12 April

Meeting Sarge. Helping Sarge. Halfway There.

by Jon Katz
Meeting Sarge
Meeting Sarge

Maria meet Sarge Sunday, the two connected immediately. Sarge has a way of sniffing out people and approaching them slowly, you speak to him so he can locate you and stand still so he can touch you. He seems to love touching people, there is something loving and gentle about him. He is alert, sometimes anxious. He is a prey animal, it is especially difficult for them to be alert to danger if they can’t see. You can see that he has other senses that are very powerful – smell, sound, instinct.

I felt a strong connection to him as well, I wondered if we could possibly bring him to Bedlam Farm, but then reality struck. Not a good idea for us, and I doubt Blue Star would ever give him up. We are getting a horse in a few weeks, that is enough for us. I will stay in touch with this guy, though, there is something special about him. He and Maria had several long conversations.

You can help Sarge spend the rest of his life in comfort and dignity by helping Blue Star Equiculture’s Saving Sarge fund. We are halfway there.

12 April

Sarge At Blue Star Equiculture. An Unbowed Spirit, Come Home.

by Jon Katz
Sarge At Blue Star
Sarge At Blue Star With Pamela Rickenbach

We went to Blue Star Equiculture Sunday to see how Sarge, the blind trail horse who came there a few days ago is doing. He is doing wonderfully, he shares a stable with Gulliver, another rescue horse and is getting used to the other horses on the farm.

Pamela Rickenbach says that Sarge is a leader, he is confident and at ease among the other horses, getting used to the noise, rhythyms and people on the farm.  The farm staff is socializing him, approaching him with words, treats, grooming and a special diet. The horses there are given attention, exercise and care daily, it is powerfully appealing place for people who love animals.

Sarge was about to be purchased by a kill (slaughterhouse) buyer when Dorset, Vt.  Equine Rescue decided to buy him, they outbid the kill buyer and got him for $525. He was taken to their facility in Vermont last August, and they have been looking for a home for him ever since.

The rescue farms they called never called Dorset Rescue back, and then they heard about Blue Star and called them. Pamela called  immediately and asked only one question: does he still have spirit? They said yes and Pamela agreed to take Sarge to Blue Star, a draft horse sanctuary and organic farming center.

Sarge is 90 percent blind on one eye, 100 percent blind in the other. He is expected to lose all of his sight shortly. He has a home at Blue Star for the rest of  his life, and last week, the farm started a gofundme crowdsourcing topic to help pay for the cost of caring for Sarge and having veterinary eye specialists come to see him. The fund is seeking $12,500, they have raised more than $6,000 in the past few days.

Blue Star is reluctant to ask for money for their horses, they do not ever want to exploit their animals for money, but they also want to do whatever possible to help the horses and guarantee them care for the rest of their lives. Horses are in a lot of trouble these days and they are very expensive to care for.

Blue Star has about 30 of them, many retired draft horses, others rescues.

Blue Star is unique. Money contributed to them does not go to administrators, fund-raisers, publicists, or marketers. It all goes to the horses. You can help here. I spent some more time with Sarge, I felt a strong connection to him. He is a sweet and generous soul, as described. And a brave soul also, I think. He is in no way bowed or broken. Pamela means to keep him that way.

I’ll put up some more photos tomorrow and later this week.

12 April

Silver’s Day: Life At Blue Star. Talking To A Retired Carriage Horse.

by Jon Katz
Silver Has A Lot To Say
Silver Has A Lot To Say

We visited our friends Paul and Pamela Rickenbach at Blue Star Equiculture today, I will be putting up some photos over the next couple of days. Life is very good for the working horses at Blue Star. Silver, a retired carriage horse from Philadelphia,  got a Spring cleaning today from Zoe and Ruth. Each one taking a different end, the horses are huge. The horses at Blue Star are groomed almost daily, the seem to love it, Silver had a lot to say to Ruth.

He talks to her all the time. She talks back.

I thought this photo captured the spirit of the place, the horses are much loved there, and so are the people who care for them. Every time I visit the farm, I come away with the same idea. This is what any movement to save animals and care for them ought to be – a place where animals are kept in our world, not driven away, a place where people are affirmed in their love for animals, not harassed or denigrated.

