Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Last Horse Out of Hell

It is with great sadness that I announce that Athena was humanely euthanized today. She was not doing well in her foster home, and was slamming into her stall walls , creating a serious hazard for her caretakers (one of whom was injured by Athena). The Sonoma CHANGE Program provided Athena with separate evaluations from two veterinary opthalmologists as well as Dr. Miller. Athena had no vision in one eye, and a painfully detached retina in the other. She was in constant pain from her eyes and her badly foundered feet. Athena has crossed the rainbow bridge and is now in a better place. You are free now, Athena.

Athena was the last horse to leave Argus' hell. Last Monday, she waited quietly in the littered pasture for her long-awaited rescue, alone in so many ways.

Athena, we discovered sadly, had become profoundly blind. An opthalmologist confirmed the next morning that uveitis, untreated, had robbed Athena of her sight. Her retina is painfully detached. The prognosis is not good.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

She stretched toward our voices, her beautiful face bright and eager. She could see our general movement, light and shadows, but that was all. Still, she trusted three Sonoma CHANGE Program volunteers to halter her, even though touch was so unfamiliar, and scary, and allowed me to lead her through the junkyard that has been her home since birth.

This is Hell: This is the home where Argus and his horse family spent their lives. You can see the infamous mare motel in the photos. This is where Argus was locked up for 15 years:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I could sympathize with Athena's blindness, with the challenge of walking through narrow pathways between piles of junk. The saying "seeing red" came to mind, for I had come face to face not only with the blind Athena, but with Pat, the woman who had cruelly imprisoned and mistreated Argus.

Pat The Hoarder followed behind me, shouting: Get your hands off her face!! I want some pictures of her. I need to get her set up for pictures! I rode this mare's father, and mother, and grandfather! She's a champion! I had her whole family! Now get off her face, god dammit!! Get away from her!

It took me everything I had to maintain control. "You've had your chance to take pictures," I growled, shaking, with shallow breath. My field of vision became narrow, spotted, red. Blinded by rage, and dragging a strangely trusting blinded mare behind me, I fled down the driveway, to the country road below.

"Just walk with me, sweetie, I won't hurt you," I whispered urgently to Athena, as we stumbled down Goodwyn Avenue. "We are here to take you to a safe place. You must leave this place now. Please walk with me, trust me."

And she did.

This place. This hell. This raging madwoman trailing behind me, screaming about photos and "setting her up." I had, at long last, come face to face with Argus' jailor. I was filled with a sort of blinding rage that I've almost never experienced.

Here is Argus' prison. This is the mare motel where he spent his whole life. This is the tiny 12 by 16 paddock that was home. This is the still filthy water tub that he drank out of for years.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This was Argus' view from prison:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Two doors down, the TV show "Extreme Home Makeover" had once descended upon the neighborhood to tear down an aging farmhouse and rebuild it into a country estate. I remember visiting the site and watching them gut the house. I did not know that, just a few hundred feet away, Argus eagerly took in the activity:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

At the trailer, Athena sniffed hopefully. To our knowledge, she'd never set foot in a horse trailer. The former owner stood behind us, barking orders that made no sense, rambling on and on about horses, and Athena, and how finely bred she was. I stood inside the trailer, speaking softly to Athena, urging her to step inside:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Horses seem to know when you are trying to help them. Strange things happen in the urgent atmosphere of a rescue situation. Horses who have never been handled allow themselves to be haltered. Blind mares who have never been transported climb willingly into a horse trailer. And that is what happened with Athena. After 15 minutes of inching into the open trailer, bumping her sightless head into the sides and trusting the voice of a stranger, Athena climbed in.

Her jailor stood behind her, watching with palpable rage before silently disappearing into the house. The last horse to go.

A prison decommissioned.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


Holly said...

isn't she beautiful? I am so glad you got her out of there. Poor baby, she deserves a good friend who will help her to get around.

Mrs Mom said...


Just Amen.

Anonymous said...

that poor darling... thank goodness she has been saved from that hell on earth...

Anonymous said...

I am so happy to hear that she is safe!

She is already a stunning beauty! She'll absolutely heart-stopping once she's been loved and taken care of!

