By KERI WOOD
Ever since I can remember, I was always rescuing creatures. Whether it was a young bird, fallen from the nest high in the trees or a kitten that no one wanted, I would bring animals home. My freshman year at the University of Southern Mississippi in the Honors dorm, I had a large, mixed breed dog named Bentley that I’d rescued from the interstate on my way back to school. I actually managed to keep him hidden. Today on our farm near Terry, I have a total of 16 permanent rescues: 4 horses, 4 ducks, 3 dogs, 3 cats, 1 guinea pig and 1 rabbit. These are just the ones we have kept and not rehomed.
I rescue animals, from the smallest of creatures to horses. I met Stephanie Billingsley in the spring of 2011 when I asked her to help me find the “perfect” horse. I made an appointment for a Saturday morning to visit her farm, Twelve Oaks. I had my eyes set on a young, small quarter horse, Ellie, whom I had seen on her website which I frequented daily. My daughters, Kylie (10) and Abby (4) were with me. Stephanie had Ellie in a stall, ready for me to see.
But, beside Ellie was an older, sorrel and white paint, a little round through the middle, and she had her head hanging. She would not turn to look at us as we stood at her stall door. Her name was Paint. I took Ellie out for a quick ride, but my heart was somewhere else. As we were putting Ellie back into her stall, I asked Stephanie the story on Paint. She seemed very shy and moody. After hearing her story and the terror she had been through, I asked Stephanie to get her out. We saddled Paint, and I put my two girls on her. That was it; she became my heart and it was my responsibility to bring joy and respect back into her life. The girls renamed her Cheyenne on the way back to our barn, but she has many nicknames now and she is the queen of the barn.
Stephanie encouraged and guided me though my very first equine rescue in 2012. I was browsing through Craigslist looking for a saddle and came across the face of an angel. His name was Silver. He had been purchased from the horse sale in Mize. The caption stated, “Help us, help him.” I drove down to see the angel in the picture, and, no, he was not an angel. He was terrified, beaten on every inch of his body and starved. I drove home crying but determined that if he lived through the night I would return to get him. I paid the couple $100 for him, loaded him onto the trailer and drove very slowly home.
Being my first equine rescue, I did not know what to expect. As we opened the trailer doors, he collapsed. He was too weak to stand. For months, he ate mush, half warm water/half senior feed. We blended his food, because he had previously choked on several occasions, and his teeth were so terrible he could not chew properly. Long story short, this horse was registered with the Jockey Club. He had a tattoo on the inside of his lip. After research, I found he not only was registered, but this horse had won someone money on several occasions. Even so, he had ended up starved and beaten at a horse sale in Mississippi. Pushed to the side, and forgotten once, “Silver” is the man of my barn today, the only gelding in the barn, because he deserves peace and respect.
Our rescues at home teach compassion and responsibility to our children and their friends who visit the farm. You see, getting a healthy pet may teach responsibility, but rescuing an animal in need teaches compassion, respect, patience, and loyalty. They have seen what humans do to defenseless animals, and in return after many long hours and days caring for those animals, they see the joy and life they can bring into a hurt soul.
As a Believer, I believe all creatures on earth have souls. God created the Heavens and the Earth and all in between. God communicated with animals. This is the best explanation for the migration of the animals to Noah’s Ark. Psalm 150:6 says, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” Even though they do not praise the Lord with words, I believe they do bring glory and praise to their creator.
One of my most recent rescues involved two mixed breed puppies that were dumped on Midway Road in Hinds County. My children and a friend of my oldest were on our way home from school one afternoon, later than usual. We came around a corner and came upon an old beat up pickup truck stopped in the road. As I got closer, the man threw two items from the driver side door. Those items began to chase the truck as he sped off. I pulled over immediately, and two 6-week-old puppies ran at me. They were friendly but malnourished and obviously wormy. We loaded them up in the truck and took them home.
I reached out to an awesome lady at Copiah Animal Rescue, Kathy Friday. After weeks with the puppies, Daisy and May, with my children teaching them to sit and stay, the pups were placed as residents at a nursing home in Florida. I have received videos of the residents singing to the pups and the pups making their usual laps with residents as they exercise.
God is good! I tell my children all the time, “If you do good things in this world, whether it’s hard or easy, God prevails, and He will in turn do good things for you, in his timing.”
Keri Wood is wife to Allen and mother to Kylie, Trey, and Abby. A native of Brandon, she now lives near Terry.