Silver will spend the rest of his life at Blue Star, in the hands of very devoted caretakers like Zoe and Ruth, who flock to Blue Star in substantial numbers. Blue Star embodies St. Francis’s dream of the world as a Shelter Of Compassion and Mercy.

It is a wonderful place for animals, a nourishing place for humans, a place that understands there is nothing more natural on all of the earth than animals and people living and working together. You can check it out here.

12 April

Red’s Hard Day. When Life Happens To Dogs.

by Jon Katz
Red's Hard Day
Red’s Hard Day

Red had an unexpectedly difficult day in Massachusetts today, the kind of day you don’t want your dog to have, but which often occurs in the real lives of real dogs. We were walking near the Blue Star farm when Red encountered another dog, larger and aroused, he walked over to her and she attacked him suddenly, there was a brief and ugly fight, and Red’s eyelid was torn above his right eye and there was a puncture wound or two on his head.

Border collies are not fighters, their jaws and teeth are not nearly as powerful as the dog that attacked him, but Red stood his ground, as  herding dogs do. The dog’s owners pulled her off of him as soon as they could.

Our friend Paul Moshimer called the farm’s vet – Dr. Clifford Morcom of the Mill Valley Veterinary Clinic, he  came in on a Sunday afternoon – he is old school in the best sense –  and stitched up Red’s wounds. We were very grateful he did that, eye wounds need treatment right away, as Paul pointed out – he was a first responder for many years. Dr. Morcom was impressive, calm, professional, efficient and sensitive. About all you can ask from any veterinarian.

People often squawk about vets, but the level of veterinary care is, in my experience, extraordinary, and often under difficult circumstances.  Red was also amazing, he was calm and still throughout a stressful and painful procedure. Dr. Morcom gave him a mild tranquilizer and Red was still all the way home. He was anxious and disoriented after the attack, but then settled.  When we got home, we went into the pasture to check on the animals and Red came in with us – I thought it would be  grounding for him to work, and it was.  I wanted him to resume his normal habits and routines, I wanted to make sure there were no mental after-effects. He pushed Liam back into the flock and went into his ferocious crouch.

He is fine.

Red is on antibiotics for a week and eye drops three times a day. The stitches come out in two weeks.

All in all, we were lucky. The bite came close to the eye, which was not harmed and border collies are notorious stoics, they are not into drama. They bounce back from stuff like this all of the time. We wish perfect and pain-free lives for our animals and our dogs, but that is not possible. They live in the real world just like we do.

I stayed back, as I have been taught to do, that is when dogs and people usually get hurt  – most often these brawls are quick but this one got ugly. Fortunately the dog had a long lede on her and it was possible to pull her back and I called Red off and he came. It was important for me to stay calm so that he could stay calm, and then we got the dog to a vet quickly, which was fortunately possible. I would not have wished to wait overnight or find an emergency clinic in a strange state.

It worked out, I’m grateful to Paul for his good advice and calm help and to Dr. Morcom for coming in in 20 minutes to treat Red, we love him dearly, it was very hard to see him injured, of course. In situations like this, we are all tested, humans and people, and we all did well. Red is good, he is sound asleep beneath my computer, as usual.

12 April

My Work Is Not Done. Why I’m Still Alive

by Jon Katz
My Work Is Not Done
My Work Is Not Done

I asked a friend the other day why he thought it was that I was still alive, I was thinking of my open heart surgery last July and the doctor who told me in the emergency room that the good news was that I was not  dead. Why not?, I have often wondered, why was I spared?

Because, he said, your work is not done. I think that is true. I am  here for a reason, I know it. One is to love Maria fully and completely. Another is to see my daughter build her life in New York City with someone she loves. Another is to try and raise my voice to save the horses and the animals in our world, they are in great danger. Another is to write more books, my passion and purpose. And to share my life on the blog and take my photos and cherish my friends and the community around me in my wonderful town, a place of values and connection and creativity.

I feel my writing is stronger, clearer, has more feeling that it has for some time. A strong and beating heart makes a difference, it is, in many ways, the engine of life.

I am stronger than I have been in a long time. I am full of energy and purpose, lucky to be teaching my writing class, living on this farm, exploring my life with animals. Chloe the horse will soon be living here, before too long there will be another dog here. Life is filled with crisis and mystery. And love, discovery and meaningful work. That is why I am still here.

I am here because my work is not yet done, my purpose not yet fulfilled.

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