By Tommy & Patty Clarkson from the May 2013 Edition
The Beginning (December 6, 2008)
“Now, with the passage of time – and lucidity of good health restored – I realize that when first I met them, I teetered perilously at the brink of life’s end. At the time, life had become but a numb haze of simple, endless awfulness.
When they initially saw me, as they peered through the tropic overgrowth, I was but a simple prisoner. Deprived of food and water for quite some time I was inhumanely bound by rusty barbed wire that my captor had twisted around my ankle, when originally I was shackled. At first, I was oblivious to them as they approached. But when I did take their notice, the shock, horror and dismay reflected on their faces told me all I needed to know of what a sad picture of horse flesh I had become.
At that point in my life, my sole focus was on simple survival. My existence was marked from moment to minute – one excruciating time tick slowly crawling after another. For me, abject despair thickened like the dirty, fly encrusted, blood that oozed down my leg. Bleakness, similar to the barren patch of packed soil on which I strove to stand, was all that remained of my emaciated and painful life.
Exhausted, drained and fighting desperation, I strove – if only for myself – to stand with a modicum of dignity. But it was almost a “field too far”. Waves of thirst and hunger fought for attention over the deep gashes the wire had gouged into my lower left leg. Beyond that, the now pus and parasite infected, wound where the desert viper – a rattlesnake – had bitten me hurt beyond belief. And the dull throb of my earlier broken pelvis was a pain with which I’d simply come to accept.
In retrospect, I realize that I must have appeared to them like some manner of sub-world creature reduced to a proverbial bag of filthy skin and protruding bones fraught with flesh eating bugs. Fettered as some sort of bestial non-entity my sole objectives were simple: to remain vertical, ensure one breath followed another and hope for a miracle.
But for all of that, within me still beat the heart of a girl who wished to run, play, nuzzle and love. Of prayer, I knew not – that concept eludes such as we.
However, hope, which had kept me clinging to life, seemed dimmer this morning than ever before. Earlier, I recalled asking myself, “How can this day be any worse than those of the months before?”
To say my existence was miserable would be an understatement of major proportion. But then, like a miraculous apparition, there they stood – tears in their eyes as they took in my sorry, skeletal state – my saviors.”
“All that I have since been allowed to become is due to these two of huge hearts and gracious souls.
Actually, if there ever was a real life Prince Charming and his Princess it would be my rescuers, Philip and Sharon Chandler. He is elegant in persona and conduct as only a British gentleman can be; she, as kind and considerate of all she comes into contact with, as she is magnificently beautiful.
Both were born in London – England, you know – She (one has only to look at her to recognize the fact) was a successful and much sought after fashion model. His family owned the largest Greyhound Stadium in Great Britain. In fact, on its opening day the ribbon cutting was done by the flier who had captured the imagination of everyone in British Isles, Amy Johnson. (She was the aviatrix who had flown her de Havilland Gipsy Moth 11.000 miles from Croydon in England to Darwin, Australia in 1930 – the first woman to make the solo flight.) Not a small facility, back in “the day”, it accommodated 22,000 on race days and Philip later went on to create a large, successful betting parlor enterprise.
Thankfully, both have deeply loved animals all of their lives. Over the course of time we have spent together they have told me about some of them. Around four footed faunae a great deal – her grandfather ran a piggery – among Sharon’s early pets were dogs, a (rather hefty) white rabbit, named Harvey after the fictional Broadway stage character, and a feathered fellow – a rooster named Cracker Barrel. Among the several dogs that Philip had as a youth were Leo I and Leo II, both named after a German neighbor who was not altogether popular directly following WWII.”
The impetus of Catrina’s deliverance began when the Chandlers – as they often did – went to the Saturday Tianga (market) in downtown Santiago, the colonia on the north side of Manzanillo, in the State of Colima on the Pacific coast of Mexico near the same latitude as the big island of Hawaii. . . . a veritable tropical paradise, at least for those not starved and shackled!
After successfully shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables, they had wandered a couple of hundred feet south to the plant nursery they often visited. Initially not noting anyone around, Philip stepped over the “security” fence, perhaps two feet high, to see if any of the workers might be behind the structure as it was near the traditional breakfast time for many working Mexicans.
Not finding any, as he swung about to return to Sharon, he noticed – perhaps thirty-five yards away – a tethered horse that seemed in a state of physical distress and called for his wife to come “have a look”.
She did so and, like he had been, was instantly horrified.
There before her, tied to a tree, standing amid construction rubble with the closest resemblance of vegetation being no more than old, dried leaves, stood a young, but thoroughly emaciated, mare. Barely erect, with head drooped low and her leg tightly bound by barbed wire she fairly reeked of lack of attention and had, quite obviously, been in such a state for a prolonged period.