Mom said...

May God bless you for never giving up and for showing compassion in the face of such horror.

One Red Horse said...

This story brings rage and tears. Many thanks to you for your part in saving Athena.

SB&C said...

I can feel how much you wanted to shake that woman senseless.

Thanks to every Angel in heaven for watching over Athena and telling her to trust you!


Anonymous said...

Thank God for you. May God bless you. I understand your rage at that prison keeper. Athena is beautiful, and now she finally has her long-awaited, completely deserved, freedom.

Anonymous said...

How traumatic! I bet you were exhausted, however a well earned sleep safe in the knowledge that hell is closed.

And then to relive it all for us by rewriting and posting matching photos - how generous you are to us!

Athena's instant trust in you shows how wonderful you are!

As a side, I'm worried the crazy witch in the background will try to find you and the horses, I trust there's no hope of that?
- Kiwgal NZ

Anonymous said...

God bless you and your perseverance in getting Athena out of that hell hole. Welcome to LOVE, Athena!

Katie said...

I am not worried about the "crazy witch" trying to find me. Don't worry. People like her are so focused on themselves, they do not "see" people like me. And Athena was taken to foster barn that's in a very secure location.

Sadly, this emptying out of the hoarder's property is only temporary. She will be eligible to own horses again in the future, when her probation has ended.

Anonymous said...

I remember that house and that episode. How strange! Another tear-jerker, but thank you so much for your work. You're an inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Rest in Peace beautiful Athena. Katie, take comfort in knowing that you did the nicest thing for her that she had never experienced: you loved her, you cared for her.
It takes courage and selflessness to say goodbye, and put the horse first. I admire you :)

pchoofinit said...

I don't know how you were able to stay so calm, being face to face with this mentally challenged woman. You stood your ground to keep things as peaceful as possible for the horse's sake, but I can only imagine what you would've love to say. I am so sorry that horse was in such bad shape, that when her freedom came, it was heaven for her. Life is just not fair. She is pain free now. Poor baby. Sad. Thank you Katie for helping these horses and all the others you've help and will help. Patti C.

cdncowgirl said...

While it is heartbreaking that Athena needed to be put down it is a blessing that she is out of that hell on earth.
I can't BELIEVE that woman will be allowed to own animals of ANY sort again. :(
Maybe in the future she will be watched more closely and things won't be able to escalate to the state they were in before someone steps in.

SOSHorses said...


You are amazing, I couldn't ever stand face to face with Sammy's former jailer. You have amazing self control, because I don't know that I could have controlled myself.

Thank you for all you do.

Oh, BTW did you get the article from the QH Journal? OH, OH BTW! Sammy has been featured in Horseman Magazine. You have to go read it.

SOSHorses said...

"The bay with the blaze watched me solemnly as I disappeared from sight."

Was Athena "the" bay with the blaze?

Original L said...

With founder and pain in the eye, it was the right thing to put her down, but how heartbreaking. I'm glad she got to experience people who cared before that, though. What a sad situation. Hug Argus for me!

Peggy Archer said...

I'm so sorry to hear that Athena couldn't be saved, but she's not suffering any longer.

I'm also sorry the hoarder was so awful to you - I certainly hope they've banned her from ever owning any animals ever again.

Why is it that people who starve horses never look like they've been missing any meals lately?

Peggy Archer said...

Oh, I just read that she can own horses again.

That's horrible. They should throw her under the jail.

watchingpuddles said...

Sorry, but I wish you would have gathered all your rage into one huge fist and punched that crazy woman square in her stupid face. Seriously. People who abuse animals and children - I say we lock 'em all up and throw away the keys.

GoLightly said...

Thank you so much, for not sinking to her level, and punching the snot out of her. You would have been charged with assault, as we all know.
Thank you again, for being there for them all.
Please scritch Argie's withers for me. Hug him hard.
Another horse, released from hell on earth.
"People who abuse animals and children - I say we lock 'em all up and throw away the keys."

Thank you.

The Barn Bitch said...

You are a better woman then I. I'd have reeeeally lost my temper. :(

RIP Athena

LuvMyTBs said...

