We had a young man come to Wings last fall as an intern/volunteer, helping out with caring for the horses and experiencing the Montana lifestyle. He wrote a thoughtful essay on his experience at Wings that we wanted to share.
By Guest Blogger Tad Wilson
I’m always surprised by how much personality animals have, and how much more there always is to find. My dog at home, a Jack Russell/Maltese mix named Quincy, seems when you meet him to be your typical yappy little nuisance, and a lot of people write him off in a few seconds. If you decide to stick it out past that, he’s an incredibly friendly and patient dog, and I know that all annoying dog owners say that, but in this guy’s case it's true. He’s really good with kids, will put up with nearly anything my little brothers can do to him, and generally complains about nothing except the mailman and our actually annoying toy poodle, Paddy.
Once you’ve gotten used to this, you’ll realize that he’s only so patient because he’s incredibly lazy. He won’t chase anything besides cars, won’t come when you call him, won’t get up from his resting spots, won’t do anything unless it involves food, strangers, or walks. This laziness extends to his treatment of my little brothers: he won’t often try to play with them, but he’ll never object when they hug him and pet him, he’ll just sit there and take it in.
Even more than he is lazy, Quincy is silly. You can’t teach him tricks or how to go through the dog door, but he’s memorized the motions we make when we’re about to take him on a walk. He’ll ignore you if you play fetch, but the moment the treats come out he’s on you and giving you puppy dog eyes.
At his core, Quincy is confident. He’s confident other dogs will like him, so he runs over to them even when they’re big Pitbulls or German Shepherds. He’s confident that nothing bad can happen to him, so we have to carry him inside at night, since he doesn’t come when called and there are bobcats out there. He’s confident that he can protect us, so he chases cars and mailmen, fights possums and coyotes, and tries to stay around us at all times. Quincy is a lazy, friendly, quiet, silly, and confident dog trapped in a little yappy dog’s body. I’m glad my family took the time to look past his surface and get to know him because I couldn’t ask for a better family dog.
Since I started interning at Wings and helping out with my aunt Alicia’s pony and donkey, I’ve come to see similar things in other animals around me.
Star, a brown horse at Wings, seems worn down and beaten up by life, a fragile horse with not enough meat on her bones, but in spite of the hardship she’s endured she carries herself calmly and with dignity, and is all the more majestic of an animal for it.
At first little Poco, a miniature donkey that used to hang around the much older and very protective horse Cisco, seemed a typical little mini until Cisco died. The tragedy broke Poco’s heart and I realized how deep the bond between the two had been.
My aunt’s rescue pony Freckles, who was blinded and malnourished, seemed at first needy and scared, prancing around nervously and clumsily whenever my aunt’s donkey, Abe, left his enclosure. He ran into things, followed Abe constantly, and acted skittish and scared whenever I came around. However, as time went on, he built up confidence, and now I know him for what he is: a brave little rascal, who plays rough, steals food, sticks by Abe, and prances around even in the coldest and snowiest weather as if nothing at all is happening, content and excited for whatever the day brings him.
I wasn’t always a horse person. When I first came to Montana, though my family has a history riding and taming horses, I felt scared, what with how big they were, how hard to read their faces were, and how dangerous they could be. I kept my distance, and tried not to interact with them much. Eventually, I forced myself out of my comfort zone, and while I still try to maintain space between me and their hind legs, I came to understand that horses do have emotions and you can read them, but to do it you must observe their actions rather than trying to read their expression.
I now feel comfortable enough around horses to help with grooming them, cleaning up after them, haltering them, and talking to them and soothing them, though riding them might require a little more trust.
But while plenty of people can build trust around horses in general, sometimes it can be hard to see through individual horses’ exterior. Horses are passed over by potential adopters for their poor health, their willfulness, their skittishness, and their difficult and confusing behaviors. Through no fault of the poor animals, they are ignored and shied away from because of their difficult past and uncertain future.
This reluctance to adopt does make a certain amount of sense. Horses are a big commitment in time, money, and energy. They can have rough exteriors, and as much as we may try not to, we humans have an unfortunate tendency to judge books by their covers. Nobody wants to make a commitment to a horse with many problems in health and behavior.
So, for those people who shy away from adopting for these reasons, I’d ask you to remember my dog, Quincy, a loveable and lazy family dog who seems at first nothing but a nuisance. I’d ask you to remember Star, a majestic animal with many health problems. I’d ask you to remember Poco, a seemingly unremarkable mini donkey who forms deep bonds and lasting friendships with a heart of gold. I’d ask you to remember Freckles, who seemed to be in a precarious and difficult situation until he became used to his surroundings, and then became as lovable, hardy, and mischievous as a pony gets.
Please remember how much more there is to something than its outside, and how much more there is to an animal’s personality than what you first see.
Laura Weise is a Wings volunteer who lives in Stevensville and will be bringing you stories of life at the barn.