Second Chance for Sparky by Cookie Murphy-Pettee

Before coming to MVHR, I didn’t know that donkeys came in multiple sizes, much less with spots.  Miniature donkey Sparky arrived at MVHR in the spring of 2015 with his hooves resembling elf shoes.  As many reading this know, the hooves of equines are basically a big toenail and need regular trimming multiple times-a-year.  That trimming is a specialized skill of farriers, who most of us think of as horseshoe people.  If this care doesn’t take place regularly, severe damage is likely, including significant discomfort.

When Sparky arrived, his hooves turned up so far that he was forced to walk on the equivalent of the back of his “ankles.”  We weren’t certain he would survive long, but he was only three years old; we had to intervene.  Our vet and our farrier worked together, anesthetizing Sparky, then using – are you ready? – a sawzall to do the initial trimming.  After that, patiently and with hand hoof tools, the farrier honed Sparky’s hooves while the vet prepared splints for his legs.

Sparky excelled through his second chance recovery and has become a great ambassador for MVHR.  He plays a regular part in our education programs with children, especially welcoming to the preschoolers in Mini-Horse Heroes.

Recently Sparky was showing discomfort in his hind legs.  The vet’s examination determined that discomfort was likely from bone loss and deterioration of ligaments, caused by compromised blood flow during the period of severe neglect.  Once again, a combination of vet and farrier skill – plus the help of a talented carpenter volunteer -- crafted new, wrap-on shoes that comfortably urged him to walk on his fore-hoof, rather than the pain of weight further back.  We are hopeful that applying this remedy, as needed, will keep Sparky around for a long time, living out his second chance to old age.

All of the equines who come to MVHR go on to second chance lives – either in a new home or staying with us to work in our outreach and education programs, enjoying life until the end.    

As for me, several years ago my daughter found a beloved career path and new homeland in Colorado.  I joined her in 2013 for what feels, in some ways, like a second life. I loved, and still love, the Bay Area where I lived for 39 years; but my life there felt like something was missing.  My life partner, Scott, had died very young from cancer and, if our schedules and climate allowed, I saw my daughter maybe three times a year.   On one of those visits, she asked me to move closer, to Colorado.

I already knew that someday approaching my “dotage,” I would have to live nearer to her.  We talked and agreed that sooner would not only be easier, but more fun, more engaging, provide more opportunities for trying something new – for me – and to bring our tiny nuclear family of two, closer together.

One of my key decisions as part of this big move was to be more engaged in animal welfare. From childhood, our family adopted strays – mostly cats and dogs, once a duck – so caring for our four-footed (and winged) friends has been with me for a long time.   I am always moved to tears and frustration when I see or hear about animals being treated cruelly or their needs purposely being ignored.  Equally, I am deeply impressed by the work of the many animal welfare organizations, worldwide.  But I had not been involved in the issues of unwanted animals in any larger way. 

This move also gave me the chance to succeed at using my organizational skills with charitable organizations, a goal since retiring from a 30+ year career in local government.  When I first arrived, I was leery of going to the local dog and cat shelter, as my daughter and I already had, and still have, three dogs.  After my daughter introduced me to Shana, I came to MVHR, starting to help with the second chances of these regal, but dependent creatures.  I started volunteering -- mainly with office work, clean-up and events – until I could learn more about direct equine care.  Within a few months, I was invited to join the Board of Directors.

I’ve always dreamed of making a difference somewhere in the world and I’ve found that place with MVHR, where second chances are the key to our mission.