CHANGE ISLANDS, NL – Her eyes glaze as she holds back tears.
“I lost him to cancer five years ago, and I loved him,” LeDrew said.
She pauses and takes another deep breath.
“I loved him. And kids. He was a sweetheart with kids. We put a nine-month little girl on his back – grandma was holding her while they took pictures. And he never moved, and I did not have to hold him on. It was unbelievable.”
You could easily think Netta LeDrew, owner of the Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary at Change Islands, is mourning the loss of a child; instead, she’s talking about Prince, a Newfoundland pony from Point Leamington.
It’s difficult to discern where the emotional boundary for animals and people stops and starts – it’s evident the loss of Prince is still deeply felt, and the flicker of a smile brings back many fond memories.
As LeDrew recites the names of the horses under her care, she stops at Angel.
“She was an angel – we had to bottle-feed her because her mum refused her. It was so pitiful,” she said.
“I didn’t think she was going to survive – she did not get any of her mother’s milk. She was born premature.”
LeDrew picks up a couple of Kleenex, wipes her tears and pauses for a long while.
“I was getting three hours of sleep for a while, for five weeks, I think. I was up till two-thirty in the morning. She was a little darling. So sweet. Her eyes look so blue.”
A veterinarian told LeDrew Angel could not be saved because she did not have her mother’s milk, and would be prone to infection.
“I said okay, and defiantly carried on,” LeDrew said.
The local community rallied with her to save Angel by bringing in milk and blankets, and “we proved them wrong.”
It was not the first time LeDrew went against the orders of a veterinarian’s prognosis.
Another pony, Lily, had a “really bad accident – life threatening.”
A rope got caught around the pony’s leg and left a very large wound. According to LeDrew, a locum veterinarian stitched up the wound and advised her to change the dressing every second day. At the same time, further consults with the head veterinarian indicated Lily had to be put down because of scar tissues.
“I said to the veterinarian to go back to the head vet, and tell him he doesn’t know who he is dealing with because I am going to give her a chance.
“I disobeyed the doctor, and changed the bandage every day, and washed it with saline and iodine. Four-and-a-half months is what it took us.
“On her leg today, there is a little spot that we had to burn off some scar tissue. God love her. I couldn’t lose her,” Le Drew proudly explains.
The ponies in the sanctuary are maintained by donations, fundraising, government support and money won from the Aviva Community Fund national grand prize of $90,000, which went towards the sanctuary’s new facility.
There is not much LeDrew cares more about than her ponies.
“I love ponies and horses, and it’s been a long road.”