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By TAMI MARLER, MBA

One hundred percent of my time and attention was devoted to keeping one of our dozen horses alive this last week.

The thing is, all the other horses continued to have needs. They needed to be fed. They needed to be watered. They needed their little cuts and scrapes cleaned and dressed. They needed their feet picked. Trash still needed to be emptied. Troughs still needed to be cleaned and filled. We still needed feed and other essentials. And every pile of manure that still needed to be mucked would have taken time away from saving Ani.

With searing temperatures and humidity combined, this week felt like more than 170 degrees to horses. Ani’s pain from laminitis caused her cooling system to melt down, so she was unable to sweat enough to handle the heat. Without someone holding a water hose over her major organs and arteries, Ani would have suffered from heat stroke and died. Even the misting system we set up in Ani’s shelter wasn’t enough. She needed full-time, intensive attention and care until she could regain her ability to sweat.

I couldn’t leave Ani – even for a few minutes. I couldn’t go to the doctor; couldn’t go to the bathroom; couldn’t go shopping; couldn’t do anything but monitor her condition, change ice packs, douse her with water and keep her still and comfortable.

It’s been a typical Oklahoma summer – miserably hot, humid and downright gross. You literally couldn’t pay me to get me to go outside – let alone work outside in this heat; so I’m constantly amazed when our volunteers show up, day after day, to toil and sweat in the heat, for no reward but to know they’re making a difference.

If it wasn’t for our volunteers and staff this last week – either Ani or I (or both) would be dead.

The stress of the pain caused Ani’s cooling system to break down. The disorder known as anhidrosis halts a horse’s ability to sweat – sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently. We bought every supplement and treatment money could buy, hoping to kickstart Ani’s sweat factory again. Finally, after about a week of us wrapping Ani and ice and holding a water hose on her belly and chest, her heavy panting gave way to healthy sweat, and the anhidrosis was hopefully behind us.

You might think that cleaning out water troughs, shoveling manure, picking up supplies, spraying for flies, emptying trash, soaking hay or filling hay bags is menial work; but it’s also essential work. If I had to worry about all those essential chores during this critical time, I would not have been able to give Ani the quality of care she deserves.

Thank you is never enough to express our gratitude for the volunteers who so generously and religiously give of their time. It’s not just the time spent doused in sweat at the rescue; it’s also the time spent traveling here, traveling home, showering away the funk and dirt, laundering filthy clothes. We understand and cherish the commitment you make, day in and day out.

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Many of our horses go through rough patches, where human intervention is the difference between life and death. Kill pens, slaughterhouses and meat freezers are overflowing with horses just like them – whose care became too much for their owners to bear. I sincerely believe that an owner, on her own, may not have been able to keep Ani alive through this last bout with laminitis and anhidrosis. The ’round-the-clock vigil would have made it physically impossible. Our volunteers made all the difference.

Swingin’ D Horse Rescue is committed to doing whatever it takes to get sick horses over these life-or-death hurdles, so that when they heal, they can go on to live normal lives. One day, thanks in large part to our volunteers, Anastasia will be a normal horse, fit and able to live a relatively normal life. We’ll do whatever it takes to get her there.

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