The holidays evoke generosity in many folks. Each year, organizations like the Christmas Bureau, Toys for Tots and the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign help make the season enjoyable for those in need.
But as Post Falls resident Julie Wasson discovered, humans aren’t the only ones who could use a little extra help during the holidays.
Originally, Wasson hoped to foster a sense of altruism in her three children.
“I wanted to get the kids into a giving spirit and to get them to think about helping others,” she said.
But the concept proved difficult to explain to Jameson, 5, Piper, 4, and Charlie, not quite 2. Wasson didn’t think it would end well if she took the youngsters toy shopping and then told them they had to give the toys away.
She found the solution to her dilemma while driving to work.
“I heard on the radio about the glut of horses on the market because so many people can’t take care of them,” Wasson recalled. The program reported that the high cost of hay and the worsening economy have put many horse owners in a bind. Wasson decided to see if her family could find a horse in need.
“My sister-in-law has horses, and the children love to be around them,” she said. “I thought this would be a good idea.”
Finding a horse to help turned out to be as simple as a conversation with a co-worker who rescues horses. That co-worker put Wasson in touch with Mozelle Callihan, a Spokane Valley resident who’d recently adopted a malnourished horse.
“Dusty lived in our neighborhood,” said Callihan, referring to the horse. The animal was emaciated because his previous owners couldn’t care for him properly. A visit to the vet revealed Dusty was approximately 27 years old.
“Horses generally live to about 30,” Callihan said. “We have a senior citizen horse. We were afraid he wouldn’t make it through the winter if we didn’t help.” Dusty had worms, and his teeth needed attention, but once those issues were resolved he began to gain weight. The aging horse needs a special diet, so Wasson offered to help by purchasing feed.
On Dec. 16, Wasson, her husband, Steve, and their three children delivered Dusty’s Christmas gift of beet pulp and alfalfa pellets. The chestnut quarter horse with a golden mane and tail gently greeted his young visitors.
Charlie, resting on her mom’s hip, reached out a tentative hand. “Hi,” she said, and Dusty moved closer. Piper clapped her hands and squealed with delight. Standing on her toes she grabbed Dusty’s halter. “Daddy, I think I will take him around,” she said. “Good horse.”
“Would you like to ride Dusty?” Callihan asked. Piper’s blue eyes grew huge as she looked at her parents for approval. Callihan boosted her atop the willing horse, and Jameson led Dusty in a meandering circle. “She’s never been on a horse,” said Steve Wasson, amazed at how naturally his daughter took to riding.
Soon Jameson joined his sister atop Dusty, his dimpled grin radiant despite the frigid weather.
“They’re obviously getting a lot out of this today,” observed Julie Wasson. Her husband took several pictures for the kids to hang on their walls and to show their friends the horse they adopted for Christmas.
At last, Charlie joined her siblings on Dusty and took a few slow turns around the pasture. Dusty seemed pleased with the gentle pats and loving words the children lavished on him.
After their ride the Wasson children were a little confused as to the type of food they’d brought for Dusty. “I think he eats carrots,” said Piper.
“That’s what I was going to say,” said Jameson. Piper pondered healthy horse food. “And bananas,” she added.
As their mom watched them sip hot cocoa she said, “They’ve been so excited to help.”
She paused and smiled.
“The kids call him our Christmas horse.”
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