Windchill, story of a survivor
Because the main page was getting cluttered up with all the updates and photos, I thought perhaps it'd be a little easier to show you what a typical day looked like in Windchill's world until his last day on February 29, 2008.

Mornings he's generally pretty tired, he likes to sleep in. His first check is generally done by Kathi Davis at 4am. While letting the other youngsters out of the barn, she gives him his meds, first drink of water of the day and the grain he likes. At around 5:30am or so we turn him onto his other side.

Some background FYI: Kathi is my partner, and operates her horse training and breeding business - Safe Haven Walking Horses - from Raindance. That's not intended to be a commercial plug but a frame of reference for you to understand where the expertise came from to keep this little guy alive. Honestly in the state he was in I would never have had a clue where to start. Kathi has coordinated and overseen his care from the first night. We all take our marching orders for his care from her and her communication with Jamie Meagher our vet and
a large animal university expert.

I think it's important to note that anybody who has examined Windchill has said he is by far the worst 'case' they have ever seen. From vets to law enforcement to other horse trainers that have visited. Hands down he takes the cake, so to speak. Pictures really don't do him justice. He is quite literally a skeleton with a rug (his hair) over it. You can feel EVERY bone, every tendon. And that's after two weeks of trying to get weight on him. We get a lot of calls or emails from people saying "Why didn't you just do this..." or "why did you do this?..." - they're from well-meaning, good natured folks, some of whom have never witnessed a rescue (sometimes I envy them, once you have seen an animal suffering and neglected, you can't go back to who you once were), and others who don't understand brutal cold. Much of what has been done with Windchill's care was instinct and trial hoping for no errors. His death was a certainty so we had nowhere to go but up from there.

Animals aside, something everyone can relate to is driving. Well imagine getting in your vehicle and hearing thump, thump, thump and thinking your tires are flat and when you stop to look at them, they haven't gone flat - it's so cold they have frozen with a flat spot and it takes a mile or two to warm them up and get their shape back. One of the questions I was asked by one of the news networks who called was "Why in the world do you live there?" At this point, I think if you called around our area, people would have trouble answering that one... But believe it or not, once we're out of this cold spell and Summer rolls around it's heaven on earth. For about a month...

Back to Windchill's day (I tend to wander to try and give you some of the events and details you may not be aware of so forgive me for the digressions - I do the same thing in person, I don't know how Windchill puts up with me): I'm with him from 7am to as late as I can before I have to head for work. Generally there's about an hour or two and then we've had a pretty steady volunteer, Stacy, who stays with him most of the day and these days acts as ambassador and guardian as people are stopping at the farm regularly now. She's actually been here so much we're going to give her some money - she doesn't know that by the way and doesn't have internet but we accidentally found out she canceled job interviews so that she could be here during the times Kathi, myself or others couldn't be here. That's the kind of loyalty Windchill generates in people's hearts.

During Stacy's shift, Windchill needs to be turned over again in the early afternoon. Windchill friend David Stevens generally stops by at that time to check in on him and help with the turn (While one strong person could possibly turn him over, we require two people to ensure he's turned over safely, plus he needs to be dragged to a fresh spot in his stall to allow for cleaning and new sawdust, hay and blankets to be laid out).

Around 6pm daily: If you watch the farm's webcam, you'll see an entire volunteer crew arrive, as well as folks that just come to see the miracle. It's our best part of the day and each time we've done this it's no less special. By 6pm Windchill's ready and he knows what's coming: For either a short time or a couple of hours, he gets to be back on his feet again and he loves that moment - it shows in his eyes.

The crew these days is almost always made up of Gary and Polly (who made us lasagna which has been our supper for quite a few days, Gary is the one who figured out how to rig the chain and winch so that the load is distributed and Windchill could walk around a bit in his stall while still safely supported in the sling), Kathi, Larry and Char (they're fellow horse people - they always seem to bring fresh horse blankets, leg wraps and other supplies), and when they're available the Dalbec family and David.

It starts with getting Windchill ready and positioning the sling under him:

After he is rolled onto the sling and positioned, the winch is connected to it:

During all of this Windchill, is absolutely calm. He knows when we need him to help us. Someday he will be able to lift his head and neck again by himself and roll onto his sternum by himself - but that will be a long time coming according to the vet. That's okay, for now he has friends to help him with that. Next comes the lift. It's gotten much easier as Windchill has learned to help and we've learned how to pre-position him to help him help us. As he's lifted he has people on all sides to keep him from sliding out one way or the other, and to assist in any rotation so that he can get his legs under him. He has his 'landing gear' down as soon as the sling has risen to about our knee level, ready to let us know he doesn't need that sling anymore. Some days he's more tired - the sling's not removed until we're sure he's stable:

And he's up! Windchill is standing and he's told us 'pit crew' to get the gantry out of the way, he's ready to launch...or at least stand and walk around a bit by himself:

First order of business is to say "hello" to his good friend Case in the next stall who still has his eye on that halter that Dan's donated to him. Windchill goes back and forth between Case, Sunday (who is in the stall on the other side) and his visitors.

Later I'll try to post some videos of Windchill Rising, I'll have to try and figure out how to do that so each loads separate to make it easier for folks but I'll figure that out later. Windchill is still teaching me how to get this web stuff working correctly.

