Carla, who owns and manages the stables where I work, has never met a rescue she didn't love. That's one of the many reasons I hope to work there forever.
In early July, I showed up for chores and noticed that Carla's one vacant stall was now taken up by a huge mule.
"Carla found a tenant?" I asked Lisette, my co-laborer.
"No, she found a mule in need of a home and adopted him - this is Rocky," Lisette smiled.
"Hello Rocky," I cooed softly, ducking under the stall's chain barrier to go meet him. He didn't move towards me like all of the other horses do for an ear scratch. He stared off into the corner, eyes lifeless and unresponsive. I softly placed a hand on his withers and he turned his neck away.
"His owner passed away months ago, and the beneficiaries just left him out in the pasture," Lisette shook her head. "He's kinda checked out."
I offered a treat but he gave no indication that he saw or even smelled it, as if to verify Lisette's words. I had never seen that before. Most of the rescues I had seen had been starved physically, not emotionally, and would gobble up any food offered. Rocky, in contrast, had had all the grass he could eat but had been forced into hermit-hood.
Throughout the morning as I worked, I noticed each and every worker and boarder stop by to rub on Rocky, whether he liked it or not.
"His joints are creaky, I will get him some supplements," Joan said.
"He won't take my carrots, but I'll leave them in his feed bucket for when he's ready," Anne said.
"I have some time before I have to leave, I will give him a good brushing," Laura said.
It reminded me of a surly little boy who snarls "Leave me alone!" getting his face kissed off by a swarm of aunties until you can tell he kind of likes it, especially when followed with a homemade cookie or maybe a $5 bill. Rocky went straight from getting no attention to more attention than one being could ever wish for. No one could resist those huge liquid brown eyes. He couldn't know that they screamed out "don't you love me?" and all who passed by had to answer him. And he kind of liked it.
Each Saturday, I saw his cold shoulder get warmer and warmer. I laugh now to think how on our first meeting I asked Lisette to please hold Rocky while I cleaned his stall, knowing mules have a reputation for a well-aimed sidekick. Now I clean around him in confidence, knowing he would not hurt a fly let alone me.
Just as you can tell a rescue has recovered physically within weeks of proper nutrition, you can tell Rocky has recovered within weeks of proper loving. Now instead of moving his neck away from me, he is turning those big ears towards me for a good scratching. Healing in all forms is an amazing thing to witness.
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