Tuesday, June 30, 2015

You Just Never Know

Dear Friends,

I have been dealing with sorrow for so long I’ve forgotten how it feels not to be sad.

I have found comfort in the strangest and least expected place, with one of our two piggies. Hamish is 16 years old and Blaze is 8. I have never had the time to pay much attention to them. They are clean, well fed and cared for, but volunteers have always been the ones to give them extra attention. After all, I am the “horse person”!

We just moved them from inside the barn, where they stayed for the winter, back to their outside summer digs. I redid their sleeping quarters and fixed it all up nice for them. Now that they are older, they are having troubles stepping up into their “Pigloos” to sleep. As I sat on Blaze’s platform (it’s about 6” in height), he sauntered over and lay down beside me. With his gentle sprit, as if he knew he helped me. As I rubbed behind his ears, the soft pads on the bottom of his feet, and examined his tusks, I felt myself go to a place of peace.

With no demands, he offered me his quiet friendship.

Blaze grew up as a family pet. He was house broken and well loved by his humans. When the family was divorced he lost them all. His story is sad and it doesn’t matter anymore, but he has a piggy’s version of post- traumatic stress. He doesn’t handle change very well, but he just loves people.

While contemplating how to handle the “Pigloo” situation, I slid into the “gray place”. For a few minutes, Blaze and I comforted each other. Who would have thought?

I have loved horses all my life. I think it’s programed in my DNA. Their beauty, intelligence, and their absolute magnificence just blows my mind—but who would even have thought that a piggy could have such a beautiful spirit? Such ungainly, strange little mutants, funny little faces, sparse hair, and baggy little bums.

Do you know that they have no body odor? You can pet them all day and your hands will never smell? They are dear beings. Every bit as wonderful as horses or cats or dogs.

Really! Who would have thought?


The Babies of Spring

I found a nest full of meadow voles between our hay bales. These beasties will methodically destroy ever single bale. They don’t hibernate. They happily burrow through the bales, chewing through every single rope along the way all winter long. They eat, poop, and reproduce. A great deal of our stored hay is ruined.

                There were seven babies in the nest. They looked like teeny tiny puppies, all silky and velvety. They have teeny, squeaky baby voices. They have the same bones in their little hands as we do. They are intricately exquisite. I held one and rubbed it gently against my lip. It was so smooth.

                Setting it back down, I placed a handful of hay on the nest and left them so their mother to find and move to a safer spot.

                Really, what difference will seven more meadow voles make in the world in a family of millions?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Dear Friends

Dear Friends,


                I’m sorry I have not been able to write in a while and I’m afraid all you’re going to get from me today is sad stories. It’s just not fun anymore.

                On 10/28/14 Czardas was euthanized. At 31 years old, she reached the end of her life. We were no longer able to manage her pain. She had that “I’m exhausted and ready to go” look in her eyes, so I was there for the end of the life of horse number 31. My last gift to her.

                The list of deaths goes on. In January my most beloved cat Pip died of cancer—how did that happen? He was only 12. It took a month and he was gone. I cannot get past his loss. I cry every single day for him. I feel as if I have lost a child. I just cannot believe that he is just GONE.

                Gabriel fell down in his stall in March. It took us hours to get him outside as he thrashed and struggled to get up. He could not get up inside the barn. The floor was too slippery even though it is all rubber mats. We finally got him outside where he was able to get up on the gravel driveway. We were all beat up (us attending humans), as we cushioned him with our bodies. The muscles across my ribs still hurt and our vet was sure his ankle was broken (but it wasn’t thank goodness). Gabriel was a bit battered but not as much as we humans. He has been exiled to the outside barn that opens directly into a turn-out. He’s not all that happy about it but at least we can get him out of there if it happens again.

                The following day I came in to find dear old Solomon down in his stall, unable to get up. He too was 31 years old. Solomon was always so easy. He was stiff and sore from his past life but otherwise was so consistently well. He lived with us since 1999 and was never any trouble at all. I knew that his situation at that moment was very bad. We tried to get him up, but he just could not do it. His hind end didn’t work anymore. I have seen this in so many old horses on the last day of their lives. When forced to try to get up the just bash their heads on things and cause eye injuries. I did not want that for my dear, old, loyal friend. So I said, “Wait.” All our efforts stopped. “Solomon, my friend, your angel is here, I’m sure. If you want to stay here with me, get up on your own, if not I’ll let you go.” He looked at me one more time, closed his eyes, and sort of sank down with a deep sigh.

