank and co-owner of Possum Creek Stables, so she brought plenty of much-needed horse-handing experience to the temporary shelter during the crucial early stages of the response, when the horses are most likely to be frightened and skittish. Read more >>

Photos courtesy EARS volunteer Debbie Ferguson.