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Helping Hand for Big Boy
Big Boy greets Bubba Carneal of Camp Verde, who took on the care of the 22-year-old retired racehorse after hospice put out a search for a new owner in order to help out a patient.
Coming together to find a new home for an old horse
7/30/2012 7:21:00 AM
By Raquel Hendrickson
CAMP VERDE - Big Boy is getting old at 22, has teeth problems and has already had a stroke. Finding him a new home is no simple task.
A chain of events and a chain of caring people in Camp Verde made it happen for the retired racehorse.
About four years ago, Shirley and Arnold "Pete" Menkee had acquired Big Boy as a companion for their adopted burro.
"A neighbor down the road had the big guy and asked if they could leave him here," Shirley Menkee said. "They got along just beautiful, that 17-hand-high horse and the little bitty burro."
Big Boy had raced in California, earning some money, but for a thoroughbred was easy-going. The companionship worked out well until a few months ago. That's when Donkey became ill.
"We had to have the burro put down," Shirley said. "He was at least 30 years old, and we couldn't stand to see him suffer."
That left the Menkees with a lonely horse.
At the same time, Shirley was having her own health difficulties. It reached the point that they decided it would be best to have her at home in hospice care. With Pete still dealing with the effects of a stroke himself, caring for an old horse became too big a task for the couple.
Nursing staff from Northern Arizona Homecare & Hospice went to talk to the couple to make sure hospice was the option they wanted. The interview covered social and family issues, too.
"Pete said, 'We're really worried about our horse," hospice nurse Christine Schneider said. "They didn't want the horse going to someone that would not take care of him or to someone that would sell him. They wanted the horse to be comfortable."
The case was given to Schneider, who met with the Menkees and met Big Boy. Then she started thinking of all the people she knew who might have a lead on a good home for an old horse. It was not exactly within in the normal tasks of hospice.
She talked to large-animal veterinarian Jim Bleak. She talked to rancher Clifford Finch, who interacts with ranchers who have open range. She talked to Bopper Cannon, manager at V-Bar-V, who is familiar with local ranchers. She talked to Roy Hall, who runs a wildfire incident command team and knows rangers and ranchers and keeps track of livestock.
Schneider discovered that it's a hard time to have large animals.
"The economy has been really rough on horses and livestock," she said. "I talked to the Forest Service, and they said people can't afford to feed their horses and they're just dumping them off."
Monday morning back at the office, the nursing staff came together and talked about those they had contacted.
"They really went above and beyond to find a place for this horse," said Marguerite Lauri, volunteer coordinator for Northern Arizona Hospice.
Office Coordinator Debbie Maggard overheard the discussion and remembered her in-laws.
And that brings the story to a mare named Bella and a trucker named Bubba.
On a different side of Camp Verde, Bubba Carneal had taken on the care of Bella when he saw that she was in bad shape. "From 30 feet away you could see her ribs," he said, "and her feet were really bad."
Bella, who is about 15, was the first horse he had ever owned.
It took a year to nurse her back to health. She is now fat and happy and in a condition to ride. However, she had taken to wood-chewing in her lonely enclosure. Bubba, gradually restructuring the corral and Bella's 15-by-15-foot shelter as he is able to afford to, thought she could use a companion and he could use another saddle horse.
The Maggards told him about Big Boy, and he knew a retired racehorse that had suffered a stroke was not exactly what he was looking for.
"It was a hard decision," Carneal said. "But he's healthy; he was healthy when we got him. They obviously cared for him.
"After hearing the story about Mr. Menkee, I met him and he's a great guy. He's also ex-military and so am I. If they have anything else they need done around the place, I'd be glad to help out."
So Big Boy came to Bella's domain.
The acquaintance between Bella and Big Boy has run pretty standard for horses. She has established her possession of all property and will eat his food if he's not hasty enough. At first she ran him out of the shelter, but Big Boy has calmly pushed his way back into acceptance.
Bubba is saving up for the expenses ahead, including an expanded shelter, a real hay shed instead of a trailer and whatever medical needs arise. Big Boy needs to have his teeth floated, but vets have been reluctant to do so because of his stroke.
Pete Menkee has been to visit Big Boy a couple of times at his new home to make sure he remains in caring hands.
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