There's No Romance in Rescue

It’s my bi-annual report on the animals fostered here at Infinity Farm. I try to balance on a tightrope when I write about rescue. I want to encourage people to adopt and at the same time, not get too romantic about it. I know with bloody certainty than I can’t save them all. I just think that the value of animals in our world is worth our inconvenience.

My little farm has always had an open-door policy when it comes to rescues. In the last ten years, 32 horses, mules and donkeys have temporarily fostered with us for evaluation or training. Most of them found their way to new homes and happy endings. Some found their way to peace.

We have two fosters now. Seamus, or Moose as he prefers, is a Welsh Corgi who’s been here six months. Sometimes when owners give up their dogs, they give a list of faults that serve as a justification for giving them up. In his case, the faults were worse than described. I’ve never met a dog who’s such an expert on punishment.

I’d love to say Seamus is happy again, frapping in the yard and cooing in my ear. It would be a lie. It’s true he rarely bites anymore but he is not a light-hearted little guy. He believes in evil; a trait you don’t often see in his breed. He tries to hide his fear with bravado but it makes him more bi-polar than cute. When he does play, he plays with a vengeance –the dark kind. It’s been hard on our other dogs and now the house has a maze of gates between rooms so that our dogs can be separated. It’s inconvenient.

On a good day, he sleeps on my chest, nearly crushes my lungs, and dreams.

Once Seamus had decompressed a couple of months, I took him to my vet. All of Seamus’ work came apart fast. The good news is that the vet didn’t get bitten. The good news is that she gave us tranquilizers and told us to come back in a week, under medication. The next visit, with a carefully negotiated muzzle, gave us hard medical answers. He has a bad hip and two bad elbows.

There is a term in rescue: Foster fail. It’s a joke that comes with a wink and a nod. It means a foster home has fallen in love. Seamus is the other kind –a literal failure at fostering. He has no place to go from here. He can’t be adopted out safely. Euthanizing is probably smart but he’s still a few months short of his second birthday. For now, he’ll stay. Maybe in a couple of years, he’ll age out of his aggression but by then his structural disadvantages will catch up with him. Bittersweet future.

Backyard puppy mills, like his, deserve a special place in hell. And maybe it’s me that likes the name Moose better. Say Seamus out loud and add an “on” in the middle. It wears me down.

It’s the one-year and one-month anniversary of Lilith’s arrival here. She’s somewhere over a hundred years old but we haven’t carbon dated her. She has “expired teeth” that, if she’d let you lift her lip up, you don’t want to see. She came to rescue from an old ranch where she’d been fighting coyotes for at least a couple of decades. Cantankerous is the charming word for her foul temper.

That extra one-month on her anniversary is because that first month we thought she had come here to die. But that didn’t work out.

Now I worry that she’s gained so much weight that her frail little legs can’t carry it. She has a freight train of a bray that gets a little stronger every day. Her shyness is gone; now when I take strangers into her pen, she strides up for a scratch but the second your hand comes close, she flings her head wildly to the side, ears akimbo, and demands you be cautious with your affection. She’s prickly.

Last fall my Grandfather Horse was failing. He was thirty, with a stack of terminal conditions, and the light gone from his eyes. She rallied and it didn’t feel fair. Because she was older. Because I just wanted him.

Now on her anniversary, she is pretending to graze. She nibbles dandelions, chews with fierce concentration, and then spits them out. There are no coyotes in her pen but she stays in shape goat wrestling. It’s a slow-motion event that involves more ear flinging.

Just yesterday, I was using a hair brush to thin out the steel wool covering her back. She’s itchy so she’ll stand for a minute. Then her butt teeters toward me, as her back feet bounce off the ground as a warning, followed by a kick with her knife-like hooves. Then both of us tiptoe quickly in opposite directions. She doesn’t love me. I respect that.

Lilith is a failed foster, too.  She’s alive but she has no place to go. She needs a few bowls of mush a day and between that, and the biting and kicking, she’s pretty inconvenient.

Maybe that word is the problem.

One hundred dollars; no questions asked. Colorado Horse Rescue Network is having an Open Door Event next month with our buyout program; we pay you for your unwanted horses. Then we do the very best we can for them. We’re pairing it with a free castration clinic. Spread the word!

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro

This blog is free, and it always will be. Free to read, but also free of ads because I turn away sponsorships and pay to keep ads off my site. I like to read a clean page and think you do too. If you appreciate the work I do, or if your horse does, consider making a donation.

Anna Blake

0 thoughts on “There's No Romance in Rescue”

  1. Anne’s Inconvenient Truth … and there’s no debunking it.
    The world is a better place because of people like you.
    I know you hate that, but suck it up buttercup –
    Your words and actions show us the way.

    • Teehee! It’s bittersweet and so many folks with big hearts get into rescue, that I like to shine the light, and maybe whine a bit too. I’ll suck it up. 🙂 Thanks, great comment.

  2. Just have to say one of the rescues I now donate to is the Horse Plus Humane. The open door events? I believe that alone saves many horses from more abuse or just the kind of existence that to them probably seems like never ending hell. Seeing the pictures of some of these poor creatures that really just deserved peace sure does make me wonder if we humans actually do have any kind of compassion at all. Know what I mean?
    Anyhow that wasnt what I intended to comment! The idea that a shock collar is a justifiable or in any way, a reasonable training tool for a puppy blows my mind. But then, when you think about some of the things used to “train” children, horses, dogs? Where has common sense gone? OR remember “horse sense”?
    Keep up the good work, Anna – You raise the bar for all of us!

    • Yes, I always want people to get help when things go wrong, but his previous owners got the worst advice possible. One reason it’s complicated. Thanks, Maggie.

  3. I remember Moose. It was after your original post that my lovely Conner (also a Pem, but bred and raised by me) got that snuggle in appreciation of your rescue. I was hoping your foster would come around and it seems he has, to a point. Moose is still a lucky dog to be with you, no matter how long or short that time may be and I have faith that you will do right by him, whatever that may encompass.

    I got out of fostering because people seldom give up the best dog they ever had, and it became too heartbreaking for me to discover yet another dog that could not be safely placed. Now, I help others who have those dogs, keep them in their homes with some training. I’m working with a gray-area Whippet and her owner at the moment.

    inconvenient truths indeed.

    • For horses and dogs, training is so often the answer. I’m on that side with horses and it’s inspiring to see. Thanks, Holly.

  4. Anna, I’m sure all of us on this blog are grateful to you on behalf of Moose and Lilith and all who have come to you in the past and are yet to come in the future.

    • Too much praise! It isn’t romantic, but it isn’t all that hard either. Just to say, we could do better. Thanks, Lynell.

  5. Dear Anna, Bless your heart. I’ve taken on a few rescues that I even paid for and rehomed some. It is so sad that animals are made to be vicious or untrusting by humans. It is wonderful that there are people like you who do take the time, trouble and money to help these souls.

  6. Heh; I saw your title in my Blog Reader and thought, “There’s no romance in LIFE.” Maybe raising an adolescent has jaded me, but even without that reality in my life, life is LIFE – mostly hard, or inconvenient, with lots of things we didn’t know we signed up for but have to deal with anyway, as best we can. Thankfully, my mother raised me to be a realist, but taught me that “happiness is a decision,” so in the face of whatever comes my way, how I respond is still my choice.

    For what it’s worth, I think that Open Door Event is one of the most awesome things I’ve ever heard of!!!

    • Boy howdy, complaining about convenience seems a bit un-REALIST-ic. And yes, I think this rescue event is amazing. Love CHRN! Thanks, Michelle.

