When disasters hit
and residents are told to evacuate, horses and other large animals
are often left behind due to lack of transportation or no options for
a safe place to take them to. It’s a heartbreaking scenario that
one family in Sevier County, Tennessee, faced during the recent
four-year-old girl from Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Her family was forced
to evacuate and left Heaven, Izzy’s Miniature Horse, behind. Heaven
is more than just a beloved family pet; the chestnut mare is a
therapy animal for Izzy, who has a nonverbal form of autism, and the
potential loss was heartbreaking.
When the family was
able to return to their home and assess the damage, they saw
devastating destruction, but heard a hopeful sound.
“We just heard
this scream,” said Alisa Carroll, Izzy’s mother, in an interview
with WBIR. “I could just see my whole family take off running that
way. She was there.”
Heaven had survived
the fires, but not without sustaining some injuries. She had severe
burns on her face and around her mouth and it was clear that she
would need veterinary attention. But traffic in the area was still
restricted and the Carroll’s didn’t have a way to transport her
out of the mountains.
Here’s where the
power of social media comes in.
Alisa had seen a
post on Facebook about Brian Minton, a man from the area who was
offering to help animals in the aftermath of the fires. Despite the
challenging roads, Minton was able to drive his truck and trailer to
the Carroll’s home to rescue Heaven. Her face was too burned for a
halter, so she was left loose in the trailer, but safely made the
journey down the mountain.
Heaven spent the
first few days recovering at Douglas Lakeview Riding Stables and is
continuing her recovery. Fortunately, the Mini Horse is going to be
fine. A friend of the family created a Facebook group to provide updates on Heaven’s
condition and the family’s recovery efforts. There is also a
GoFundMe page to help the family as they begin to rebuild their lives
after the fire that took almost everything.
Leslie Potter is a writer and photographer based in Lexington, Kentucky. www.lesliepotterphoto.com