by Lesley Scott
He was homeless, helpless and abused.
|Shot in the Face
By Lesley Scott
The Poster Child for Livestock cruelty
On a spring afternoon in May, I hustled into the Goose Creek Police Station to begin the second shift. The morning animal control officer, Mark, was refueling the animal control truck. Buster, my liver colored Boykin Spaniel, aka K9-3, decided to snooze under the table in the squad room.
As I waited, I heard the Chief bellowing, wanting me in his office ASAP. “Oh no!” I said to myself, “What is it this time?” The Chief and I knew each other from the North Charleston Police Department when he was a detective and I handled all of the animal complaints. Each of us thought of the other as being brave and important. We both were.
“I just got a 10-21 [phone call] from the County Supervisor in Moncks Corner,” He told me with a scowl on his face. He handed me the receiver after dialing the number. I wondered what I did to warrant the Berkeley County Supervisor’s attention. Usually, when the county had a complaint against me, the Director of the horrible, overcrowded Pound, would give the Chief a call. Of course, it was easy to talk my way out of trouble.
“Hello, Mr. Flynn. This is Lesley Fisher with Goose Creek Animal Control. What can I do for you?” I wanted to say, “What did I do now?”
“Hello, Lesley Fisher. I’ve heard a lot about you,” he started, “We have a problem up in Schulerville in reference to a pony running loose, getting into the residents’ gardens. Our officers are not trained to deal with certain situations, and we have no place to impound them.”
“I remember Janice and Betty telling me about the problem last week, and I am willing to lend a hand,” I answered, “I even have a good idea of how to catch him.” Since Goose Creek P.D. needed me on duty from two to ten o’clock in the evening, I would tackle the problem in the morning, when off duty.
After a little investigating, apparently Berkeley County P.D. made some arrests on weapons, drugs, and dog fighting nearby in Macedonia a week before. The mistreated dogs were impounded by their animal control officers and someone gave the goat a home. Somehow, the pony, which was actually a pony mule, freed of his tether, escaped and ended up in rural Berkeley County.
“This is going to be interesting, “I told Athena, my half arab mare. She responded by hopping into my two horse trailer. I knew from experience that all mules love mares because their mothers are horses. “I’m so glad you can help, Athena.” My donkey and mule breeding operation was appropriately named Moncks Corner Mule Manufacturing. So I pretty much knew what I was doing when it came to equines and other farm animals.
Arriving at the last location (10-20) of the mule, I opened both doors of the trailer and led Athena around in the clearing, surrounded by damp dense brush and sappy pine trees. A pile of small droppings alerted her, and she responded with a loud whinny. We found the right place.
I heard a rustling to my left after about thirty minutes, and a scrawny little tan colored mule cautiously made his way into the clearing. Just to look at him broke my heart. The deerflies had chewed his legs and ears bloody and he was dragging a tattered rope tied around his neck.
His body was covered with insect bites, and mules are very sensitive to bugs. His light tan coat was dull and his ribs pushed through his skin, almost causing pressure sores. “You poor little thing,” I murmured under my breath.
Sensing a trap, the mule snorted and turned tail, running through the brush and trees in a matter of seconds. “So much for that,” I chuckled to Athena as I loaded her into the trailer. Dealing with donkeys and mules taught me not to be impatient. I didn’t want to end up in crutches again.
After preforming this ritual three more times, I decided to call in reinforcements as a last resort. Sam, one of the SC Wildlife and Marine Officers, agreed to meet me and Athena at the location of the mule, armed with the dreaded tranquilizer gun. I hated to use drugs on a mule because they don’t react to drugs the same as horses or dogs. I worried that all we would do is to drive the little guy back into the forest where he would sleep it all off anyway, never to be seen again.
“Thank you so much for your help,” I said to Sam and two other game wardens. We hadn’t been waiting more than fifteen minutes, and the shy little pony mule crept out of the dark woods, his scrawny neck stretched out. He wanted to speak to Athena, still in the trailer, and whinnying enticingly. I opened both doors of the trailer.
He responded with a noise – half whinny, and half bray and simply jumped into the other side, next to Athena. A bar separated the two stalls. “Thank God we didn’t have to trank him!” I exclaimed, “I guess y’all came all the way out here for nothing.” Sam responded that they didn’t have anything better to do, but wanted to get away from the deerflies.
I asked them to close the trailer door behind me as I climbed in with this feral animal. I’m not brave and I’m not stupid. Being accustomed to dealing with livestock, I slowly slid my body along the side of the trailer, next to the mule. He was so happy to see Athena, yet he seemed more comforted than excited. She reminded him of his mother, of course.
Actually, he was skittish and terrified, as well. He was too scared to move, allowing me to slip a halter on his face, bloody from what looked like unusually serious fly damage. Later, I would know the reason his face was so damaged. “You’re mine now,” I whispered to the poor little guy. I knew the only place to take him was my donkey and mule farm. “What’s one more?” I asked myself.
After backing him out of the trailer, I tied him to the hitching post and ran my hands over his body as I talked to him in a calm manner. He stood quietly, allowing me to examine his wounds. He wasn’t bloody from just deerflies, it was worse I thought. Some shot him in the face and in the rump with a shotgun!
I felt a burning anger toward these ignorant people who would rather shoot an animal than catch him by grabbing the rope the little mule was dragging around. The result was a traumatized animal with no home and no kindness in his life. I decided to call him Buckshot.
Buckshot stood quietly and still, yet trembled, as I softly brushed his thin and abused body with a soft brush that I liked to use on the foals I was raising and training. “It’s okay, Buckshot. Just hold still so I can take care of that mess of a face,” I said to him with conviction.
I noticed, with pity, that I couldn’t pull all of the buckshot out of his face and his rump, too. Some of the wounds had scabbed over and my tweezers couldn’t pull out the pellets. I wiped his face with a damp towel and did the best that I could to remove the lead pellets. He was beginning to calm down, though he was still scared.
His life had been painful and unhappy. I later found how savagely he was abused and my heart broke all over again. I would do my best to show him kindness and make him feel safe. I promised him that his life would change for the better. I always keep my promises.
Buckshot is one of the many reasons I organized the Berkeley County SPCA a few months later. He soon found himself on television and in the newspapers. He walked in parades and gave rides to children at festivals. He even learned how to take treats. He became the “Foster Pet” of the BCSPCA.
Who knew this sad little mule would make such a big difference in our fight against all animal cruelty and neglect?
Word count: 1396