The Rescue Of Belle & Sundance: One Town’s Incredible Race To Save Two Abandoned Horses, by Birgit Stutz and Lawrence Scanlan
This is a fascinating book more for its context than for its contents. And to be fair, its contents are quite interesting, as the book consists of a tale told by one of the organizers of an ad hoc committee of snowmobile enthusiasts and horse enthusiasts to save two starving horses who had been abandoned by their owner. The context of the story, though, is even more fascinating, as it deals with the question of how to take care of animals and how it is that people who do not know what they are doing can bring animals into great harm through their negligence. Also, the context of this story involves the immense resilience of creatures to live and the way that even a misanthropic area like the rural Canadian valley in British Columbia where this book’s action takes place can join together, more or less, on behalf of two nobles horses who found themselves facing starvation through no fault of their own. The agenda of this book, which is far more favorable to the SPCA than I particularly am, keeps this book from being as good as it could have been, but it is possible this book would have been published no other way.
This particular book is designed to be a saga of epic endurance, but it’s not quite as epic as the author would wish for it to be, at least for anyone other than the horses. There are really three acts to this story. In act one, a couple of horses are abandoned and their owner goes to visit them several times, at first assuming that they will be able to reach lower lands without realizing the bog that has caused problems for them and then assuming that they will die of starvation so he does not need to put them down. In act two, the horses are found to be both starving and abandoned and an organized effort is made to bring them back to safety. This is really the core of the book, and shows how efforts were made to dig through the snow, ferry people to and from the various digs being made in the snow, and how it was that the horses were walked to a safe area after they were freed from their snowy imprisonment. The third act then takes place as the horse’s owner is brought to court for various counts of animal neglect and cruelty and the horses are given to new owners after some time in a rescue farm.
Reading a book like this is fairly fascinating for what it has to say about both horses and people. The author obviously has some strong opinions when it comes to horses and how they should be treated, including the implicit social contract that is made between people and the animals that they tame regarding the care that will be provided for loyal service. Likewise, the author has a lot to say about the personality of horses, whether viewed individually or when one looks at horse communities and their hierarchies. What the author has to say about people is equally interesting, even if not equally praiseworthy. The author seems to be of multiple minds when it comes to the owner of the horses, being very harsh on him towards the end after being somewhat deliberately moderate in her tone at the beginning. Perhaps she figured that those who were partisans of the horses’ original owner would not bother to read until the end to see how messed up Canada’s system of dealing with animals is when the SPCA has the authority to rid someone of their property rights in animals.