What were the odds a young woman named Michelle would answer my ad in the newspaper for a dog groomer? Better yet, what were the odds her husband was looking for a fishing boat? Not long into her first day at my dog-grooming salon, Michelle told me she had a very sick horse. The diagnosis: kidney stones.
His condition worsened. Eventually, her beautiful stallion underwent surgery to remove the stones. To make matters worse the infection found its way to the horse’s genitals. The solution was impossible to think of, but necessary. Her breeding stallion had to be gelded.
As she tells the story, the young woman’s voice falters. Tears fill her eyes. The medical bills are astronomical. That isn’t the worst of it. With a busy show schedule and full-time employment, she doesn’t have the time to nurse the horse back to health.
My heart goes out to her. As a youngster in Minnesota my summers were spent playing cowboy and Indians, galloping across fields on our ponies, free as birds. I remember watching, Dolly, a Shetland pony, deliver her first foal. How worried I was until the tiny head and feet presented themselves.
By the end of the day I was entertaining the idea of volunteering to help look after the horse. But where would I find the time? With the responsibility of the dog grooming salon, a husband and six children, there was little time left at the end of a day. I banished the thought and didn’t think about it again until the day Michelle brought Kit home from Davis. She asked if I would like to see him, and I eagerly agreed to follow her home after work.
I wasn’t prepared. Kit flattened his ears and charged. I jumped back, fearful he might come through the stall door.
“It’s the pain,” Michelle explained. “He wasn’t like this before.” She paused to wipe tears from her eyes. “He’s so thin. I can’t believe how much weight he lost.”
I didn’t know what he looked like before his illness, but the horse glaring at us was more than thin; his hipbones were prominent, so were his ribs. His coat was dull and dirty, straw clung to his tail because he wouldn’t let anyone near him.
“How old is he?” I asked.
I couldn’t believe it. “Seven?”
As the days passed, Michelle made the decision to sell Kit. The thought he might go to a home where his foul behavior would be mistaken for meanness weighed on my mind. I didn’t have the money to buy him nor did I have a place to keep him. That night I told my husband about Kit. He offered the only thing he had that might save Kit from being mistaken as a renegade and eventually sold to a slaughterhouse, his fishing boat.
The next day I waited for Michelle to initiate conversation about Kit. When she mentioned she was going to place an ad in the paper, I casually asked her how much she wanted for him.
“I’m asking thirty-five hundred.”
It was too much. Kit was sick and mean-tempered, but I understood that she was trying to recoup some of the medical expenses. I knew my husband’s boat wasn’t worth her asking price. I drew a breath. “Would you take my husband’s fishing boat for the horse.”
The deal was sealed with a handshake. I made some phone calls and found a boarding stable for Kit. The next day Michelle delivered him. He came out of the horse trailer snorting and kicking. On more than one occasion he went after someone with teeth barred. Undaunted, I called a veterinarian. When I entered Kit’s stall to halter him, he charged at me, but I stood my ground. I felt his hot breath on my face and looked into those pain-filled eyes. The standoff lasted only a few minutes. My knees shook but I managed to get a halter on Kit. Only then did the veterinarian come in. Kit eyed him with fear. I knew I had called the right man when he took the time to stroke Kit’s lifeless coat. He spoke in quiet tones, and I could see Kit’s body relax. The thermometer read a 105and it was early in the day. Kit was put on massive doses of antibiotic to be administered twice daily by me. In time, Kit’s neck resembled a pincushion. As the infection cleared up, Kit’s demeanor changed. His eyes softened. He looked forward to his daily grooming. Best of all, he became a trusted mount and part of our family. Because of him we bought our first ranch and moved to the country.
Now for the Christmas miracle. Kit became sick again, just before Christmas. His temperature soared to a 106. The vet was called. He held little hope for Kit, suspecting a reoccurrence of kidney stones. Our funds were limited. Surgery was out of the question, so Karl and I gathered our six children around our sick horse and held hands. We prayed for God to heal Kit. Later that night, as I tucked my children into bed, there was no doubt in their minds that Kit would recover. I can’t say I shared their faith. I lay awake half the night worrying. The following morning as daylight sifted in through the curtains, I nudged my husband. I couldn’t bring myself to go outside to check on Kit. Reluctantly, Karl dressed in warm clothing and went outside to feed Kit and the other horses. When he returned, I rolled over and studied his face. If Kit had died during the night there would be tears in Karl’s eyes. There were no tears. I’ll always remember his smile when I asked, “Well?”
“He’s fine. Actually, he’s better than fine. He’s bucking and rearing, and racing around his paddock.”
Kit lived another eighteen years. The story has outlived him and is still being told to countless disbelievers who ask, “What makes you think God cares about animals?”