Except that what Argus did yesterday (play with a friend) IS profound, and perhaps it matters as much as the exploding real estate bubble, or the southward-sailing economy.
Argus is a horse, except that he is at the center of a larger picture: how we value and treat our animals. And in turn, how we value and treat each other.
They say that children who abuse and torture animals show evidence of such profound disruptions in their basic ability to empathize and attach to others that they are almost certain to go on to abuse other humans.
The emails come in nearly every day. The occasional phone call. The other day a visit to a local horse supply store.
The owner, who delights in hearing about my latest rescued horse (I think I am more a curiosity than an inspiration.) listened intently while I told him about Argus. "Oh yes!" he exclaimed, "THAT horse. That's the gray horse whose tail was so badly matted that his rear leg became entrapped in it! They had to cut the tail off!! Those horses have lived liked that for YEARS."
I stand there, stunned. He knew.
He goes on to tell me that he has known Argus' former owner (monster seems a more fitting term) for 40 years. "She was once big-time, you know," he continued. "Showed and bred horses, took good care of them, too." Then he pauses, and I sense that he is about to say something meaningful. His eyes soften. "She's basically a good person, you know. She just has a different way of doing things."
An email. From a neighbor who watched the decline of Argus and his companions over the course of 30 years. They called Animal Control years ago, but were turned away. They stopped calling. The animal-hoarding neighbor became more erratic; they were afraid of her. They had once been friends. They watched Argus weave his madness dance for years, and years, and years, and years.
It seems that just about everywhere I go, people knew about Argus. They KNEW. And they did nothing.
I am one of them. I knew, too.
A few months ago, a local horsewoman said to me: "We've got to do something about these two horses. They are locked in pens. They never get out. They live on stale bread." She implored me with her eyes and said things were getting desperate.
I scarcely believed her. Must be a mistake. After all, who in their right mind would do such a thing? So I tried to forget about it. Someone else would do something. I was busy with my own life.
We all knew. And we let it go on for years. In fact, Argus' former owner has a history of complaints with Sonoma County Animal Control that range back nearly 30 years.
What can we learn from this? Take action. If you see suffering animals, get on a first name basis with the local Animal Control director. Mark your calendar and call weekly. Call 10 friends and ask them to do the same. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Argus' wheel finally became squeaky. People had finally had enough. But it took 16 years for him. That's too slow.
Argus can now do all of these things: walk from the barn to the arena on a long, casual lead line, without shaking. He actually looks like a regular horse. He can be turned out in the arena, and he can roll from side to side. He will let me halter him. A visiting friend yesterday said "I am starting to see some definitition in his legs." They look a bit less like sticks.
Argus can walk politely beside me all over our property, although at times he is very spooky and frightened. He is nice enough to "spook in place," and doesn't bolt or attempt to climb into my lap. Everything is still very new to him, but he is learning that the real world has loud noises and barking dogs and doors slamming. That is OK with him.
Argus has learned to eat grain and put away a good 3 flakes of hay a day. This is a real triumph because when Argus arrived at our farm on December 8th, 2007, he did not have much of an appetite at all.
Argus has learned his name. Argus. But he prefers to be called "Argies." If I call him in my high-pitched, girly voice, he lifts his head expectantly, looking for me.
He has learned that he dislikes goats but likes dogs. He has learned that although he is terribly afraid of flags, the Himalayan prayer flags that dangle dangerously (to him) across the barn aisle mean him no harm. He ignores them, now.
Argus has learned that strangers may come bearing carrots, or apple slices, and are full of kindness toward him. He has learned that the people he sees now are fun and lively, and he wants to walk toward them instead of away.
Argus has learned that it feels good to be groomed by another horse, and that when you are turned out with a buddy, you can play fun games like "bitey bitey" and "wither burger."
He has figured out that a blanket feels good once it is on, but he has not yet figured out that he can stand still for its application.
Argus has figured out that the comforting act of "weaving" is a security blanket that he needs less and less. That the brunette food lady brings good things to eat, and has a warm and kind hand, and speaks softly, telling him of the good life he has ahead.
In the case of Argus, people have been kind. That is good, because supporting a rescued horse is expensive work, and something best done as a team. I want to publicly thank the following people for their contributions, all of which make this effort possible:
- All of the people I don't know, and might never meet, who have worked so hard to help Argus escape his bad situation. And all of the people who read this blog, and like it.
- Michelle, Harvest Moon Ranch --- vitamins, animal communication services, Gastrogard, flower essences
- Nanci, who enthusiastically drove an hour+ to my house to be with me the day Argus arrived. She was there at "ground zero."
- My mom, who is retired, for saying she'd write checks to help support Argus, and for wanting to have him live in her Fountaingrove backyard (sorry mom, I don't think your neighbors would like that).
- Michelle, Saddles To Boots tack shop ---- Beautiful, brand-new, warm waterproof winter blanket that will go with Argus into his permanent home
- Kate, for tucking $100 in the mail. Your donation will purchase feed for January, and it made me cry.
- Jane, Lone Willow Ranch, who showed up with 7 bales of beautiful Oregon orchard grass hay the morning after Argus arrived, and who also helped trailer Argus.
- Josey, horse trainer, who trailered Argus and his cell-mate Bobby out of their hell-hole, and who deftly got a halter on the terrified Argus
- Lisa T, donation of $100 which was used to purchase grain and supplements
- Amber, a kind lady who fed Argus during his last week in hell. She showed up with a partial bale of grass hay and a partial bag of alfalfa meal. Remnants from her attempt to help Argus while he waited on rescue. Amber had it all in the back of her car, which was ruined by all the loose hay. She shrugged her shoulders as it it did not matter.
- Cynthia C., who showed up with an "old" Rambo blanket and box of carrots, apples and peppermints. She gently feed pieces to Argus, who loves carrots and apples (but not peppermints).
- Grant Miller, DVM, for getting WAY out of his comfort zone to create a system that gives these horses a second chance, and for caring for Argus' medical needs so well.
- My husband, Ken, who could live without horses just fine. He works very hard to support a family of 6 people, 3 dogs, 3 cats, and 8 horses, and rarely complains