  7. Anna I don’t know how you always write on my life every week. I’m currently in a rescue of 10 feral ponies, they are cute but are wild and in bad physical shape. I really thought 2 were going to be put down as they were so poor and weak, as of today it looks like everyone is going to make it. Yeah now some training and to find homes for the ponies.

  8. I’m a life long Corgi owner and my current dog was bred in a puppy mill and I adopted him from the SC Corgi Rescue. His conformation is horrendous. What I was wondering about Seamus was would he be happier in a home with no other dogs? My husband and I gentle Mustangs so they can be more easily adopted. Some Mustangs will never accept humans so I appreciated what you said: “Most of them found their way to new homes and happy endings. Some found their way to peace”.

    • Thanks, Linda. Actually he came from a home with no other dogs… The challenge would be finding someone like you… who had NO dogs. (And people like us have dogs.) Thanks for your work with the mustangs; they are so smart! Thanks, Linda.

  9. Inconvenient, at least! If that was all rescue/fostering/living were it would be easy. You are way too smart and all wonderful, needful things to really make convenience your life’s goal. And like the others, my heart is here for you too for all of the inconvenience you put yourself through. Thank you, Anna.

    • I think I wrote this wrong… It really isn’t a big deal– They are easier to deal with than bad traffic!! (Thanks, Lori)

  10. Anna, I love your writing! Your words make me smile and tear up at the same time. You are a gift to humans and animals alike.

  11. Anna, your reference to thinning the steel wool on Lilith’s back, made me think of my beloved Wente’. He was a coffee table sized Sicilian donkey with a bad temper. He was a little like having the Mafia as a permanent house guest, but I adored him anyway and miss him still!
    In terms of the concept of inconvenience; it was years before I discovered that not every horse needed “mush” to thrive. All of my horses have been rescues, which I agree has not been convenient, but has been balanced by more happy endings than not. Romance is overrated and usually short lived, but love and understanding seems to have more longevity. I think it’s the better path, and I’m grateful that you’re on it.

    • Great comment, Laurie. I agree so much… To be part of a herd with a range of personality is more interesting than having a barn full of groupies any day… and more realistic, because we all express “mush” differently. Thanks, and bless the “criminal element” in our lives.

  12. I presently have a dog that has never been comfortable to live with. He came into my home unexpectedly as an 8 week old puppy of random origins, born in a garage full of all sorts of debris from boards with nails still in them to disintegrating chunks of drywall and unknown organic matter. There was a light of something off right from the beginning. He did not get along with the other two dogs all that well and we had the occasional fight (he ALWAYS started the fights). He still isn’t comfortable to have around, but age has softened him some, but only some. I had some idiot in a big chain pet store extoll the virtues of shock collars and how I would be able to shock him into perfect behavior (I was looking for an herbal calming solution and ended up with the pheromone calming collars which do help). I told the idiot that I wouldn’t wear a shock collar and if I wouldn’t there was no way I’d use one on one of my animals. I suggest that they purchase one and wear it to see just how helpful it would be for those behaviors they insisted on that their spouse or significant other found unacceptable. I was told that was cruel. I responded that if they thought it was okay to do that to a dog, it made perfect sense to me to use it on themself as if it was cruel to use it on them it was just as cruel to use it on a dog. Needless to say, I did not purchase anything at that big chain pet store and never will. That person was their paid trainer and an emploee of that big chain pet store. I know Smoky is not a dog who could be placed with anyone else, and it was something we considered. I made a committment to him, as i have with all my dogs over the years, if you come to me you stay with me for life. I know the only other option for him would’ve been putting him down, but he certainly didn’t deserve that. I also know that there are some dogs who just have some mental problems that are inborn and I’m quite sure Smoky is one of them. It’s been a roller coaster ride for the last 13 1/2 years, but I do love the brat.

    • Maybe the lesson is tolerance. I feel that way… inconvenience isn’t a deal breaker. I know I was a great inconvenience to my parents. The question is how we choose to handle it. Great comment, Aquila.

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