Marvel's story: back from the brink of death
This Prevention of Animal Cruelty month, animals like Marvel need our Inspectors. This horse is one of the most resilient, inspiring animals Inspector Liisa has ever met. And in this work... that means a lot. She shares the incredible story in her own words...
My name is Liisa and I am an SPCA Inspector. I want to introduce you to one of the most resilient, inspiring animals I have ever met. And in this work, that means a lot.
Let me start by saying I know stories like these aren’t always easy to read. They’re even harder to see in person, but I feel a duty to share Marvel’s story... to speak for her when she cannot speak for herself.
April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. Here at SPCA, that is what we are all about. It’s in our very name, and we are dedicated to doing everything we can to prevent animal cruelty in New Zealand. It is what drives everything we do.... what drives me on the hardest days as an Inspector.
One of those days came in January, when I met Marvel, a very special horse.
We received a call about a horse and foal on the side of the road in a rural area, and both were reported to be in dire condition. I rushed out to investigate, and I truly couldn't believe the state the horse was in.
On arrival, I found a lame, emaciated mare with two untreated gunshot wounds to her neck. The site was teeming with infection and maggots. Her skin was scalded from the fluid leaking from the wound, which had also burnt its way through her mane. She was riddled with lice and her swollen belly indicated she was suffering from a severe case of worms. Her hooves were so long she could barely walk.
On top of all of this, this poor horse had a 4-week-old foal. The little one was skinnier than he should have been at this age, but mum was doing an amazing job under the circumstances at even keeping her baby alive.
I won’t share photos from that first day here. They’re hard to look at, even for me. The above photo is from a few days after I met and rescued them.
That first day, Marvel was completely shut down. She was in unimaginable pain, and she didn’t even acknowledge me. I was worried her trauma – physical and mental – was too much.
But Marvel had survived against all odds until now, and all on her own. Not only that, but she had kept her baby alive. She had put so much effort and energy into making sure they both survived… I had to do the same.
It was a very emotional rescue. Getting her gently into the float, I felt a small spark of life from her for the first time. It was then I felt her trust in me instantly click. She walked straight in, and didn’t stress when we handled her baby to get him in too. She just watched quietly and gave a few soft whinnies.
Marvel was so calm as the vet and I cut her scalded mane right back. We cleaned and treated the horrific wounds, and confirmed that luckily, neither bullet had remained lodged in her body.
Her painfully overgrown hooves were seen to… I was told they had at least two years’ growth, which is what was making walking so difficult and sore.
Most upsetting though was trauma to Marvel’s face. Alongside the severity of her bullet wounds, it’s almost something that could be overlooked at first.
Marvel's face had been staved in, her skull permanently disfigured by massive blunt trauma. The vet said this happens with extreme force like being hit with a post. Luckily, it missed her eyes, but the strength of whatever struck her has caused permanent nerve damage which affects her nasal cavity and means if she exercises too much, her breathing becomes laboured.
I could talk about the journey we’ve since gone on together, Marvel and I. Her coming home with me for the hands-on, specialist foster care she needs. Daily flushing of wounds. Confidence building and character emerging. Seeing her baby go off into a loving forever home with a paddock mate the same age to grow up with. The first whinny when she saw me approaching. The first happy trot. The gradual weight gain. The way she’s learned to love being groomed. The palpable relief at finally being looked after.
But instead, I want to talk about the bigger picture here. The puzzle that Marvel is just one piece of.
Animals in New Zealand deserve better. Too many are victims of a total lack of empathy or care. Marvel’s injuries suggest she was subject to a failed euthanasia attempt, and was abandoned roadside when attempts were unsuccessful.
Every day on this job I meet animals who have suffered so much, and so unnecessarily, because of humans making bad decisions by their animals. Part of my work as an SPCA Inspector is to work with these very people, not just the animals they hurt. The people are the ones where preventative change needs to happen.
Trust me, I understand how easy it is to feel angry when you see this sort of active cruelty. How much you want to punish those responsible. Sometimes - like in Marvel's case - the people responsible can’t be found. And even when they can, punishment isn’t always the best option.
It’s a short term solution, but one that doesn’t tackle the problem in the long term. I could punish one animal abuser today, and tomorrow I will be rushing to rescue the victim of another. And on and on it goes.
This Prevention to Cruelty of Animals month, I am focusing on the goal of making impactful change… the sort that will mean a story like Marvel’s never happens. The sort that creates a world where an animal could never be considered anything other than worthy of love. Could never be considered merely an inconvenience to be abused and abandoned.
SPCA Inspectors want to create a world where animal cruelty simply doesn’t happen. It’s why we work with owners where we can to support them in changing their ways. Providing advice and guidance, and teaching them the value of animals’ lives. It’s why – despite it all – I try to lead with kindness every day on this job.
As for Marvel, this girl is doing so incredibly well. She still has a little way to go with her weight gain, but she’s almost unrecognisable from the devastated animal I first met earlier this year.
At 22 years old, I’ll make sure she is rehomed into a happy forever family where she can live out her golden years in peace and comfort.
She’s such a gentle soul, even after all she’s been through. I am so happy she will get her chance at a good life... it’s all any animal deserves. And with your help, it’s the chance I can keep securing for animals like her.
If you have got to this point, I want to thank you for reading her story today. If you are in a position to make a donation to help, you can do so over at this page. Thank you so much for you support - for animals like Marvel, it means the world.