BRENTWOOD -- An anonymous online posting of a severely emaciated horse was so heartbreaking to one local woman recently that it prompted her to track it down and save it.
Brentwood resident Corinne Tate said she saw the posting of a skeletal horse on Facebook with the caption, "Does anyone know if this is real?"
"The picture that I saw of this poor horse ... it was so pitiful ... skin and bones," Tate said. "And when I saw that I thought, 'Oh my God -- you can't -- I just couldn't turn my back on him.'"
Tate is no stranger to rescuing animals. Her family will attest that she has been known to rescue the occasional dog or even goat, but never an animal of the large-breed variety and certainly never one that was posted anonymously.
"You want to feel bad for the folks involved, but you don't know what the story is so you can't make any judgment calls," she said.
So armed with the name of the town, the street that the horse was located on and a could-be-any-pasture-in-America photo, Tate went into sleuth mode. Utilizing Google Maps' street view, she began virtually driving up and down the rural road in the northern California town of Flournoy (population 101).
It wasn't long before Tate was able to match the scantly seen fence and barn in the photo to a virtual one she saw online.
"I was lucky because it was one of those big roads with just a few houses on it," she said.
Next, she did an Internet search on the address and was able to locate the owner's name.
"It was a couple hours of Internet research, but I found her (the horse owner) ... all the stars lined up and I was able to get a hold of her," Tate said.
Attempting to be diplomatic, Tate told the woman, "I understand that you have some horses that you need help with. I'm willing to help, we have folks willing to help you." Tate said the woman immediately started crying -- divorce and job loss created such a hardship she could barely provide for her children.
"It sounded like she just waited too long to get help for him because he was really in an emaciated state," Tate said of the horse, "so I went up and she let me take him. I brought (Cody) home."
Road to recovery
Even before heading north to rescue Cody, Tate knew she should give her veterinarian a heads-up.
"She pre-warned me," Brentwood veterinarian Renee Golenz said. "And I pre-warned (her) about the challenges of rehabbing a starved horse."
Through the years, Golenz said that she has worked with several good-hearted people like Tate who take on rehabilitating horses that have been starved.
"But if it's not done slowly, it is the easiest way to inadvertently kill him with kindness," Golenz said. "It is so tempting to give them everything they want to eat, but you can't do that because you will get them very sick."
"That was a term I heard a lot, 'killing them with kindness,' " said Tate, who received lots of advice from friends.
Golenz also warned Tate about getting attached to the horse.
"He's like a walking time bomb. At any given moment he could get really sick and possibly die," she said. "It's so hard not to get attached -- that's why I was trying to give her a tough love lecture."
Tate responded, "I understood what she was doing, but my mind was made up, I wasn't going to leave that horse up there."
It was less than 24 hours after arriving in Brentwood that Cody received his initial veterinarian visit.
Golenz said, "From the veterinary point of view, he should be 1,100 pounds and he was about 750 to 800 pounds. He was greatly underweight."
On a scale of 1 to 10, Golenz gave Cody a 1.5, explaining that "1 is skin and bones and 10 is fat just dripping off the body -- obese/ He was basically skin and bones with just a little bit of muscle."
After a thorough exam, it was determined that Cody's emaciation was from improper nutrition, dental neglect and parasites. But before they could treat any of that they needed to put weight back on him using a slow-feed program.
"A horse like him should be eating about 20-24 pounds a day," Golenz said. "But you can't start out with that, so we started at 3 pounds a day and just gradually, every five days, would build it up."
"This process was relatively fast," Tate said. "He started putting on weight right away; he started looking healthier right away."
They also started him on a probiotic supplement to help protect and support the micro-organisms within his own digestive system. Within a month, Cody was eating up to 12 pounds a day and was ready to be vaccinated and dewormed.
Like the slow-feed process, since Cody was "loaded" with tapeworm and large strongyles they were going to have to proceed with a slow-kill process.
Golenz explained, "If we were to give him the whole tube of wormer, all those parasites could die at once, which could predispose him to a bad impaction-type colic, a blockage inside his body with a bunch of dead parasites."
"I felt really bad for him," said Tate. "I did have moments when I went out there just looking at him and brushing him and apologizing to him that that had happened to him. I felt so bad."
The final work they did on Cody was dental work. Golenz said, "He had sores on the inside of his cheeks because the teeth were so sharp that they cut the insides of his cheeks."
It has been five months since Tate first brought Cody home and she said it was worth it all.
She said, "He's king of the hill out there and he's healthy. He was worth it. He was worth the time and effort."