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June 01, 2011

Rescued Horses Show Their Fighting Spirit

I wrote recently about a horse named Catori who miraculously survived a trailer crash on her way to a Mexican slaughterhouse, and later gave birth to a healthy foal in the care of Blaze's Tribute Equine Rescue in Oklahoma. Last week, one of the destructive tornadoes sweeping through the region leveled the farm caring for Catori, Moonstruck, and other horses. I was so sad to hear from our Oklahoma state director, Cynthia Armstrong, that although the family is thankfully safe, many of their horses did not make it through the tornado. But Catori and her foal were lucky once again—they survived the storm. Armstrong sent an update about them and one of the other horses, Elvis:

Elvis, a 15-year-old sorrel gelding, had known hard times before the May 24 tornado in Calumet, Okla. He first came to Blaze's Tribute in 2007 as a severely neglected horse, emaciated with a dislocated pelvis and wounds all over his body. From the very beginning, his rescuers described him as an extremely well-mannered horse who just wanted to be loved and given positive attention. Desiree and Brian Walling fostered Elvis and gave him the tender-hearted care he had been waiting for a lifetime. He became one of the Walling family, along with their other 20 horses and a donkey—enjoying lush pasture time and just being a horse.

Horse named Elvis rescued by Blaze's Tribute Equine Rescue in Oklahoma
Blaze's Tribute Equine Rescue
Elvis in 2010.

Last Tuesday, as severe storms barreled their way across Oklahoma, the Walling farm took a direct hit from a powerful F4 tornado. After being rescued from their cellar with their two foster children and dogs, the family found that most of their horses had perished. Miraculously spared from the storm were Catori, her 2-month-old foal Moonstruck, and a blind pony named Fiona. Three others were so seriously injured that a veterinarian euthanized them at the scene. One of those three horses was Elvis, so imagine the family's surprise when the next day they discovered their beloved Elvis standing amidst the wreckage—alive.

Even with a fractured skull, a severed ear canal, and deep cuts, Elvis appeared to have fought through the euthanasia drug's effects with a powerful surge of adrenaline, and he was there waiting for the Wallings to return. A veterinarian immediately came to render emergency care. As I watched this scene, I was amazed at his fighting spirit and his trust in his beloved people and the veterinarian helping him.

Elvis was transported to an area where he could be given round-the-clock intensive care, and for the next 48 hours he made steady improvement. On Friday morning, Dr. Kin reported that Elvis was still hanging in there and even nickering to his friend, Fiona. Sadly, that afternoon I heard that Elvis had passed away. Natalee Cross, director of Blaze's Tribute, said to me tearfully, "We gave him a beautiful burial on a local ranch, and we gave him a championship ribbon to be buried with him. He had a heart of gold and he fought to survive like a true champion."

While these disasters have taken a tremendous toll on people and animals, Elvis' story reminds us of the determination these animals have to survive, and the determination of the people who rescue them and who love them. His fighting spirit should inspire each one of us in our collective fight to make the world a better, kinder place for animals.

A woman reunited with her cat after the tornado in Joplin, Missouri
Bruce E. Stidham/STIDZ Media
A joyful reunion in Joplin.

The Wallings are staying with family while the surviving horses are boarded with a local veterinarian. Catori, Moonstruck, and Fiona are doing well (you can watch a video of them here). We're covering veterinary expenses for these remarkable horses who survived so much, and we're keeping the family and all the others affected by these disasters in our thoughts and prayers.

Also, our Animal Rescue Team is on the ground in Joplin, Mo., helping the ASPCA, Joplin Animal Adoption and Resource Center, and other groups care for pets displaced by the massive tornado there. The emergency shelter has reunited more than 200 pets with their families so far, and it means so much for people to know that their beloved companions are safe.

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