The temperatures have dropped, we’ve seen our first (admittedly brief) snow flurries, and Thanksgiving is behind us. It’s official, We are now well within the designated holiday season.

Thanks to Charles Dickens and his brilliant wordsmithing, we will all have the chance to delight once again in the lessons of human kindness and charity. Much as I enjoy “A Christmas Carol,” it is, perhaps, a tad heavy-handed in its message. I mean, Ebenezer really is the outer limit, you know? And if actual ghosts and spirits are required to bring about a change of heart, well, That’s a tall order.

What about the more human-scale acts of compassion and kindness? Those that don’t involve reprobates or the supernatural, but are somehow all the more astounding for their ordinariness?

I’ve been thinking a lot about one such example, and it took place right here in Maine.

Some of you might recall the news story back in July 2021 about “The Neglected 20,” a massive group of malnourished, sickly, wounded and frightened horses that were surrendered en masse. All 20 were taken as a group into care at the Maine State Society for Protection of Animals in Windham.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

I want to focus for a moment on the ones who came to be known as “the Maine Three.”

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Silver, Annie and Sienna had come to Maine after having been part of a mustang roundup many years ago. The full conversation around treatment of wild horses is too big for this space, so we will leave it for now and just acknowledge that it was their history.

It was clear they had never been domesticated, and frankly they didn’t want to be. This is where it gets interesting.

People who do rescue work are amazing. They give their time, money and hearts to the cause. It’s hard work. The reward is not fame or fortune – it is simply seeing an animal safe and happy. However, as attested to by the thousands of books, videos and seminars on the topic, there is a fundamental and ingrained assumption that “safe and happy” means properly tamed and tucked into a warm barn with all the comforts and proper care.

For good reason. Untamed horses often have sad endings. We are trained to train.

It is extraordinary, therefore, that the good folks at the MSSPA … paused. And in that pause, they asked the question, “Is this what these horses want?”

Even more astounding that they were able to hear, accept and form a new plan when the answer was “no.”

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Instead of bringing in more trainers, trying new programs and enforcing our rules upon these amazing animals, they looked instead for a way to get them the life they actually wanted. They found it at Skydog Ranch and Sanctuary, a 9,000-acre wild horse sanctuary in Oregon.

The MSSPA staff mobilized, the sanctuary staff prepared and some really brave and kind-hearted long-haul horse truckers stepped up. Working as a cohesive team, they managed to get Silver, Annie and Sienna clear across the country and return them to the open spaces.  They are once again free to roam as part of a band and be true to their own wild natures – but with food and water guaranteed. Heaven.

I’m just so impressed. Their efforts shine as an example of true generosity and compassion. Of setting aside our own ideas and giving what is truly needed and asked for.

My hat is off to all those involved who asked the question, “What do we owe these three?” And then made it happen.

Their full story is online at MSSPA.org along with a way to support their care if you are so inclined.

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