Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A NetPosse Christmas Story

A NetPosse Christmas Story
Email, Santa, and Miracles.
By Debi Metcalfe

When a horse owner awakes on a beautiful day just weeks before Christmas to find their cherished horse missing, instead of the joy of the season filling their spirit their heart is broken. After more than a dozen years working missing horses cases I know that bad things happen as often on a holiday as they do every day. But good things happen, too.

Let me tell you the NetPosse Christmas story of 2010, beginning on Friday morning, December 10th..

Early that morning, Shay Cantrell awoke to find her dreams of festive Christmas preparation shattered. Sometime during the night Sonny, a three year-old palomino Haflinger -Morgan gelding went missing from his pasture. No one could explain how Shay’s beloved golden boy Sonny had disappeared. There were no hoofprints found leaving the property.

Stolen Horse International came into existence because one day in 1997 I was in the same circumstances as Shay. Our beloved gray mare, Idaho, went missing. Feelings of victimization, desperation, and helplessness piled on to my loss and consumed my life until Idaho was home again.

Two days after Sonny disappeared I received an email, subject line “Help Missing Horse.” NetPosee.com volunteers began reaching out to Shay Cantrell and her family before my own email note was even sent. One volunteer, Cynthia, told her about Stolen Horse International, NetPosse.com.

All Shay Cantrell wanted for Christmas was Sonny safely back home in his pasture. She filed a report with NetPosse.com but couldn’t pay the fee until after Christmas. Volunteer Angela Kirby, our Executive Coordinator, had been working with Shay since connecting with her on Craigs List. Everything was in place at NetPosse.com but payment.

Our story has plenty of victims as well as an unsung network of caring folks working to help Sonny get home. Stolen Horse International was founded because of the kindness people showed my husband and me when Idaho was stolen from our pasture. My miracle is replayed every day when we see our beautiful gray mare in her pasture. Since Idaho came home I have worked daily to share my miracle with other horse owners.

As much as I wanted to get Shay’s alert out, no organization can run on purely emotional fuel. We had the report and photos of Sonny, but no fee. I sat at the computer desperately wanting to send out the alert, but without payment fee I couldn’t. Product sales, donations, contributions, and report fees keep Stolen Horse International in existence. Keeping up the search for missing horses and paying the light bill is a bigger challenge than I ever expected, and I couldn’t start making exceptions now.

As I was trying to work through my frustration another email appeared. A NetPosse volunteer wrote, “Send Shay a message and tell her it is paid by Santa. Then let me know how I need to pay you and I will pay it for her. Please call Shay and tell her everything is OK and done. Merry Christmas to you and your family.”

As fast as North Pole elves we set to work. News of Sonny’s disappearance went to Facebook and Twitter, to thousands on our mailing list and to the many other contacts we have developed over the years.
When Shay received her email with links to Sonny’s web page, his flyer, and notice of alerts being sent she emailed back, “But I don’t have the $25 to pay for the posting till the first.”

With tear-filled eyes and beaming smile I typed my email reply to Shay on December 16th. “Santa Claus came early and someone paid it for you.J” By return email Shay shared her incredulous gratitude and made a commitment to donate the amount of her fee after Christmas. Two days later Shay emailed me again.

“I just wanted to let you know that we just went to pick up our Sonny. A rancher had seen a flier in a gas station (I printed off several fliers that you made for us and put them around town) He saw Sonny in the woods and called the sheriff immediately. Sonny was about 10 miles away, and he lost a lot of weight! But thanks to you and your site we have our Sonny home safe and before the holidays. Thank you so much for every thing you have done for us!! - "No heaven can heaven be, if my horse isn't there to welcome me.” -
Bradly & Shay

After Sonny had been found I had the opportunity to talk with Shay and learned a bit more about her ordeal. I asked her how she felt when she discovered Sonny missing.

“We were all devastated! Our hearts sank and I felt sick. I thought he was gone for good, that someone had taken him. There were no hoof prints leaving our property. We were worried that we would never see him again. It affected my 4 year old daughter the most; she couldn't understand why Sonny was gone.” she replied. “Sonny was missing for eight long miserable days.”

When asked about Sonny’s recovery Shay told me they dropped everything the moment they received the call to bring their golden horse home. “We are so excited that we got him back. We wouldn’t have found him if it wasn’t for Stolen Horse International. The support we received from everybody is fantastic - so many prayers and people who care and try to fill you up with warmth and positive thoughts. This Christmas is a miracle. Our family is complete again. And Santa, whoever you are, you made all of our Christmas wishes come true.”

Just like I did, Shay Cantrell’s family got their own Christmas miracle when Sonny came home. Sometimes the smallest gesture can lead to a miracle. As soon as I knew Sonny was recovered and home again I sent an email to our own “Santa.”

Cynthia, this was the best $25 gift you ever gave. Merry Christmas, and never underestimate the power of one… this time the one was you!

