If there was a Nobel prize for Forbearance, I think it should go to my husband. Because my husband has the misfortune to be married to a woman who equates loving animals to bringing home the unwanted, the uncared for, the sick or injured and the strays. Years ago, we used to live in an old house surrounded by trees that housed a rook colony. There is no species of bird that makes so much noise as a rook colony. Especially during the months of May, June and July, when they hang around full-time to hatch eggs and bring up the young. They emit a non stop racket of screeching and cawing that blocks out all other sounds. We could hear them long before our house came into view. For 8 years I never heard song birds unless it was at a friend’s house. During nest building season my husband always tried to discourage them by wacking the slitear into the trees. It never worked, he only achieved that the birds soon recognised him and retaliated by shitting on his head the moment he ventured outside. They never bothered me. Of course they didn’t; I was the sucker that dug up worms to try to keep the young alive that hadn’t passed their first flying test and were huddling miserably on the ground, ignored by their elders.
Over the years my husband got used to coming home to find cardboard boxes filled with a wide variety of animals that needed some form of care, or new additions to the family because someone had dumped a litter of kittens. Not to mention all the victims the cats dragged in…And I don’t think my husband will ever forget the time I was raising a baby Long-Eared Owl in the kitchen. The day he came home and discovered that the owl had learned how to fly, before I got a chance to warn him, nearly stopped his heart when it flew straight at him, talons stretched out. I told my husband it was because the owl wasn’t sure where to land, but I don’t think he quite believed me. Fortunately, the falconer that agreed to take him was very happy with him. The owl I mean, not my husband.
When we bought the land we live on now my husband got really worried. I’m sure that the idea of what I might do with 16 acres terrified him and of course I did get my first rescue horse before the deal was even signed, because a neighbour of ours died and nobody wanted his old mare and I couldn’t bear the idea of her going to the factory.
Eventually my husband put his foot down and so I rehomed the ones I had and promised not to take in any large animals anymore. I’ve done my best to keep my promise, although I brought home Fido the dog, who was only a year old and on his way to be put down for no other reason than that the new landlord of his owner didn’t allow pets. But he was only a collie, you can hardly call that a large animal. Other than bringing Fido, I concentrated on looking after my own. And when I got phone calls about horses being dumped in the forestry or other animals in peril, I did my best to find a place for them, but I didn’t bring them home. Until now.
I got a phone call from a friend. I know him because I used to teach art to 2 of his children. He is going through a particularly difficult divorce and he admitted to me he was unable to look after his animals properly. Would I please take his pony. And without consulting my husband, I said yes. I couldn’t help myself. Because the thing is, this offer came at exactly the right time for me. Cassie is ready to be brought back into work, but Minnie can’t handle being on her own and she is absolutely frantic when I take Cassie away. I have no alternative but to lock her in the stable, which she hates, but it is the only way I can prevent her from injuring herself in her attempts to follow us. The only times when Minnie has been able to cope is when Máire comes over and we leave Minnie with Rosie. I have always felt that two horses is not enough, it doesn’t make a herd and it is not easy to take one horse away and leave the other behind. I felt that if I wanted to have any chance of getting anywhere with Cassie, I needed to find Minnie company. So I had been throwing out a few feelers about getting a little rescue pony. My friend’s pony is a Kerry Bog Pony, like Rosie, and it seemed like a prayer answered. So last night during dinner, I airily mentioned to my husband that my friend T was in dire straits and had offered me his little pony and that I had accepted. My husband reacted as I expected, by nearly choking on his dinner, but he couldn’t really say much because of the presence of my son’s friend who was staying over, which is why I had kept my announcement until dinnertime.
Anyway, this morning I hooked the trailer onto my jeep and set off to collect the pony. T is a good man, who loves his animals, but he was in a far worse state than I expected and so were his animals. I don’t really blame T. Some of the neglect was due to his mental state, some of it to ignorance, but at least he had the good sense to realise he couldn’t cope anymore and to ask for help. The pony is a 2 year old whose head collar hadn’t been taken off since he was a foal, because T was afraid he might not be able to catch him, he hasn’t been handled, he has funny bald patches and his hooves are terribly overgrown and will take months to recover, but he was otherwise in good condition, not starved. All he really needs is time and attention. I led the pony to the trailer and with lots of treats and patience I coaxed him inside inch by inch. We left the pony with a hay net to get used to standing in the trailer, and T showed me the rest of the animals he wants to rehome. Apart from the pony, he has lots of sheep and goats, dogs, cats and chickens. When we got to the goats, T said: “Please Sandra, please take a goat.” I said that I didn’t know anything about goats, but T said: “You’re so good with horses, please take a goat, they’re easy, please take Twinkle, the kids love her”. He started to untie Twinkle from her stake and said, “ Besides, you can’t look a gift goat in the mouth” and before I could say anything, he opened the jockey door of the trailer, Twinkle hopped in and positioned herself beside the pony, and that was that. What could I say? It was obvious that this was hard for T and so I hugged him and got into the jeep to drive home.
At home, I parked and went inside to ask my daughter to help me unload. We put the pony into the picadero, because I don’t want to put him in with Minnie and Cassie until he has been seen by a vet, and then we went off to find a spot for the goat. Twinkle was trotting happily along with my daughter. I went off to get an old dog collar to replace the twine she had around her neck. It was then I found that she had a deep cut in her neck where the string had been. As I was massaging ointment into the wound, my husband came out. “Who is this then” he said. “This is Twinkle, and she is ours”, I replied, glancing at him through my eyelashes. I have to admit I was a bit worried. Neither of us is in work. We have no money, and I’m bringing in two extra animals. My husband rolled his eyes up and went off, only to reappear a moment later with a bucket of water. “She looks thin”, he said, “we need to feed her up a bit.”
That’s why I think there should be a Nobel prize for Forbearance, and my husband should get it. Now all I need is a name for this pony!