Thursday, September 18, 2008


"GUILTY -- a delicious word, so much more satisfying than french fries!"
- Anonymous reader comment

TEN POUNDS OVERWEIGHT, I sat yesterday in my Suburban in the parking lot of Burger King, trying to overcome a rare urge to eat french fries. I'd been stacking 110 pound hay bales all day, and was exhausted. I estimated I'd moved nearly 5,000 pounds of hay, all by myself. Surely I'd burned enough calories to cheat, just this once?

I was seriously contemplating fried food when the cell phone rang. It was Dr. Miller. I had been waiting anxiously to hear about the outcome of the hearing of Argus' former owner.

"Guilty!!!" Dr. Miller announced proudly, "She's guilty of two counts of felony animal cruelty."

Argus' former owner (let's call her the FO) had waived her right to a trial in favor of an open hearing where a judge would decide her fate. Last Friday, September 12, justice was at last served. The FO will not serve jail time. She will, however, serve three years of probation and she may not own animals during this period.

And what about Sammy, Destiny, Athena and Starmaker -- the four remaining horses? The FO has 30 days to sell them or give them away. But don't panic!! Any new home must be approved by the director of Animal Services, AND they must go back to court to seek court approval for a specific new owner. Basically, they've made it extremely difficult for the FO to dispose of the horses improperly. She may NOT sell them for slaughter, and she may not euthanize them. The local auction yard, rendering pickup man, and slaughter buyers have all been informed that these four horses are protected under court order.

Everyone is hoping and praying that the 30 days will pass quickly, because at the end of that period (October 13), the FO must surrender the horses to Animal Services, who will in turn surrender them to the Sonoma CHANGE Program.

Arrangements are being made for temporary foster care, but these horses need loving, permanent adoptors waiting in the wings. Are you in a position to give one of these horses a forever home??? All four horses are tame, friendly, and were once ridden and shown. They are heavier type Arabians, or Trakehner/Arabian crosses. All are in their teens or early 20s. Please contact me at if you would like information about adopting one of these sweet horses.

So many people have worked so hard on this case. Many thanks go to Dr. Grant Miller, the Sonoma CHANGE Program, Sonoma County Animal Care & Control, the district attorney who worked so hard on this case (she's a blog reader now, too), and the commissioner who decided it was time for justice. Thanks, too, go to all the neighbors and concerned citizens who kept up the heat.

Today, I drove by the FO's filthy property. I could see all four horses from the street. Two are out in pasture, and two are locked in the mare motel. They are beautiful horses, three dark and one gray. A friendly bay gelding with a wide blaze and a swollen sheath limped along toward me, nickering softly. His dull eyes were puffy from flies. We were less than ten feet apart. "Just three more weeks," I whispered as he looked at me, "we will get you out of here buddy, I promise."

Most of the horses look heavy, with fat, cresty necks and lumpy bodies. They have probably foundered in the past. Since all four have been owned by the FO for many years, they have likely never received regular deworming or hoof care. We do not kow how sound they will be. They certainly have not been fed properly! In the mare motel, I saw rotting produce and a dirty plastic bag in one horse's feeder.

It was hard to drive away. As I did, I looked in my rear view mirror. The bay with the blaze watched me solemnly as I disappeared from sight.


For those who keep asking about Odie and MythBusters, we still do not have an air date! I have been asked to check back in early October. The show will not air before November. I will post a date as soon as I know!


Thank you for all your beautiful words and warm wishes on our adoption of Argus. We are lucky people to have such an amazing creature like Argus in our lives. We are also lucky people to have such tender-hearted people, all over this beautiful planet, who share Argus with us. Thank you!

Some have asked what they can do to help with the ongoing cost of keeping Argus. Please consider making a charitable donation to the Sonoma CHANGE Program or another animal welfare organization. The CHANGE Program subsists solely on donations, which stretch far since Dr. Miller donates so much of his time to the program. If Argus' sister and her brothers are brought into the program, as we hope they will, CHANGE will need some assistance with the cost of their care until they are adopted.

Helping animals in need does not have to involve donations, either. PLEASE, if you see an animal in need, pick up the phone and call your local Animal Control department, and report it! Follow up on your call, and don't give up!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Happy Ending. Happy Beginning.

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"...and so I have nothing to fear; and here my story ends.
My troubles are all over, and I am at home."

--Anna Sewell, Black Beauty

TWICE IN MY LIFE, I found myself pondering the upcoming placement of a foster horse with a feeling of weight and dread, a sort of uncomfortable lump in my throat that would not go away. It's always bittersweet, releasing the amazing souls who have crossed paths with me into the hands of someone kind and deserving. I know I will miss them terribly, yet I know their path is meant to curve gently away from mine. I watch them from afar, like a mother bird whose fledglings one day fly purposefully away from the nest.