Thank you for ending the pain,torment and suffering for Athena.Even though she did not get the chance that Argus did you at least got her to a safe and loving place and sent her safely and lovingly across the bridge.How poignant that you were able to halter her and load her safely at her time of greatest need.She is now truly free.Please hug Argus and Ridge for me.

Katie said...

It took every bit of self control I could muster to keep myself in line. I kept thinking "I'm representing the CHANGE Program, stay cool," as I imagined sitting on this woman's chest and beating the snot out of her.

I later joked that our armed escort from the DA's office was there not to protect CHANGE volunteers from Pat, but to protect Pat from us...

Revenge and retribution are tempting, but in the long run, they simply lower you to the level of the villain.

As for the bay horse who watched me from the pasture one day, it was not Athena, but one of the other geldings. They are now in a different location and I will update you on them at a later date.

Athena truly is at peace now. She was in a lot of pain, I am told, and an almost constant state of panic.

Heading to the barn to hug Argus now. I have done a lot of that this week... He is such a miracle.

--Katie, Argus' mom

PaintedPromise said...

so many tears... poor, poor girl!!!!!

Miss A said...

Argh, this made me cry. I'm so sorry for your loss, but thank god you got her out of there.

pchoofinit said...

Katie, aside that these horses were malnorished (sp?)-couldn't you let the authorities know that Athena was in such terrible medical condition? That this woman surely has no idea or is capable of caring for another animal, properly? Using this poor mare for your evidence? It just seems like the justice system should be more protective than stupid!
She should never be allowed to have another living being!

Peggy Archer said...

I just wanted to add:

Athena (rest her soul) looked almost exactly like the mare that I hunted for years.

My mare was more 'warmbloody' looking, if that makes sense, but was the same liver-type bay, same socks on the back feet, almost the same blaze.

When my mare went permanently lame, I found a wonderful home for her, where she is to this day - fat, glossy, sassy and loved.

I go and check on her about once a month. When I went to see her yesterday it struck me how much like Athena she looks.

a touch wild said...

I can't imagine. I would have been hard pressed to not lose it and go wild on that whack job.

May Athena Rest in Peace, and know that relief is hers and she has all the space in the world to visit.

A far-away reader said...

Oh Katie, Katie, Katie. I have been following your blog since it was posted on FHOTD many months ago. You have frequently brought me to tears in that time but this time you have simply taken my breath away. There are no words to express the incredible "good work" you do. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

autumnblaze said...

Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is put them at rest. I don't understand how people can treat any living breathing thing with such disrespect. Thank you and CHANGE for putting yourselves through that for Katie.

Is there any way to petition the judge that this woman never be allowed to own animals again? Or at least restricted ownership like no vertebrates?

Good work.

Anonymous said...

Ironic really...Argus escaped by refusing to look around him...only in the distance. Athena escaped (although not by choice) by loosing her sight. I know she is in a better place. She was a beautiful girl. Give Argus a kiss for me for being such a wonderful wise man.

Schnitzie said...

Godspeed Athena, at last you are free.

My heart aches for you and for Athena. It's so unfair.

A friend of mine and I had a similar experience. She went to rescue a blue Persian. The owner had said he had a small eye infection. But my friend discovered that the eye was so swollen and inflamed from untreated herpes, it had busted out of the socket. The other eye was infected too and would have popped out of the socket in days.

The poor cat, "Rocket," was blind in both eyes and terrified. My friend took him immediately to the E-Vet. The kindest thing was to put him down, to release him from his terror and pain. It was such a letdown and a heartbreak.

When the animal is being taken from the owner, you can't explode. For the animal's sake, you have to keep your cool.

But ohhhhh man, my friend and I talked plenty after the fact, of the beat-down we wanted to give to this owner. A report was registered with local AC, and the home was inspected to make sure the other animals were okay. They were...for the time being...until one gets ill. No action was taken for the horrible neglect of Rocket.

It's a crying shame.

seventh sister said...

Such a disturbing story. I am not sure that I could ever do what you are doing. I sincerely hope that the woman responsible for the damage done to these beautiful beings seeks help. She is truly mentally ill. I hope the court system has made thereapy part of her probation. She is obviously harmful to others.