Saturday, March 28, 2009
To-date, the lives of more than 150 horses, ponies, and donkeys have been saved because of the quiet but steely determination of Melanie Sue Bowles and her husband, Jim, who have devoted most of the hours and minutes of their days to Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary for the last 15 years.
In The Horses of Proud Spirit, and its recent sequel, Hoof Prints: More Stories from Proud Spirit, Melanie Sue Bowles recounts, with heartfelt emotion, candor, and sometimes, anguish, the stories of dozens of the abused, neglected, discarded, and needy horses who have been fortunate enough to find a permanent home, and loving care, within the boundaries of her sanctuary, now located in Arkansas.
She knew little about horses when she purchased her first one, the broken and unloved thoroughbred mare, Cody, who turned out to be the catalyst for Melanie's personal journey of self-discovery, one in which she would learn from the horses themselves what they needed to heal their wounded hearts.
Along the way, Ms. Bowles also paints a graphic picture of some of the horses who are made to endure horrific suffering at the hands of so-called "horse people" whose abuse too often goes unnoticed and unpunished, people who think that "animal communication" means showing a horse "who's boss":
"I refused to adopt this erroneous philosophy of showing the horse who is boss,
even though it was told to me over and over again by numerous horse people.
There must be respect, certainly, but
more than anything there needs to be trust.
And this respect and trust must be mutual.
Equine communication in its truest sense (means) communication that allows
the horse to be a partner and respond out of understanding and a desire to
participate, rather than fear or pain."
Without Ms. Bowles' personal intervention, scores of horses would have died cruel deaths by shotguns, slaughterhouses, or even purposeful neglect. They are safe now, and their spirits are running free.
Melanie Sue Bowles' stories are not only well-told, they are vital for anyone who wants to develop an understanding of the plight of horses in this country. Even the "bluebloods" are at risk of being cavalierly cast off when they are deemed to be no longer "useful." Her accounts of the "lucky" ones who made it out alive are not always easy or comforting to read, and I cringed in the knowledge that Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary cannot save them all.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Talk with Melanie Sue Bowles of Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary at the Next Teleconference on Thursday, March 26th
Ms. Bowles, along with her husband, Jim, is the founder of Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary, which originally opened in Florida and is now located on 320 rolling acres in the heart of the Ouachita Mountain Range outside Mena, Arkansas, where it is currently home to 63 horses who roam free as a herd on the open land. Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary is one of the longest-existing privately run sanctuaries for horses in the United States. It was the inspiration for an Emmy-winning PBS documentary, "The Horses of Proud Spirit," based on Ms. Bowles' first book.
In The Horses of Proud Spirit and its recent sequel, Hoof Prints, Melanie Sue Bowles recounts, with heartfelt emotion, candor and sometimes, anguish, the stories of dozens of the abused, neglected, discarded, and needy horses who have been fortunate enough to find a permanent home, and loving care, within the boundaries of her Sanctuary. She knew nothing at all about horses when she purchased her first one, the broken and unloved mare, Cody, who turned out to be the catalyst for Melanie's personal journey of self-discovery, one in which she would learn from the horses themselves what they needed to heal their wounded hearts.
Callers who are interested in listening to Melanie Sue Bowles discuss her books, and the horses who live at Proud Spirit, can access the 60-minute "Conversations with Animal Authors" teleconference by calling 616-347-8100 and entering PIN #1063739. Long-distance charges may apply. For those who would like to hear the interview, but cannot participate live, a recording of the call will be posted on this site within a few days after the event.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
On the March afternoon that my dear cat, Casey, had undergone surgery to have an anal sac tumor removed, I breathed a sign of relief. I actually saw the tumor, and thought that now that it had been expertly excised from her body, it couldn't hurt her anymore. For the moment, I clung to the belief that she had been cured, and that we would live happily ever after.
That sense of relief was short-lived, however, and when the the pathology results revealed a more ominous prognosis, I was faced with a terrible choice: put Casey through chemotherapy, which might offer an eight-month reprieve with potentially gruesome side effects, or opt for a more holistic approach, which would support Casey's quality of life while giving her an uncertain number of days to enjoy it. I opted for the more natural, less proven course of treatment, and for nine months, Casey thrived on it, even as the cancer continued to spread through her body and eventually caused it to surrender.
Having so recently gone through this experience with Casey, I was magnetically drawn to Nadine M. Rosin's account of her transformative journey with her cancer-striken dog, Buttons, in The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood.
Long before holistic veterinary medicine had begun to take hold as a viable alternative to traditional allopathic techniques, Ms. Rosin bravely trusted her own instincts and intuition, in defiance of conventional wisdom, when her veterinarian prounounced that Buttons would be dead in a matter of weeks unless she adhered to the recommended "slash and burn" protocol. But rather than focus on destroying the virulent squamous cell carcinoma that was invading Buttons' tail, Nadine charted a roadmap to wholeness that would eventually not just stop the invasive march of the cancer, but would support Buttons through another 11 years of vibrant and joyful life.
Of course, Ms. Rosin's determination to forge a holistic path for Buttons was not born in a vacuum. Throughout her adult life, she had instinctively shunned artifice and artificiality, gravitating always toward a natural way of living, one that was in sync with the flowing rhythms of life. And so when she was confronted with the prospect of seeing Buttons's body maimed and her spirit mutilated, Nadine simply chose another way.
The surprise of the book, reflected in its title, is that this is a saga not just of Buttons' healing journey, but just as importantly, of Nadine's. She seesaws between periods of health and physical disintegration, all the while sustained by her love for her dog and Buttons' love for her.
At one point, when she had reached a particularly painful nadir of despair, she became convinced that even Buttons had forsaken her. But when she confided that fear to a friend, he laughingly but knowingly admonished her:
"'Your dog loves you more than most people are loved by anybody. And
that is not my opinion, that is fact.
'How do you know that?' I questioned.
'Because,' he stated emphatically, 'if she didn't love you and want to be
with you, she would just leave.'
'She couldn't. I watch her all the time. She never has the opportunity to
As if he were explaining to a child, my friend then very slowly and
exactingly said, 'She absolutely could leave you easily. She would just
have the cancer come back and die.'"
In that instant, Nadine re-embraced Buttons' unconditional love for her, and it gave her the strength to soldier on, successfully battling many more personal crises and health challenges, buoyed by her bond with the dog whom she lovingly called, "her daughter."
And as for Buttons' cancer, it never returned.