Cynthia emailed back that it was also the best Christmas gift to her as well. After speaking to Shay at the beginning Cynthia believes a voice from heaven asked her to pay the fee. Cynthia’s email read, “Just goes to show that when the Angels give us a message we need to listen. I only played a small part and wouldn’t have been able to help her if it was not for SHI. We were all in this together. Merry Christmas to all of us.”

Rather than send an email, I’ll take this opportunity to reveal Santa’s identity to Shay.

“Shay, you’ve already spoken with “Santa” and sent her a thank you note for telling you about Stolen Horse International. Your own secret Santa is Cynthia Lawhon, a fellow Texan. Whether Cynthia is your angel or just a special woman who listens when angels speak, now you know who has been there with you all along.

So many people were involved in bringing this one golden horse home for Christmas. There was Sonya and our notification team, Angela who prepared both the report and the flyer, and Michelle who posted the flyer to hundreds of list groups. There were also thousands of NetPosse volunteers who received our alerts, and the folks on our mailing list who post the flyers and send them on to their friends.

That’s our NetPosse Christmas story for 2010. Let me add that I am a believer. I believe in Santa Claus, at least the spirit of goodness that is Santa Claus. Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love see it bring out the best in people.

The 1897 New York Sun editorial, “Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus” is one of my favorite Christmas pieces and sums up the blessing received by Shay and Sonny, our volunteers, Cynthia, and me. May you also be blessed by this short excerpt;

“He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know they abound and give to your life it highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were not Santa Claus!”

Merry Christmas Everyone!
Debi Metcalfe

Special thanks go to Lynn Baber, www.AmazingGrays.us for her assistance with this story.

© 2010 Debi Metcalfe - Permission to publish is understood as long as origination and contact information forDebi Metcalfe is left intact. 

Note: I know there is some spacing problems between the paragraphs. I could not get them to line up right in this software. Sorry.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Stolen Florida Horse Recovered Alive!

Stolen Florida Horse Recovered Alive!

Seen through the eyes of a victim

by Debi Metcalfe and Judy Aregano

On September 11, 2009, Stolen Horse International, aka NetPosse.com, received a disturbing report from Judy Aregano, stating that five horses had been stolen from Florida, one of which was her horse Shilo.

Aregano reported that allegedly two men along with a heavy-set blond woman stopped at a Seffner, FL, property on Williams Road and loaded the horses into a green combo stock trailer pulled by a maroon newer model Dodge dully truck. The thieves pulled up a fence post, cut the fence, drove into the pasture, loaded the horses, came back through, and re-tied the fence to make it look like it was still up.

How do we know so many details? Because someone was watching it all happen. Which raises an obvious question: How could this could happen in full view of “unsuspecting” witnesses? This scenario is hard for anyone to conceive.

I don’t mean to be an alarmist, (actually I do) as the signs are impossible to ignore: Complacency is one reason this happens. Many horse owners really don’t care, don’t think it will happen to them or will turn and look the other way rather than get involved.

Then there is bewilderment as to why would anyone would want to steal a horse? No one steals a horse in the 21st century with the price of horses at rock bottom, right? Wrong. The recession has spurred cutbacks, layoffs and, now, increased theft. With the economy tanking, security pros see a spike in old-time thievery. And what do people steal in recessionary times? Cash, clothes, cigarettes, copper - pretty much everything including horses and equipment. The few dollars one may obtain from selling stolen property may buy groceries or pay the electric bill for a family. Let’s face it, there is always a market for a good cheap horse.

And we all have heard about the horses that are being dropped off because owners cannot afford them anymore. All of those roaming horses are dumped, right? Wrong, often they are lost and in need of being found by their owners. Again, it is just easy to assume that they have been dumped because it is the more complacent act.

In the defense of horse an owner being complacent, it is not totally our fault is it? What do we hear about every day in the news? For the most part, if it is the horrific crimes like shootings, stabbings, fires, wrecks or drug-related stories that make the news. Stories about theft are more often than not at the end of the newscast or flashed quickly – if they make it at all. Stories about horse theft usually make it in a broadcast on slow news days. I can’t tell you how many stories have been bumped for “better” news items. If we don’t hear about it in the news then it “ain’t” happening is it?

On the other hand there has been a great deal of news coverage about the horses that have been butchered in recent months in Florida, and I am grateful for the public awareness. However, how many of those articles mentioned that the horses were stolen first and then offered tips to help you protect your horses from succumbing to the same fate? Very few did, as the theft of the horse is not as important as the gruesome outcome of these poor animals.

This supports the facts that not only are horse owners complacent but we have help in being that way. We have an excuse for not knowing, not helping, looking the other way and not protecting our own. The news media gives it to us. Well, not anymore if you are reading this article.