Twice, and only twice, I've not been able to bring myself to be that brave mama bird, feeling, instead, that I was the one meant for this horse. The first time, with my gray gelding Ridge, I felt ill each time I made an adoption flyer, or placed an ad, or talked to potential adoptors. It was a strange feeling of unrequieted love, as if we were star-crossed friends destined to part. I took Ridge to dressage shows, on trail rides, and spent sweet moments having quiet chats with him in the stall. He felt like my horse. I wanted so badly to keep him.

But it's not always that simple, especially when you already own several horses and, at times, struggle to pay for it all. My husband (bless his heart), who grimaced silently when I finally confessed my pain over Ridge, simply said: "Happy Mother's Day --- Forever!" And with that, Ridge was mine, and the unbearable weight of not knowing was lifted.

With Argus, it has been different. For months, I have trudged along with the honest intent of placing him. Placed ads. Made flyers. Wrote about him in a blog that I sincerely hoped would produce a few good home leads. The amazing thing is that with thousands of people reading Saving Argus, in all these months, not one person has wanted to adopt Argus. Not one single inquiry. Not one.

It's hard not to love Argus. Despite years of abuse, he is an innocent, a sweet, gentle, wise old soul who's quite unlike any horse I've ever met. I watched a horse who was once miserable and confused transform into a happy little being who sort of skipped through every moment of his day. Eating, sleeping, drinking and companionship were a joyous new dance for Argus. It reminded me that my seemingly mundane life, and the sometimes daunting responsibilities that come with it, was more a little slice of paradise than a burden. Gaining this sort of perspective was a blessing. Getting it from a horse was nothing short of amazing.

Every day, I watched Argus amble happily through the pasture, Ridge faithfully at his side, the two of them moving in such unison that they looked like mirror images. Every day, I saw Argus blink sleepily at Half Pint's half-hearted instruction, or nuzzle Odie's flank under the shade of the redwood tree. They looked like a little horse family, the four of them together, and I was struck by the feeling that Argus was just so damn happy. How could I take that away? How could I uproot him from this happy life? How could I take him away from his family?

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And so, after great consideration (and the promise of ongoing help from a few friends), it's been decided that Argus shall stay at Watermark Farm. Forever. He's been adopted by us.

I hope you will stick around and keep reading about the continued adventures of Argus and his twin brother and soul mate, Ridge, as well as all the other denizens of Watermark Farm. For now, it's an ending to one story...and the beginning of another that I hope will continue for years to come. I sure would like it that way.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

Courtroom Antics

I jokingly call Dr. Miller "the Jack Bauer of the courtroom" because he's one tough cookie who won't back down. It's because of the hard work and tenacity of Dr. Miller, the Sonoma CHANGE Program, Sonoma County Animal Care & Control and the Sonoma County District Attorney's office that we even have an Argus to blog about. Without their efforts, Argus would still be a nameless soul stuck in hell on a dirty 3-acre farmette. Without their efforts, Argus' former owner would not be facing two felony counts of animal cruelty. It's taken more than 15 years to bring this woman to justice. Here's where things stand:

The defendant smartly gave up an August trial in favor of a plea bargain, which means she agreed to plead guilty to the charges in exchange for a lesser penalty. It's done all the time. Pushing a case to trial is time consuming and opens one up to the whims of a jury, and many juries just don't take kindly to horse abusers. Today, a plea bargain hearing took place. The outcome made those of us working to save the last four horses pleased. The judge offered the defendant a good deal which involves giving up her animals and serving probation. The defendant did not like the offer, and asked to go to trial anyway. The judge gave her 7 days to decide whether to accept the plea bargain. If she opts to go to trial, we will be in for many more months of the legal process in action. A trial could be very bad for her.

So we'll know more next Friday, when the next hearing takes place, and we find out whether the defendant will accept the deal on the table or continue professing her innocence and push for a trial. It sucks, but that's how the system works. This convoluted and incredibly fair (most of the time) judicial process is part of what makes our country a good place to live. We have the right to a trial.

The defendant would be wise to accept the judge's offer. But she might not, because she's a hoarder, and hoarders don't think like normal people. They hold onto their animals until the bitter end and would prefer to take their animals down with them.

For now, the four horses remain in the defendant's possession. They are not safe.

I drive by the four horses every two weeks. They are not suffering. They are neglected but are living out in pasture. They have not been locked up like Argus. Their feet are long, but I've seen worse. They have foundered in the past, so that's the biggest worry about them. Their manes are knotted and dreadlocked just like Argus' mane was. Their tails are matted and awful. But they are not suffering terribly at this point. They are all Trakehner/Arabian crosses, very pretty horses, mostly in their late teens. One is gray. Their names are Sammy, Athena, Starmaker and something else I can't remember.

All we can do is say some prayers this week. We will know next Friday, September 12, what will happen next. I will post a case update as soon as I know something.

In the meantime, please say a little prayer that the defendant will return to court next Friday and accept the plea bargain.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

See next post

See next post for court case update.