And so, this was our life: challenged, but always enriched by the animals who somehow found their way to the gates of our sanctuary and into our hearts. Encompassed by our love, they loved us back. They brought us joy and made us laugh. We cried tears of sorrow if they were hurt, and our hearts broke in two when they left us. This all remains true today. Our dogs are a consideration in every decision we make and are connected to our daily routine. They are the rhythm of our life. And we would not have it any other way.
"Hmm." He tilted his head to look down where I stood with my chin resting on my hands along the top rail of the fence.
I stood up and looked toward the rosy glow of the setting sun. '"You know that quote I love by Marjory Stoneman Douglas?" I said, my eyes still averted from his. "The one where at the end of the quote she says, 'Count your blessings by the lives you've touched'?"
"Hmm, I think so," he nodded.
"I've been thinking about my dad a lot
lately, and that quote. I don't want to come to the end of my life, whenever that may be, and look back over my time here and wonder what I did to make a difference." I stopped and took a deep breath, then looked up at him. "I want to make a difference in the lives of horses, Jim, lots of horses. I want to have a sanctuary for any horse that needs us - that's been abused, neglected, abandoned, or forgotten. A place where they can live out their lives in peace and dignity."
He released a pensive sigh as I surveyed our five-acre parcel. Then I felt his eyes on me once again and turned my head to look at him. He blinked a few times, then gave me that little one-sides smile of his and said, "We'll have to get more land . . . "
The vet checks had been completed, the paperwork was in order, and all the horses had been brought in from the pastures and were calmly grazing in the central paddock near the barn of our Florida ranch. They were ready for the three fifty-three foot semitrailers that were on their way from Ocala and expected any moment. The horses were blissfully unaware of the monumental task that was about to unfold. They didn't know that they were about to embark on a journey that would take them halfway across the country and forever change Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary. The day had arrived for us to move our horses to the new ranch in Arkansas.
We had lived with thirty-plus horses for nearly twelve years. Now our property stood empty. It was unbearably empty. Even the air smelled different. The horses had only been gone a few hours, but already the air was no longer familiar to me; it didn't smell as sweet. And I couldn't believe the silence. There were no swishing tails, no shuffling feet, nor the delicate sound of them clearing their noses. I was literally overwhelmed by the silence.
To me, it is always very meaningful in life when you know something in your head, but then something happens to make you realize it in your heart. At that moment I knew, I absolutely knew in my heart, that I could never live without horses.
. . . . .
To all dogs everywhere who are homeless, in a shelter, tied to a tree, or abandoned to a lonely pen . . . . I wish for you a gentle hand, a full belly, a warm place to sleep, and a family who will surround you with love.