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  • Courageous Connections

Swan Song

The sun has finally broken through and Annie stands in a stray beam, one hind hoof cocked up. Dorothy gently removes her blanket letting the warmth shine on the mare’s shaggy winter coat. As the pain medicine takes effect, Annie’s head droops down a bit and she chews and licks, a sign Dorothy says that shows the horse is relaxed and content. Her pasture buddies, Debutante and Stella stroll over to take a look at the people beside the fence. A snorted greeting, a flick of the ears, and then they an amble back to the best patches of new green grass.

Just like people, some horses come with trauma. Courageous Connections maintains a strong line to Pasedo Safe Haven, and Dorothy is one of the people whose love of horses has translated to working with both the clients of Courageous Connections and the abandoned animals who find a safe place in Pasedo’s care.

“The people, like those in Cancer Lifeline are all so different, but all struggling with the same terrible disease. The horses, too, all have their own personalities (stories). You have to be present, but they open your eyes,” Dorothy says. “It’s not about what you can get from them. It’s what you can give them.” She watches Annie as the horse’s ears settle into peaceful contentment. “I wonder what she thinks about.”

Annie is a horse that has suffered. Someone dumped the incredibly neglected mare in an empty pasture and the bewildered field owners, who knew nothing about horses, cared for her for a month before reaching out to Pasedo. The vet said Annie had had injuries, had given birth within the previous three months, and had had a halter left on for so long, the straps had cut into her skin as she grew. The gray scars are still visible along her head, framing the liquid gleam of her eyes.

“I sort of unofficially adopted her,” Dorothy says. “Pasedo Safe Haven pours resources into the horses, to give them the best possible lives. Annie had such a crappy start.”

Those terrible experiences gave Annie a deep fear of people. But over time, the caretakers, like Dorothy, have learned to love and greet the mare on her own terms, and unusually, the other horses have accepted her into their herd.

“Everyone loves Annie,” Dorothy says. Her eyes stray again and again to the horse who looks back at her with mirrored interest and affection.

Annie stands quietly, soaking up the sun, shifting a little to ease the ever-growing pain in her aging and once abused body. Despite every attention and veterinary care, it won’t be long before the pain can’t be managed for her any longer.

“We just want her to have a little more time in the sun with her buddies” Dorothy says.

Annie glances back one more time and her eyes half-close. Contented and cared for at last.

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