She had no water to drink or grass on which to graze. Inside her left rear thigh a deep – into the tissue, inflamed and pustulous – gash could be seen. It was covered with flies and dust that she had kicked on it seeking relief from the pain. Her face was covered with blood from when she had twisted, striving to stop the throbbing agony by licking it. Her tail was matted with blood from swatting at the sucking, swarming insects.
Her state of starvation and dehydration was obvious. This they immediately addressed with water they found and carried to her in a plastic basin. Gulping at a frantic pace, within a matter of minutes she’d consumed 15 liters. Then
Philip raced back to the market for something of more nutritional substance, returning with carrots and apples, which she devoured ravenously.
Throughout this spontaneous triage of food and water Sharon and Philip calmly stroked and spoke to the horse in words of reassurance. Though encrusted with dust and matter, her intelligent eyes seemed to show she understood and realized their desire to help. After some time, with little left that they could do for a horse that was not theirs, reluctantly, they returned home.
The mare’s plight haunted them both throughout the night. So upset was Sharon that she could not sleep for worrying. Her mind raced. Deep in the very early hours, she nudged Philip and stated what she felt to be obvious, “We MUST help her.” He agreed.
The next day, following discussions with several friends, an inspiration hit Sharon. There were stables not far away. Might there not be a help there? She checked and there was an experienced and knowledgeable horseman within. His name was Gama and, when apprised of the situation, he went directly with the Chandlers back to the horse in distress, returning several times thereafter. After carefully helping them to cleanse the wound he employed the age old, but highly effective curative by covering it with honey – the natural antibacterial action of which helps prevent infection
The next order of business was to bring her more water. Again, gallons were guzzled by the parched horse. It seemed readily apparent that no one had given her any since the Chandlers had the previous day.
Upon closer perusal it became obvious that she was in an even worse condition than first was imagined. Her injured rear leg was, literally, being eaten alive by parasites . . . a neighbor came over and shared that the horse had been struck by a rattlesnake several days before.
“This horse is in extremely bad shape,” Gama stated, “and must get immediate attention or she will soon die.” He then shared that he had a nearby friend, Jose, who was also a veterinarian and who had medicine and food for horses. So off they headed for this professional, where soon they armed themselves with accoutrements for improved horse health: antibiotics and alfalfa.
When they’d arrived at Dr. Jose’s office they immediately noted what they first thought to be a large, funny faced, stuffed Christmas toy. Then it moved! It was a three month old, crinkle headed, black Shar Pei who shared residence with a cat and a rooster. He was for sale. But, seeming oblivious to any need for self-promotion, he remained aloof and of an almost disdainful countenance, ignoring Sharon’s good natured attempts to play. Such activities he seemed to infer, were beneath his stoic Chinese character.
But the proverbial die had been cast. Within less than 24 hours, the Chandlers had met – and would soon acquire – two creatures (one equine, the other canine) that would, inexorably, alter each other’s lives.
Four days later – now named Kai after a favorite London
Chinese restaurant but often fondly called “Buckethead” by Philip – the latter, dark lump of a dog with the massive head, came home with the Chandlers.
My Angels bring in Reinforcements
“Then for nearly two weeks, the Chandlers returned to me twice a day, giving me water and – oh so delicious – alfalfa and oats. Philip cleaned my wound and administered antibiotics. But my injury was not healing and he realized – as did I – that it was, in fact, getting worse.
Sharon sought resolution of this problem on the internet where, through the Donkey Sanctuary in the United Kingdom she found extremely helpful folks who provided names of contacts who might be able to help here in Mexico. This ultimately led her to Dr. Horatio who was professionally connected with this fine organization.
This exceptional man and his team seemed to instantly appreciate the seriousness of my plight and, right away, drove the twelve hours from Mexico City to help me but the question in all of our minds was – “Can he? I certainly hoped so or – to wryly employ” Black (Horse) Humor – was there a glue factory in my future?
Tommy Clarkson is a bit of a renaissance man. He’s lived and worked in locales as disparate as the 1.2 square mile island of Kwajalein to war-torn Iraq, from aboard he and Patty’s boat berthed out of Sea Bright, NJ to Thailand, Germany, Hawaii and Viet Nam; He’s taught classes and courses on creative writing and mass communications from the elementary grades to graduate level; He’s spoken to a wide array of meetings, conferences and assemblages on topics as varied as Buddhism, strategic marketing and tropical plants; In the latter category he and Patty’s recently book, “The Civilized Jungle” – written for the lay gardener – has been heralded as “the best tropical plant book in the last ten years”; And, according to Trip Advisor, their spectacular tropical creation - Ola Brisa Gardens – is the “Number One Tour destination in Manzanillo”.
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