Dakota and The Bear

A year ago in May 2019, we were notified of two local horses in need. Health problems were making it difficult for the owner to properly care for them and they were planning to euthanize both horses. A visit to their paddock shocked us.

The horses had only a rickety shed for shelter, a mound of hay that had molded from the rain, and a water tub filled with algae that appeared to not have been cleaned since the Obama Administration. A crippled white horse and a spunky brown and white miniature were the denizens of this ramshackle paddock. It was immediately clear that the white horse Harley was suffering. He had sustained an injury to his leg many years ago that surgery had not been able to fix. His left front hoof had healed crooked and his knee was terribly swollen, making it very painful for him to walk. Senior in age, Harley was so arthritic that we knew we wouldn’t even be able to get him on a trailer. Dakota the mini was around 20 years old and had issues with laminitis, so needed hoof care and a special diet with no grain. He had previously been employed giving pony rides to kids. He was friendly and seemed to enjoy the company of people and other equines. He did not deserve to be euthanized for the owner’s convenience.

Dakota and Harley needed help, but The Lily Pond did not have the space to house a miniature horse. We discussed the best way to proceed and Brenda offered to foster Dakota while we sought an adoptive home for him. We concluded that the most loving action for Harley would be humane euthanization due to his painful condition. The family agreed to release Dakota into our care and asked us to handle the euthanization of Harley.

Brenda Izzo, Morgan Izzo, and Susan Bandy arrived at the property to meet the veterinarian and support Harley’s transition across the Rainbow Bridge. Morgan groomed him and he enjoyed some apples and a delicious meal. Harley’s passing was peaceful. Brenda laid flowers on his grave and he is now mercifully free from the pain he had lived with for so many years. Lynn Cross, who runs a horse sanctuary at Little Brook Farm, arrived to trailer Dakota to Brenda’s home. Lynn had rescued neglected horses from this very same family several years earlier and agreed to help.

Dakota arrived at his new digs and set about making friends with Brenda’s horses Pretty Girl and Silver, as well as Mister Ed, who Brenda was fostering at the time. Shortly after unloading Dakota from the trailer into his paddock, a black bear arrived on the scene, lumbering through Brenda’s yard. Loud yells and hand clapping kept the bear moving toward the woods, but the horses didn’t seem to mind their visitor.

Dakota blossomed under Brenda’s care, displaying an inclination for mischief and definite skill in escaping his paddock. At one point when Mister Ed was dealing with a terrible abscess in his hoof, he went down in his stall and it was Dakota who was first to his side, breaking through the fence to stand next to his fallen friend, licking him until help arrived. Thankfully Mister Ed recovered from the abscess and we had yet another example of the wonderful ways in which animals help heal and support one another.

We put the word out that Dakota was available for adoption, hoping to find a family with a child that would enjoy riding this miniature gelding who was always up for adventure. As time went by, no suitable adopter appeared. In the meantime, Dakota was forming a strong bond with Brenda. Always seeking attention, he loved his daily hugs and would put his muzzle in the air and curl his lip, asking for a kiss on the nose.

A year later, Susan and Brenda discussed a game plan for Dakota and came to the conclusion that he had already found his forever home. A happy foster fail, Brenda agreed to adopt Dakota and make their family official. That week, a black bear once again saw fit to visit Brenda’s home, ambling through the yard exactly a year after a bear had welcomed Dakota home that long ago day in May.