“Ginger’s New Lease on Life,” by Susan Calfee

By Guest Contributor November 7, 2016 16:02

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Ginger

Ginger

Ginger’s New Lease on Life

By Susan Calfee

The adoption took place in the Manteca Home Depot parking lot. We met Tawnee Preisner, founder of the NorCal Equine Rescue, and her husband, who had brought Ginger from Taylorsville. Tawnee put Ginger into our borrowed trailer, and my husband and I were off, with our 250-pound, three-foot-high bundle of….nerves.

She is a mini-mule, rescued after fending for herself for 10 years in the mountains of northern California. When Ginger’s master died around 1995, the locals didn’t know what to do with Ginger and rest of the mini-mules — so they let them go. The seven little mules dealt with starvation during the deep winter snows, mountain lion attacks, and being hit by cars and trucks. For “fun” people would chase the mules with motorcycles. Sometimes someone would capture a mule, tie it down and use a hacksaw on its hooves. Finally, Ginger was the lone survivor. In the fall of 2004, Plumas County Animal Control rescued her and then NorCal Equine Rescue took over.

We arrived here at her new home but the trailer could not be taken down our steep driveway; lucky for us, she agreed to be led down our driveway. We introduced her to her new companions, our three sheep, who later became her friends. (When she wasn’t kicking up her heels to terrorize them.) And so began my journey with Ginger. Since I had never even been around a horse before, I didn’t even know what I needed to know!

It turned out that I adopted her for the wrong reasons. A neighbor had two sweet little donkeys – so picturesque! I wanted one. I had visions of marching her down the streets of Tuolumne in the Lumber Jubilee parade. How darling! Or putting her in the living nativity scene in Tuolumne. How poignant! The grandkids could ride her! Our son even contemplated training her to pull logs on our property. Get some work out of her! Of course, none of that has come to pass!

Ginger has been true to herself. She is, after all, a mule. Recalcitrant. And after the 10 years of struggles while on her own, she was also shy, jumpy, fearful, and skittish.

Among her escapades was the time she escaped from her pasture. We frantically searched for her for hours on our large property which has canyons, cliffs, and a river. The next day we found her next door, hanging out with the neighbor’s three horses! (Ginger had gone to be with her own kind.)

She’s got a cute “brinney” (combo bray/whinney) that she uses very loudly when she wants food. It is a joy to see her run across her pasture. She rolls in the dirt right after I’ve groomed her! One year we had a turkey nesting in her pasture. Ginger got a bit too close to the nest and mama went after Ginger, chasing her off. After the chicks were hatched, Ginger would run toward the “family” to try to chase them off. Mama held her ground and Ginger abruptly halted and turned tail!

Farrier Chuck Knowles and Ginger

Farrier Chuck Knowles and Ginger

When she was originally picked up by animal control, her hooves were 6-8 inches long and curled up in the air. Photos of the hooves are cringe-worthy. I don’t really know how she managed to walk. I found a wonderful local farrier, Chuck Knowles. Chuck, who is now her buddy, comes every six weeks to trim her hooves. Of course, I have to ply her with carrots to get her to stand there for the manicure!

Ginger is all about tenacity, grit, and survival. I’ve learned from her, and I’ve had to work on  my own traits such as patience. My frightened and neglected girl is now friendly, secure, healthy, and happy. I appreciate her deep and pensive nature. She seems very thoughtful – does she remember the years on her own? And when I watch her, brush her, or feed her, I reflect on all she has been through. She is a mule to be admired.

It also turns out that Ginger is part of a bigger story. Now NorCal Equine Rescue is the Horse Plus Humane Society, with three shelters and is the nation’s largest open-door shelter for horses. Ginger’s rescue and adoption was one of the first for the group’s equine rescue.

Now, 11 years later, there have been many challenging experiences and much learning on my part. (Ginger already knows everything.) It turned out that it isn’t about what I could get from her, but about what she has given me – a deep satisfaction in providing her a home along with observing her wonderful nature. I got her for the wrong reasons, but I’ve kept her and loved her for the right reasons.

Calfee and Ginger on adoption day, May 2005

Calfee and Ginger on adoption day, May 2005

By Guest Contributor November 7, 2016 16:02
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1 Comment

  1. M. Helena December 24, 01:36

    Wonderful story. Ginger was very lucky to be adopted by such a good people.
    Congratulations, Susan, for your beautiful and exciting story and for making Ginger a quiet and happy creature. Loved it!

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