Keep in mind that the five horses taken in full view of a witness that September day in Florida included:

1. A 1,300-pound stout palomino gelding
2. A chocolate brown Shetland pony stallion with flaxen mane and tail
3. A dark bay mare with an injured hip and a limp
4. A blue roan paint mare with large dark spots
5. and Aregano’s Paintaloosa mare, brown and white in the front half with small brown spots on the white rear end area and four white stockings

This brings me to the reason I have written this article about this horse and her owner. What if no one cared enough to help Aregano? What if we all assumed the worst and assumed that Shilo had fallen into the butcher’s hands. What if we all looked the other way when it came time to help the victim? Well, that didn’t happen. Stolen Horse International is happy to report that Shilo, horse number five above, is home!

Sometimes it is best to hear it from the horse’s mouth, which in this case is Judy Aregano. Her touching story follows.

An Unexpected Happy Ending

During Labor Day weekend 2009, my Paintaloosa mare was stolen from a pasture with four other horses.

I was there when she was born and raised her. I broke her to ride myself. Though I loved my other horses, Shilo and I shared a bond. When the theft occurred, we were in the middle of a move to a farm with 35 acres, finally a home for all of my horses.
I had put off moving the last horses due to my work schedule, and then we got the phone call. Shilo and four others had been stolen from the pasture where they were kept. I was in shock. What do we do?

Terry, my boyfriend, left to meet the police at the pasture. I stayed behind, calling everyone to watch for her. My daughter Brittany emailed her friends and someone quickly emailed us back insisting that we register with NetPosse.com.

I had never heard of NetPosse.com but was willing to try anything. Brittany filed the report on Shilo. Before I knew it we were getting emails from all over the country … NOT just Florida but all over the USA! People had seen the flyer on NetPosse.com! They were expressing their heartfelt feelings and support and telling me they were posting the flyer of Shilo in barns and feed stores, everywhere! I was so overwhelmed.

A few days later, we had sightings of her being moved to south Florida, possibly because some one had seen the flyer. I had eyes all over the country looking for her. My friend Marylou put me in contact with a special lady in Miami. She is active in ending the slaughter of horses in south Florida. I can't divulge too much info about her. To protect her identity, I’ll call her “Jane.”

I emailed her the flyer. Jane began the search, constantly keeping Marylou (who forwarded it to me) informed of any leads. Then one day, Marylou received an email and in it was a picture of a Paintaloosa mare that had been moved to a barn in Homestead, Florida (over 250 miles away from home). She forwarded it to me.

Could it be Shilo? It looked like her ... but different. She had been body clipped very close and her mane had been roached. The black in her two-tone colored tail had been pulled out and her tail had been cut short. Then I recognized a shield on her side even though the picture was taken at an angle. It was her!

I was frantic! Crying, I called Marylou. “It’s her!” I shouted into the phone.

Phone calls were quickly made, but we had to continue to be so careful. We were to travel to Homestead quietly. They might move her if they know were coming.

We met at the barn, still trying to remain calm. I had come so far. Was this really her? Brittany and I walked around the corner of the barn and there stood Shilo. I cried. Jane cried. Brittany cried.

It had been a long journey. Jane informed us that Shilo would not approach anyone. Yet when Brittany and I approached the fence and called her name, Shilo walked over to us and laid her head on Brittany’s shoulder.

We called the Agriculture deputies and they were on the site in just moments. Deputy Debra carried a notebook of stolen horses with her. She opened it and there was Shilo’s poster from NetPosse.com and many more that she has saved from NetPosse.com’s IDAHO Alert network.

Within hours, Shilo was loaded on Marylou's trailer going home.

I cannot express enough my gratitude to NetPosse, Jane, and the Deputies in Dade County. You will always be in my heart.

For those of you have lost your friend don't give up hope. Shilo’s story was posted in many horse magazines and newspapers because of NetPosse. She was a needle in a haystack. Good luck to those who are still searching. You are in my prayers. ~ Judy Aregano

The Nonprofit NetPosse.com is Here to Help Horse Owners

At Stolen Horse International/NetPosse.com, we love happy endings like the one above, but we must continue to caution you to keep in mind that the happy new year of 2010 has begun but that doesn’t mean all is well with many people trying to survive the recession, or the common horse industry, thief. Because of the ‘risk vs. reward’ nature of horse and tack theft and the potential for greater monetary gain at the end of the day - it is easy for someone to be drawn to stealing when they are down on their luck.

Take steps now so that you don’t become the next victim.

And on a personal note to all of the news media who have reported stories about horse theft and its many victims … THANK YOU! You are one of the very important stepping stones in the recovery of horses, public awareness and the preventative process. Never underestimate the power you have to make a difference, in a positive manner, through your stories.

© 2010 Debi Metcalfe -  All rights reserved. This article is available for publication but you must have permission to publish in any format or medium. Please contact Debi Metcalfe at idahonc@aol.com for additional information.