One thing I think that needs to be addressed is "why." We've heard people say "why didn't you just put him down... what a tremendous waste of resources...why spend the time keeping an animal alive..." That certainly would've been the easiest thing to do. Quick and easy, just the way our society has come to expect things. Who is going to miss an animal, right? I bet even those suggesting he should've "just been shot" (how do you become that callous?) have had a pet in their lifetime they would've done anything to save. Perhaps that's why they're hardened today. A special animal finds its way into your heart. It expects very little in return. For you business types the "return on investment" for what you spend feeding and taking care of your pet produces an incredible return in love, companionship and adoration. You don't have to be a horse lover - you cat lovers know what it's like to talk to your cat as you get ready in the morning or have it sit next to you at night while you read or watch TV. You dog lovers know what it's like to be working on projects around your place and have that constant presence of a being that thinks you're the greatest. (The difference between cats and dogs - and I have both - is that cats know they're smarter than you, dogs think you're just brilliant: "What! You're letting me out to go potty! That's great!....what? You're letting me back in the house now? What a great idea - where do you come up with all these brilliant ideas master!"). We got a call from a gentleman who cares for gerbils. He had some tips to share. For virtually any species, there's somebody who loves and cares for them.

So back to the "why." We knew it was a battle with odds overwhelmingly stacked against the little guy even surviving the first night, much less the bitter cold that followed for night after night. We knew he'd have major expenses if he survived. Our assumption was that it would go on my charge cards and over time they'd get paid off - worry about that later. The "why" is a series of 'because' answers: Because we had to try; because we would want someone to try and save us if we were in the same awful circumstance; because humans had put him in this position and because it was our duty as humans to try and get him out of it - he didn't ask to be born, he didn't ask to be neglected -- all he asked for when he called to us across that wind-swept, bitterly cold pasture was to please help him stop hurting. He needed us, he deserved that help, and he got it. And lastly, because he is as much one of the Lord's beings as any one of us. He was no less deserving of a chance at life, and possibly even more so to make up for what his life had become up til then with his slow death march through the valley of starvation and neglect. I think someday we as people will in part be judged in how we treated those beings that God entrusted us with dominion over. It's a measure of who we are.

Across this country and in fact the world,  people have been praying and sending him notes of encouragement.  They have been sending donations, and they have been coming out to see him and help with him in droves! The Ericksen's (the Larry and Char - the horse people I told you about earlier) actually printed out his guestbook yesterday and put it in a three ring binder for us to keep near Windchill - all 193 pages. Windchill's amazing will to survive, and his willingness to accept us humans even after all this is an inspiration to those who have been hurt in some way. Windchill probably doesn't understand that he's the definition of resolve. He doesn't fight for his life every day because he will possibly be in the paper. He does this because he wants to live.  It's his quiet testament that there is power in hope. There is power in prayer. Unintentionally, he brought all of you together - and you have all made carrying the load so much easier. For that we are so grateful. And that's "why."

Windchill belongs to the world. We're just lucky enough that he's here with us.

Jeff Tucker

One other thing - we didn't choose for Windchill to live - he did. He asked for our help across that pasture, we gave it. His continued existence is the result of his intense desire to live. Had he chosen to let go and die, at most we could've made him feel comfortable until he passed and then we'd have been there with him so he didn't face it alone. Just wanted to clarify that for those that judge without having looked into Windchill's bright eyes for themselves.


A very special thanks goes out to Lyle Shannon of Duluth for quickly putting together a page of Windchill's videos of getting him on his feet.

Also, thank you to Sara Engelstad of Spooky Audio and Woodruff Lumber Company of Duluth, both of whom have set up space on their server as well as bandwidth for hosting the videos of Windchill so that we can post more up there as time goes by. We've also gotten some very kind offers via email from folks to host on their space that we may take you up on if this issue continues - you have our gratitude!

             Windchill News & Info Links

Windchill Memories - main page
The Windchill Story (complete as it unfolded)
A day in the life of Windchill
Windchill Videos
Windchill Photo Gallery (under construction)
Windchill in the News (media stories)
Windchill's Forum for Friends (current news & events)
Windchill's Thank you thank you thank you's!
Wisdom carried by the young- "Someday Windchill" 
Sign Windchill's Guest Book
See Windchill's Original Guest Book & Memorial  
Windchill's letter to all the children who wrote him

May the good lord be with you
Down every road you roam
And may sunshine and happiness
Surround you when youre far from home
And may you grow to be proud
Dignified and true
And do unto others
As youd have done to you
Be courageous and be brave
And in my heart youll always stay
Forever young, forever young
Forever young, forever young

May good fortune be with you
May your guiding light be strong
Build a stairway to heaven
With a prince or a vagabond

And may you never love in vain
And in my heart you will remain
Forever young, forever young
Forever young, forever young
Forever young
Forever young

And when you finally fly away
Ill be hoping that I served you well
For all the wisdom of a lifetime
No one can ever tell

But whatever road you choose
Im right behind you, win or lose
Forever young, forever young
Forever young ,forever young
Forever young, forever young
For, forever young, forever young

(Forever Young, Rod Stewart)

Forever Young, Rod Stewart