                And so I held horse number 32 as he left me in death. He was so beautiful. He never suffered, he knew I loved him and I want to believe his angel was there.

                Elliot my dear friend and barn cat faded away and was euthanized March 31st. He was almost 16 years old. What a horrible two years this has been. They are all growing old. They’re all going to die of something, but I don’t have to like it. I don’t have time to get over one loss before someone else dies. I’m so SAD all the time.

                I wrote a while ago that I don’t cry anymore, well—that’s over. I never stop crying now. I miss my cat Pip so much. The Bible says at Psalms 45:16, “Jehovah is going to open his hand and fulfill the desire of every living thing.” The first desire I want fulfilled is to have my cat back—my Pipper, my beautiful golden cat.

                Gabriel has been unable to rise on three more occasions since that day, but he manages after a great struggle to get up on his own. Those times have always been at night. When I arrive he’s up but his injuries are worse each time. He was a burst melanoma under his tail that is difficult to treat as I think his tail was injured the first time he was down. This is the beginning of the end for him too. This will be impossible to deal with soon. He’s probably going to be death number 33 for me.

                I know these things were inevitable. All our young not ruined horses and ponies are fostered out to trusted friends. Due to the property being up for sale, I have only kept the blind, the geriatric, and the emotionally damaged here at EOTS, where I personally care for them. Crap is going to happen. Our vet bills this year have already been astronomical. We desperately need money. We need a new farm so our program can go on. This is a very bad set up. We managed to shovel off the roof three times during this hideous winter so we weren’t on the list of collapses but that surely gave me nightmares.

                The other day I found dead snakes in the well—I think someone’s messing with me—I need a rest.


My Pip

     In the last two years I have lost 6 beloved horses, my father, my friends Samantha and David, and my cat Elliot. But I am completely trashed over my cat Pip. He died in January and I can just not stop crying for him. What makes some so special?

                Pip was so tiny when found; he was about four weeks old. He was unable to clean himself, and though he could eat wet food he was almost helpless. For the next two weeks of his life he lived inside my shirt, right against my heart. I was his mommy.

                I would set him in the sink and gently wash his messy little bum under warm running water. He trusted me completely. I took him with me wherever I went. He loved riding in my truck. He would lay on pillows in the back seat and watch the world go by.

                We lived in a house where he was not safe. The person living there did not take my tiny kitten seriously. Doors were left open and he could have easily been stepped on. So I moved out.

                My brother Jimmy, bless his heart, took us in. There we lived for the rest of my golden kitty’s life.

                On a freezing cold January day, Jimmy thawed a foot of frost from the ground with a space heater and dug my dear cat’s grave. Thank you Jimmy, that is the greatest gift you could ever have given me, I will owe you for eternity.

                So my incredibly precious cat was gone—gone—from my life.

                Sometimes I cry, sometimes I whimper, and too often I scream. Every single day.

                Maybe I am borderline psychotic over his loss. I don’t know, I haven’t felt like this since I was a kid. I have many, many things to live for, but I can truly understand why people kill themselves over the loss of a pet.

                I want to believe that Jesus has to know how this feels. He lived for 30 years as a “common man”.  As a child he has to have had pets that grew old and died. The Bible says he experienced it all and passed every test that the human race must endure. I want to believe, as our King, that he knows how broken my heart is and somehow he will make it right. How could it possibly be any other way?

                So my beautiful cat has a rock on his grave and a white iris that blooms in the snow. That is all I have left to give him. His little body will go back to the Earth.

