Local Heroes: Neighbors who come when you need them.
By: T. Myers
I am writing about this tragic and true event that occurred 1-14-10 on Meadow Lane in La Pine. This is about Sunny, short for registered name of Sunny Side Up, and the neighbors that came to his rescue.
When the Theresa Blanco’s south side neighbor, Ervin Oliver, heard the strange thumping sounds and realized that the horse was in trouble, he and his wife rushed over to see what had happened. Somehow the poor creature had rolled into the side of the building and was unable to get up. No one knew how long the horse had been caught up in the folly of an ill-timed roll in the mud, but it was now a serious situation made worse by the fact that the horse’s owner was away at work. The fast thinking neighbor tried to get the panicked horse to stand, but was unable to negotiate with the 1400 pounds of stressed out flesh. Finally, grabbing a garden hose, the neighbor wrapped it around the horse’s back legs so he could pull the animal away from the building far enough for it to get some purchase and get up. Ervin and his wife, Linda, successfully moved the horse.
The great brown gelding, Sunny, stood up and went down four or five times moving a little closer to his horse shed and the side yard on the opposite side of the house. Each time the horse went up on his feet and down, he seemed to be losing more strength. Sunny tried again and again. The Olivers were trying to help the horse and at the same time call Theresa on their cell phones. All to no avail.
Soon enough, I, the neighbor on Blanco’s north side saw unusual people and activity and came out to find the Sunny heaving and the Olivers struggling, each in their own way, to help right the downed animal. I went in and successfully reached the Theresa at work and told her to come home. And then I went to assist the poor animal, too.
By the time that I arrived eight minutes later, the neighbor down the street, Bill Jones, had come to help, too. Bill was next to the horse rubbing the horse’s neck and talking gently to the injured animal. Linda and I got horse blankets and coverings and tried to warm up the horse while Erv Oliver and Bill Jones continued to rub down the animal, all the while speaking to help soothe the poor horse with soft and encouraging words. Everyone soon started to rub the horse, checking on the colic that made the horse’s belly swollen and painful. Every few minutes all of the neighbors would try to get the horse to his feet. By now it was clear that the horse was suffering terribly from his falls and the resulting colic. We all waited for thirty minutes and decided that they had to get the horse up. Pushing gently, the horse was coerced enough to try and suddenly the horse rolled and came to his feet once again. Linda, Erv and I tried to clear the blankets from under the horse’s feet and they leaned into the animal’s sides to help the horse stay up while Bill continued his soft words of hope. With no bridle to pull and encourage the horse forward, the horse stayed up for a few minutes and then went down again, this time his agonized breathing and guttural sounds added to the helplessness of all of the neighbors who cared about this gentle animal.
Each of us talked out loud about what we were feeling; about what the horse needed. All of us were saddened by our inability to relieve the animal’s agonizing pain. Each of us was hoping that the owner would appear soon and have the magic touch to make the horse get better.
The owner’s car finally pulled up to the gate and when the horse heard his mistress coming down the drive, he summoned up his strength and stood up, moving a few steps at time to get closer to where he usually greeted her.
When people say that an animal does not have strong feelings of love and trust for the humans they belong to, they need to see how this very afflicted animal was able to respond to the sound of his “Mother’s” car and voice.
Then the neighbors helped to get the horse moving. Theresa found Sunny’s bridle. Bill Jones and Ervin Oliver, who found the horse earlier, started walking the horse. Linda and I scurried to try to help the owner with what we could do to help. Linda Oliver went to get cooking oil so there would be enough to help the horse lubricate. By the time the Linda came back, Theresa, the owner, was having a hard time making connections to a big animal vet that could help her. It was obvious that Theresa was also dealing with her feelings of how she was personally reacting to the extreme seriousness of her Sunny’s condition. Linda went inside and got the owner a cup of tea and brought Bill Jones a cup of cocoa to drink while he walked back and forth with the gelding. It was getting colder and it was almost dark.
Soon there was another flurry of activity around getting the horse to take an oral syringe of pain and stress reliever, and lots more syringes of oil while Bill Jones kept the horse moving. After an hour or more with the horse continually moving Theresa connected to an equine vet. The doctor told the owner by phone that since the horse had moved his bowels to try some grass hay. Mr. Oliver also went and got water while Theresa gathered up a box of grass hay to get the horse to eat and start some belly movement. The horse’s droppings showed no dangerous elements. But, Sunny did not want water or hay.
Everyone started to relax a bit because it looked like the horse was doing better. Two horse trainers from Ghost Rock Ranch and horse stables came with an injection of pain killer for the horse, but when they checked the belly sounds and saw that the horse was moving and seemed to be stabilizing, they returned to their work. There was another sigh of relief. Now it was getting very dark, too. The Olivers, who originally found the distressed horse that afternoon, had to leave. They told Theresa that they would be gone for an hour. Both offered to come back if she needed help when they got back. The horse continued to walk with Mr. Jones. Theresa continued on the phone checking to see what else she could do without the services of a large animal vet available in our area.
I saw that the horse was doing better, and hopeful, I left to go home and get dinner. About fifteen minutes later, I brought over some hot snacks and found that the horse seemed to better still. I returned home and called the owner to say I needed an hour and would be available right away if Theresa needed me. A little while after, Bill Jones left, too. Each one of them had done something good for Theresa and Sunny and, even though it had been terrible to see the poor horse go through what happened, they had tried to band together as a force to show their respect to their good neighbor and show their love of animals to her horse. It felt like a small victory and work well done.
When I looked over in the darkness at the house, I saw the cars come in and then leave in late evening, I felt sure that Theresa was splitting shifts with other friends. When I woke up in the middle of the night to let my dog out, the neighbor’s house was strangely dark. A hopeful feeling of “all must be well after all” came into my head, and I finally went back to sleep at about two am.
Some stories of heroism don’t work out like we dream they should. No one could have tried harder than that group of loving neighbors to save their friend and neighbor from the loss of her gentle gelding, but try as we did, the poor creature did not survive.
The horse had stress colic. He had fallen, been stuck and was so upset and scared by the time he was discovered that his internal systems had begun to shut down. By the time everyone was back home thinking that the neighbor’s horse had a fighting chance to make it, the real fact was that the horse got sicker and Jones and the Olivers returned to help Theresa. When the vet finally arrived, there was nothing more to do. The horse had to be put down. By midnight, Sunny’s pain was finally relieved. Early in the morning, local businessman, Mike Shields, came over with a large piece of equipment and helped Theresa bury her much loved horse in the back pasture.
The memory of the dark house will forever be a reminder to me of what it is like to lose a battle against time and odds. All of us neighbors join together to express our sympathy to our friend, Theresa, for the loss of her special horse.
When a horse founders, it is always difficult to properly treat the belly swelling horse colic that occurs. It is extremely dangerous to the horse and can be lethal if not treated correctly or fast enough. The trouble is that there are many symptoms for colic and other than removing food and water, hosing down the animal around the belly to cool it and getting the horse moving, without a vet coming to help immediately, there are many things that can go wrong. Around here it is most common in the springtime because of new grass and other things that sprout up. (Go to HubPages.com for additional info on horse colic.)
I hope you will remember Sunny the horse and what he had to endure. Our community needs a big animal vet that is available to help us right away. It can make a difference to the horse’s chance of recovery. Please call our local veterinary care givers and let them know that you think it is important, too.
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