Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Old Molly

Hi Folks!

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you're all keeping cool in this awful heat.

I've put off writing this particular blog because I'm not entirely sure what I want to say. Back in December of '07, I wrote a blog about critter trust, and I mentioned Old Molly the Belgian draft horse as an example of how an animal that's been neglected by its' owner can learn to have faith in its' new, better owner. This was certainly the case with Molly.

She had been confiscated, along with two other Belgians, from a man who neither fed nor watered those horses, but simply left them out in a field to survive on grass. My friend Nancy, who runs The Healing Barn, had been called in to foster them while the local Humane Society did battle with the horses' owner. Nancy maintained custody for the last nine years, ever since the judge found in favor of the Humane Society.

While one of the Belgians died shortly after being moved to The Healing Barn, a second lived another six-odd years, until his heart gave out due to old age. Molly plodded on without them, having taken a wild mustang under her wing for company. Molly and Baby the mustang were virtually inseperable. They were stalled next door to each other, and frequently touched noses over the top of the stall wall as a gesture of comfort and security. The times when Baby was out of Molly's line of sight, Molly would whinny anxiously, and you knew she was asking, "Where are you?"

For as long as I knew Molly, she was skin and bones. Imagine my surprise when I saw an old photo of her in which she looked fit and healthy! As with many animals, though, Molly's advanced years brought with them a rather extreme weight loss, and it's all but impossible to get an aged animal to gain weight. For the last three-odd years, I wondered how a horse that thin could survive the cold Northwest Ohio winters, but much to everyone's surprise, survive she did.

There were a number of times, during the past year, when Nancy worried about Molly's failing health. With every incident, she was certain that Molly wouldn't pull through, and yet somehow, Molly always did. Privately, I began to grow skeptical about Nancy's concern - precisely because Molly always seemed to bounce back. I'd show up on Saturday morning, and Nancy would tell me that Molly had gone down in her stall earlier in the week. Things would be touch-and-go for a day or two, but Molly always got up again. Until last week.

It's funny how your mind reacts to the news of someone's passing. When I walked into the barn last Saturday, scanned the bulletin board for announcements and found "Goodbye, Molly" written in Nancy's scrawled hand, my mind struggled to process it. "But I just groomed her last week," I thought frantically, "She was fine!" Intellectually, I understood - Old Molly was ancient, after all, and had had a hard life - but in my heart, it just didn't make any sense. Death never does.

I'm glad now for the time I gave Molly then. She seemed to enjoy being groomed, and would stand patiently in one place for the duration. Eyes half closed, lower lip jutting out, she was the picture of relaxed contentment. I'd talk to her quietly, remarking on how much of her woolly winter coat I was combing out - enough to make a couple of ponies! "Pretty old lady," I'd tell her. Every now and then, I'd pull a treat out of my ever-present fanny pack and give it to her. Molly never turned down a snack.

While I'm sure that Nancy will tell anyone who asks that Molly's in a better place now (and that may well be true), I can't help thinking about what a large presence that quiet, skinny Belgian took with her when she left. Other horses will come and go at The Healing Barn, but there will always, I think, be a void where Molly used to be. She was a singular lesson in the healing power of love, a horse who came to the barn frightened and neglected, but learned to trust again in spite of what had gone before. That's a testament not only to the work that Nancy, Allen, and Corri do at the barn, but a testament to Old Molly's faith in humanity, too. I hope we all served her well.

That's all for now, folks. Thanks for spending some time here! Until next time, please be kind to all the critters.

No comments: