It was a hot August Monday in 1997 when I first laid eyes on Dancer. He entered the ring with a bewildered look in his eye, scanning the crowd for someone, anyone, to take him away from that feeling of despair. This was my first introduction to a slaughter auction and my heart was breaking.
Dancer was an 18 month old gelding with a wound on his left hind leg and proud flesh protruding. Little did I know that the majority of horses being bought that day were to killer buyers. At least I was able to save this one, the one we named Dancer. Dancer got his name for the way he moved, in spite of this wound, he moved with graceful power.
Over the next few years Dancer would help me create a deeper connection with my dad. When I was growing up my dad was a writer. He wrote short stories and a novel. My favorite story he wrote was 'The Twenty Dollar Horse'. In short, it was a little bit like Dancer's story. A boy had paid twenty dollars for a horse at an auction, drawing jeers and laughter from the crowd. The twenty dollar horse was a little touched, in the sense that he spooked at his own shadow and was a little unpredictable. While initially those issues seemed to pose problems, in the story, that is just what saved the boy who got this twenty dollar horse at an auction.
While Dancer does not have these afflictions, he has had his issues, but we have had a trainer help him through them. My dad accompanied me when we visited Dancer at the trainer's, and it gave me a bond to that part of my dad, the part that sees the value in a horse who was thrown away. Dancer was his and my twenty dollar horse.
Though my dad passed away in 2001, Dancer remains with us. He is older but still magnificent to watch galloping across the fields and as he runs with his head and tail held high I imagine my dad embracing his beauty too.
Since our first 'livestock' auction in 1997, Pete and I have opened our eyes further to the desperate plight of so many animals, regardless of species. While I thought I had always considered species other than dogs, cats and rabbits, with full regard, I see now that I had not. The process of fully embracing others as individuals has increased my ability to empathize. No longer would I look at others as abstract ideas or having an existence in relation to humans. I recognize that their lives matter to them just as ours do to us. "Animals are here with us, not for us" is an anonymous quote that describes how I live my life today.