                I want him back—I just want him with me again. Amen.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Old Men

Gabriel is a big spoiled baby. He is a thoroughbred stallion almost 17 hands tall and 1300lbs. As stallions go he is a pretty good guy. We have learned to live with each other. I call him my husband, we are like an old married couple. He has always tried to bully me. Now at 27 he has trouble eating hay so he gets hay cubes soaked in water. He loves hay cubes. The problem is he slurps them down so fast that they are gone in a few minutes. Then there is his head, smeared with green slop, over the door roaring, thumping and demanding MORE! He throws his head into my face as I walk by and rumbles his discontent at me. I try to ignore him. Not Easy.

I am dealing with Faith's blindness, her need to be medicated several times a day, worrying over her, just wanting to be hugging her all the time, thinking of how I can make her trust me enough to be her eyes. All the while being interrupted by the big baby Gabriel, shooting his negative, selfish energy at me. I scratch his itches, pick off ticks as he directs me to them by lifting a hind leg and pointing with his nose and grunting, as he shoves me to the spot. He vibrates so violently with pleasure when I find it that I can't keep my eyes focused on it long enough to pull it off without great difficulty. He has no trouble communicating his desires to me, some important, some just plain selfish. He is extremely verbal and obnoxious most of the time. When no one is looking though he lets me know how much he really loves me. He rests his teeth on my shoulder and nuzzles me gently. He likes me to sit with him at the end of the day and just snoozes as I watch TV. He nips me a little but does not strike or kick. He has no interest in breeding mares for some unknown reason so I don't have
that to deal with. That is why he gets to live here. It is extremely dangerous to geld such a big mature stallion and we would never do that to him.

He is spectacularly gorgeous! Even though he's a very old man.
Thank Jehovah for hay cubes! Years ago horses died too young. After they could no longer eat hay they basically starved to death. There was just nothing back then to feed them that they could eat that was nourishing enough. Thanks to soaked hay cubes we can feed them well into their late 20's and 30's until “time and unforseen occurrences” catch up with them. They will, of course, die of old age but not starvation. Both my old men, Solomon (30 years) and Gabriel (27 years) live on hay cubes and 4 small grain feedings a day. They both look like a million bucks!
Solomon is just a good old guy. He has never been any trouble at all, he just goes on and on. Hopefully forever!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Compassion Fatigue

             There is a very real problem with those of us involved with animal rescue, sanctuary work, and the veterinary field as well. It is called “Caregiver's Burnout”, I think I have it. For the last 15 years I have watched my beloved animals grow old and frail. I have been there to care for them every single day. I have held them in my arms for their last breath. My last gift to them. Some people think it gets easier each time you loose one, that's not entirely true. It gets harder as each new loss stirs memories of heartache. Each one adds to the last until you just can't.
           They come to us so broken. Their minds, their bodies, their spirits, so broken. I can so identify with them. Horses have Post Traumatic Stress, anxiety attacks and pain. None of this can be expressed in words. We can only guess, but I have been there too.
I have held the faces of 30 horses, that I can think of off hand, as they died. Not all of them were mine, but I felt that they needed to know that they were loved, no matter what. If their owners couldn't do it, I would.

            We have 10 horses and ponies left at EOTS, the four ponies are all young but the horses are between 24 and 31 years old. They are all broken beyond repair. I watch as each one grows older and fades away. Czardas at 31 is being provided with hospice care, any day can be her last. My beautiful Faith at 24 has just gone blind in her other eye. Auto-immune disorder I'm told by the vet. She went blind in her right eye four years ago, now her left one is gone too. My heart is so broken, at times I can hardly breath.

           We lost four horses in the last two years. At those times my mind somehow shifts me into what I call “the gray place”. This is new. I don't know how it happens, but I feel nothing. I go about the business of what needs to be done and manage to go on. When my own horse Fancy left me at 31 years old, I kept asking myself “Why don't I feel anything? What's wrong with me? I've had this horse half of my life and I feel nothing...”I don't cry much anymore. It usually takes alcohol to get me there. I don't really want to feel anything, good or bad, staying in neutral is a good thing.
           Recently a woman who was an animal behaviorist committed suicide. Looking out at the world and the horrible atrocities committed against animals that are so wonderful and intelligent is sometimes too much to bear, knowing that there is nothing we can do about it. I guess she was too young to have found “the gray place” yet. So very sad.
         The best we can do is stay inside our own little bubbles, care for those within it and not look too closely at the horrors going on outside. Make things known to the masses. The the voice of the voiceless, and then, let it go. Feel comforted in the fact that you've done the best that you can, then hug your own animals.
          We are their care givers. We can try to find a way to go on if we can. Some of us can't.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Eye of the Storm Equine Rescue and Sanctuary

