Daddy had said today would be our special day together. We would have gone to the movies and had pizza, but no, he was off rescuing yet another animal from its abusive owners. Couldn’t he have waited until tomorrow?
I walked outside and sat on the porch. I guess he couldn’t have waited. The poor animal was probably in terrible condition, judging by the rest of the animals Daddy and I had rescued. Daddy and I rescue abused pets and wildlife and bring them to our barn where we feed and heal them until they can be re-entered into their natural habitat or given new homes. Some of them have died, but most of them have survived. I always wonder what he’s going to bring back. Usually a dog or goat that had been treated terribly.
The fall leaves were just turning and I listened to the wind rustling through them as I thought about the importance of rescuing animals. Sometimes I just wished Daddy had a normal job, like a lawyer or something.
Suddenly a roaring noise interrupted my reverie and Daddy’s truck came hurtling into the yard with the horse trailer bouncing along behind. I jumped up and ran to the pickup as it slowed and Daddy jumped out. His hair stuck out at strange angles, and he seemed unusually flustered about it. I started to ask him about it, but he interrupted me.
“Fern! Go get a halter and lead rope and some hay. Go! Quickly!”
I ran, instantly recognizing the urgency in his voice. When I got to the barn I dashed into the tack room and grabbed Gypsy’s purple halter and the first lead I could find and gathered up some hay from Ben’s empty stall.
“Fern! I have to get this horse out! Come on!”
“I’m coming!” I called as I sprinted back to the trailer. Panting, I handed Daddy the halter and lead rope.
“I don’t need the hay right now, but I’ll tell you when I do,” Daddy said as he climbed up into the battered green trailer. “I may need some help up here.” I started to climb up but he motioned me down.
“No, in a second. Just wait.”
I pulled down the ramp and looked inside. I could just make out the outline of a horse.
“OK, hand me the hay now.”
I leaned in and handed the hay to Daddy. I faintly heard him murmuring to the horse. Coaxingly, he patted the horse on the neck. It calmed slightly, and Daddy, taking advantage of the moment, showed it the hay. It whickered faintly and began to nibble.
Gently, Daddy tugged on the lead rope. A big mistake. The horse shied and reared. It threw its head back, nearly banging it on the roof.
“Watch out, Fern! He’ll bolt now! Move!” Daddy yelled to me as he flattened himself against the inside of the trailer. I jumped out of the way just as the horse came charging down the ramp.
“Don’t bother chasing him. He can’t run very far. Watch.” Daddy had come down to stand next to me. But I was agape at the state the horse was in. He was barely discernable as a horse, covered in mud and caked dirt. A gaping wound on his hip slowly oozed blood. His emaciated body quivered as he slowed to a halt, chest heaving. His ribs showed through his hide. I couldn’t believe that someone would do something that horrible to an animal.
“What’s his name?” I asked Daddy.
“Who knows? You name him.”
“Frizbee,” I murmured to myself. I walked slowly toward Frizbee. He swung his head around and watched me warily. I whispered to him and didn’t look him in the eye. The trick was to appear unthreatening. I walked up and slowly took hold of his lead rope. Wearily, he followed me to the barn.
I led him into Ben’s stall and took off his halter. I filled the bucket on the wall with warm water from the tack room sink and grabbed a sponge and the grooming box from the shelf and returned to where Frizbee was, standing in the exact same place I left him in. This horse needed some serious help.
I curried off the muck and treated the wicked cut on his hip and gave him a tetanus shot, just in case. I sponged off the sweat and blood and rubbed him down with a rag. I dragged out the extra horse blanket we had had ever since Splash died. I carefully placed it over him and buckled it. I softly patted him and went into the feed shed to make him some hot bran mash. When I came back, Daddy was standing by the stall, looking in.
“Good job, honey,” he said, hugging me. I glowed with pride.
As I fed Frizbee his mash, I knew that I had done something wonderful for him and that my whole life would be dedicated to helping animals regain the joy of life.