March 09th, 2014


February 1, 2008
My bio, Joan

Pets, including  dogs, cats, horses, house-rabbits, reptiles, rats, and birds have always been a big part of my life.  
When I was a kid I had a pet duck who I took for walks in his home-made shoes (so he wouldn’t get blisters); I had a 
dog named Heidi who rode on my bike with me; and a house-rabbit named Buttercup who shared my home with me 
(and even used the litter box), and Mr. B, the magnificent Bearded Dragon, who lived to be 8 years old!

My animal rescue efforts started when I was about 13 years old.   I found a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest.  It 
was still pink and it had no feathers.  I picked him up and brought him home.  I came up with a concoction of food that 
worked for him.  It was made out of Cream of Wheat, meal worms, and saliva.  I fed him with an eye dropper every 3 
hours, and I named my new little friend Karma.  I hoped that one day I would be able to let Karma fly away and that he 
would live in nature as God intended.  With regular feedings, Karma was thriving and gradually started to get bigger and grow feathers.  And it wasn’t long before he would fly to my bed (very early in the morning) and chirp loudly -- with his mouth wide open -- right in my face for me to get up feed him.  When I felt Karma was old and strong enough, I took him outside to let him fly away, but he stayed in the tree only to fly down when I called him to see if he was still there at the end of the day.  Until one day when I called him and he didn’t come down; he had flown away.

I grew up in Huntington Beach, California in the 70’s, and back then there were a lot of open fields and about 5 major stables, from Bill Williams Stables to Rex Reynolds.  Huntington Beach was a big horse town.  Our house was the last one on the street and our street ended at a hay field, where riders galloped by on their horses on a regular basis.  I used to sit on my fence watching them magnificently pass by, hoping that someday I could get close enough to actually touch one!  

I was about 10 years old and that’s when I fell in love with horses.  I never wanted anything as much as I wanted a 
horse of my own.  I used to draw pictures of them for hours, and I studied their anatomy until I could name every part. I could tell you any horses’ breed just by looking at him; and I could tell you his age by looking at his teeth.  I still have fun doing that.  I loved everything about horses, even they way they smelled!  
Then I finally got a chance to ride one! What a thrill!!!  His name was actually Pokey and he was my friend’s horse.  
She double up on her friend’s horse and let me ride him.  He was pretty pokey, but I did get him to gallop AND I 
WAS EXHILARATED!  What pure joy!  I squealed in delight, “He’s running!  He’s running” as we galloped across the field.  It was decided right then and there:  I had to have a horse of my own!!!  

It seemed like forever, but finally it happened… a neighbor of ours was selling her horse, Ginger.  And my friend, 
Buster, said I could keep her on his property for FREE.  I never cleaned the house as well as I did that day.  I 
scrubbed every square inch and then I begged my parents relentlessly until they caved in.  How could they say no; 
she was only $100 and we had a free place to keep her! 

I got my Ginger, the best horse ever!  She was athletic and tall at 16 hands, a Thoroughbred/Morgan mix.  Perfect.  
She would do anything I asked of her.  She would wade right out into the lake and take us for a swim; I’d get off her 
back in the water and she would swim to shore and patiently wait there for me to swim in.  And when my friend, 
Jeanne, and I were racing the train on her back -- laughing uncontrollably at the guy on the train pretending to shovel coal into the engine to make the train go faster – and fell to the ground in fits of laughter, Ginger stopped right in her tracks and she just stood there patiently waiting for us to compose ourselves enough to get back on.  

I would sit on her backwards and gallop around like a trick rider; one time I even went over a jump that way -- not a 
good idea, but I managed to stay on board!  I would stick to flying over jumps sitting forward on her from then on.  I 
rode Ginger all across that city, along the beaches, and across the fields always riding bare-back and bare-footed, 
like a wild Indian.  

And when it was raining out, I would still go to see Ginger and just lay on her back, watching the rain come down 
through the cracks in the barn while smelling her warm musky coat.  My children love the story about the time I rode Ginger through the Drive-Thru at Jack-n-the Box on Main and Beach. I point it out when-ever we drive by it and say, “there’s that Jack-in-the-Box…” and they love the story about when I brought Ginger in the house; they laugh when I say how big she looked while standing in the living room.

Before she came to me, Ginger had had a rough life and was neglected.  I think she was grateful to have someone 
spending so much time taking care of and loving her.  I spent every moment I could with her.  Ginger would do 
anything for me; she totally trusted me and I her.

But things were changing; I was changing.  It was 1974 and I was a restless teenager, I’m not sure what brought me to the decision, but when Jeanne’s friend asked about buying Ginger I said okay.  A decision that I will always regret; it was without a doubt the single most terrible decision I have ever made.  How could I let Ginger down like that and how could I forgive myself.  I’ll never forget seeing the white mushroom shape on the tip of Ginger’s nose through the green trailer window as she stood in there wondering where she was going.  

She was going with them to her new home at their ranch in Riverside; it sounded like such a nice place for her to be. My heart ached as they drove away with her.  Even as they were driving away, I didn’t know why I was saying 
goodbye to her.  I wish I could go back in time and change that moment; the moment I decided to let her go.  It still 
makes me cry.  It will always make me cry.  

A few months later my mom took my friends and me to visit Ginger, but unfortunately we got lost and couldn’t find the ranch; we had to return home without seeing her.  Then we made another attempt to see her and this time we found her, but it was bittersweet.  We got to see Ginger, but the conditions she was in were appalling.  She had lost weight and was neglected; and the pony in the paddock with her had hooves that curled up from neglect.  It was a very sad revelation.  No one was taking care of her; no one was spending time with her; no one was loving her.  

I had to get Ginger back.  I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I was determined to get her back.  I called a few times to talk to her new owners and I even spoke with the ranch hands who were kind enough to talk to me about Ginger whenever I called.   They seemed to be the only ones who had seen her lately.  
It was one of them who called me to tell me that Ginger had died.  I was too late; Ginger was gone.  Through my tears I asked him what happened to her, but I would soon learn that what he told me wasn’t true.  A week later that same ranch-hand came to my house to tell me that Ginger had died from abuse and neglect.  I was heart-broken.  I wouldn’t be able to rescue my Ginger.   She was gone forever.  

My only consolation was, and is, knowing that she is in a better place where there’s no pain or suffering.  I see her 
prancing in her lovely perfect form, rolling in fresh grass, and frolicking around where ever she may.  And some day I’ll get to lie on her back again and smell her sweet aroma and tell her how much I love her!  
And she will tell me she knows.

There’s no doubt that my experience with Ginger has fueled my desire to get involved in animal rescue.



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