      Eye of the Storm is a horse rescue and sanctuary that has been in operation since 1999, housing between fourteen and eighteen horses at all times. We usually take in end-of-the-line horses that can live a long, healthy life with the help of people to care for them despite their infirmities. These horses would otherwise be euthanized or sent to slaughter. Most of our horses can no longer be ridden, due to blindness or career-ending lameness. One had post-traumatic stress, which caused debilitating nightmares and anxiety attacks from having been “trained” as a Spanish dancing horse. She recently died at age 29, in our loving arms. Like her, most of our horses remain with us for their entire lives or are fostered to trusted friends. We do not adopt out our horses to the general public. Most of them could not thrive elsewhere.
Pink during an episode of PTSD being comforted by her friend Aly

      We also educate the public on the plight of the unwanted horse as well as expose atrocities within the industry from a common sense prospective, through our blog and Facebook page. We are internationally known for finding a natural remedy to manage Equine Cushing's Disease. We are the longest running small equine rescue in the state of Massachusetts and are completely run by volunteers. 100-percent of all the money raised goes directly to the horses' care.

      Many young girls have grown up as Eye of the Storm volunteers. One is now a marine biologist. Another, Jessica has gained her license as a therapeutic riding instructor for people with special needs. She has discovered “clicker training.” This is how sea mammals and other exotics are trained; it is a reward system that works well on horses and gives them much-needed stimulation. Jessica, now an adult, is still with us and is a valued part of our rescue.
One of Jessica's rescues trained entirely with "Clicker Training"

      All our little girl volunteers have one of our horses or ponies as their special project to clicker train. So, from our teeny blind miniature horse Butterfly to our 16.2 hand Thoroughbred, the equines are learning new and fun things that do not require being ridden.

      Most of the girls who have come and gone through Eye of the Storm have been unique, artistic and creative people. Horses tend to ground us in an otherwise difficult world. Most of the girls have told us about their difficulty at school and with friends; some had formerly considered suicide. The horses provide them a healthy, safe relationship free of judgment or bullying. We strive to teach responsibility and compassion. So far, they have all grown up to be healthy, well-adjusted adults. Many start out doing community service for us, but end up staying for years. Horses and our girls thrive on their love for each other.

      One of our goals is to set up an area of the barn where these girls can feel safe and comfortable. We want a warm and nurturing place where they can do their homework while sitting with their favorite pony. We would like to be able to encourage them to pursue their talents and teach them that being a little different is okay. They feel valued because the horses need them. They would be welcome to stay with us long term, or just stop by when they need to.

Some of the ponies being groomed and "Clicker Trained" by the girls

      Our problem is that the property that we rent does not fulfill our long term goals. Our aging landlord is now considering selling off the property, leaving our horses homeless. It is an old chicken farm and the barn, built for chickens, is over 70 years old with outdated electric and water systems. (I routinely have to fish small wildlife out of the well.) There is no bathroom or caretaker’s living quarters on the property. We’re constantly trying to patch the barn and its roof, but sometimes it seems that it is only being held together by love. We really need to move before the situation becomes more dire.

      We want to rent or purchase a farm that fits our needs. Any grants approved will go into an account specifically for this project. Our target goal is $500,000. We, of course, still need to feed and care for our horses at our current location, but can no longer spend any money improving the building or fences.

      What we need is a place to house our horses, an onsite house or apartment for the horses’ caretaker, and money to hire a general handyman, hopefully a veteran.

      We are requesting any amount of money that you deem fit to help our cause. The sooner we attain our goals, the sooner we can set up our program to help all involved. We have proven that we are in it for the long term after being in operation for over fifteen years. Thank you so very much for your time and support.

Nina Arbella
Eye of the Storm Equine Rescue