A long road back home; Horse injured in tornado.
BRIMFIELD - While most of the people in the commonwealth were bracing themselves for the impact of Hurricane Irene, a local family and 30 of their closest friends were preparing for a homecoming that was nearly three months in the making.
Shortly before 11 a.m. yesterday, Cajun, the 9-year-old paint horse injured during the June 1 tornado, was reunited with his stable-mates, Triple X Mouse and Dragonfly, all owned by Steven E. Bush and JoAnn F. Kass of 51 Paige Hill Road.
As the horse trailer was going around the bend of the long stretch of driveway to the area where the couple's house once stood, Cajun, who has endured more than the fictitious pony "Wildfire" did in Michael Murphy's '70s hit single of the same name, gave a triumphant whinny that would make even Charlie Sheen envious.
"He said `I'm home,'" Ms. Kass exclaimed.
In a matter of 20 seconds, the June 1 tornado took the roof off the family's house, shattered windows and scattered personal possessions. But that was nothing compared to what happened to the couple's beloved horses. Triple X Mouse suffered minor cuts and lacerations, and Dragonfly, a pony, suffered an eye injury. Cajun was impaled by a finger-sized piece of wood that penetrated his right rear coffin joint (the intersection of the lowest bones in the horse's leg) and tendon sheath. Dakota, an 18-year-old quarter horse, was fatally struck in the head by an airborne camping trailer that was flung 22 yards.
"It means everybody's home except Dakota," Ms. Kass said, as she struggled to hold back the tears. "We're happy to have everybody home now. It's just bittersweet."
Ms. Kass said Cajun had gone through hell but now is home. The bandage-free, noticeably slimmed but healthy-looking horse walked out of the trailer and was treated to an apple, which he greedily devoured. He proceeded to wash down the apple with a bushel of carrots and stalks of hay, unfazed by all the attention and the onlookers.
But with a hurricane on the way, the horse's homecoming was only temporary. A few hours later, the three horses were rounded up, put in a trailer and transported to Morning Light Farm, while Mr. Bush, Ms. Kass and her 17-year-old grandson, Joel J. Kass, who have been sleeping in the backyard in a trailer ever since the tornado hit, packed up their dogs (Sadie, a Labrador-Dalmatian mix; Bruiser, a black Labrador-Newfoundland mix and Toto, a miniature Yorkie) and went to spend the night at a pet-friendly hotel in neighboring Sturbridge. The horses and the family are expected to return Monday.
"FEMA told us we can't stay in the trailer. We need to leave the trailer," Ms. Kass said, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "As soon as I had arrangements for my horses and us to get out, then you know what, there's really nothing left here to lose."
Cajun had three surgeries at the Hospital for Large Animals at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Grafton, and was released from the hospital July 15. Tufts first examined him June 2, after veterinarian Paula Orcutt triaged and evaluated him in the field. Back then, the prognosis was grim.
"Very often what Cajun suffered is a fatal injury. It's extraordinarily susceptible to infections. It is notoriously difficult to image. It's one of those rare cases that is medical and surgical at the same time," Thomas M. Keppeler, Tufts spokesman, said the day the horse was released from Tufts. "Cajun was facing long odds when he came to us, and now he's out of the woods."
When people got word of Cajun's story, an outpouring of generosity followed and led to $6,000 in donations that were applied to the horse's $20,000 medical bill. In the end, Tufts kicked in the $14,000 difference.
"Cajun is doing good. He won't be a show horse, that's for sure. But he'll be fine for trails," Mr. Bush said. "We have to exercise him on a regular basis, so we do not get the adhesions in the coffin joint, because that would limit the movement."
"Cajun has a long way to go, but he is moving in the right direction. Mentally, he seems to be doing pretty good. He is very calm," Ms. Kass added. "So it's just going to be a long process of increasing his exercise and keeping an eye on him."
After getting out of Tufts, Cajun recuperated at Ross Haven Farm, an equine rehabilitation facility in Sturbridge. Although independent of Tufts, the farm is run by Tuft's Associate Professor Dr. Carl Kirker-Head, who performed one of the surgeries on the horse, and his wife, Romona, another Cummings School employee.
"I am holding back the tears. It's been a long time coming. The fact that Cajun is moving as well as he's moving, that tells me that Tufts did a wonderful job on it, and the care that he got there and at Ross Haven Farm was top notch," Mr. Bush said. "It is very promising and very enjoyable to see Cajun walking around as well as he's walking around."
CUTLINE: (1) Kate Carmody of Swampscott gives carrots to Cajun upon his return home yesterday. (2) Cajun, left, rubs noses with stable-mate Dragonfly after being returned to Brimfield. (3) Steven E. Bush escorts Cajun from a trailer for his homecoming.
PHOTOG: T&G Staff Photos/TOM RETTIG
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|Title Annotation:||LOCAL NEWS|
|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Aug 28, 2011|
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