#WhyIVolunteer – Dorothy Collin


The Beast from the East had just arrived and while the roads were still passable everyone was stocking up their houses. I was doing the same and then for some reason that I guess now was fate, I thought of the lane beside my home and the horses that were often there, so I drove up. The fields were covered with snow, the three horses, two in one field, one on his own across the way had no shelter, no water, no food. How were they to survive? I rang a local equestrian center and asked could I buy some hay. They only had the huge round bales which wouldn’t fit in my car but the lady said she would try and get some hay to them.  I put down the phone. What if the hay never made it? I drove back to the shops and stocked up on apples, carrots, porridge oats and 5 litre water bottles.

 

That night as the snow fell I couldn’t sleep. In the morning the roads were impassable, no-one could drive out of our estate. As kids played and made snowmen, my husband and I took out the two plastic sleighs that my daughter had used during the snow of 2010 and loaded them up with all the stuff I’d bought and my large plastic laundry bucket. Then we tied ropes around ourselves and pulled the sleighs up the hill, about 45 mins to reach the horses, my daughter leading the way.

 

The horses were still there and so was the hay and I could have kissed that kind woman who without knowing me and without knowing if I’d ever pay her (of course I did after the snow was over and I could reach her center) had got her husband to drive down in his tractor and put one in each field. We went into the horses and they ate the fruit and oats and drank the water greedily. The bales of hay were covered in plastic and the horses were having some difficulty accessing the hay through the openings. My husband hacked at it with his pocket knife until he’d loosened it up for them.

We went up to them everyday after that, gave them water, loosened more hay for them and even tried to rub them down with towels to dry them off a bit. Those moments spent with those horses changed my life.

My daughter and I began volunteering with My Lovely Horse Rescue, the most dedicated bunch of people I’ve ever known. We drive around Dublin city on a daily basis, before work, after work, every weekend no matter what the hour, responding to the myriad of calls and messages we get through our Facebook page about our capital cities neglected, abused and often starving horses. Those we manage to save we bring to our rescue farm for rehabilitation and the best of love and care. We also rescue dogs, goats, pigs and the odd cat who’s brave enough to venture among the rest. The love that I see and feel all around me when I’m on the farm is something I have never experienced before. Working with the animals brings such a sense of peace to my heart and it has changed my whole perception of what it means ‘to love animals.’

I know now that it means loving every animal, not just your pet dog or cat. It means looking at animals the way I look at other humans, seeing them as sentient beings with their own hopes and fears, loves and sorrows, pain and suffering. Just because we do not share the same language does not mean that we do not feel the same emotions. Just because they have four legs and we have two does not mean we do not walk the same path through life, one where we are born, we struggle to survive and some day we pass on. And just because we humans are the dominant species does not mean that all other species are our servants and are there to be used and abused for our own needs, for our food needs, our medical needs, our cosmetic needs.

 

I have now changed career and work full-time in the charity sector and my daughter and I are vegans, something I would never have thought possible but is so easy and so right for us.

I still volunteer with MLHR in every spare moment and all of this fantastic change in my life is because of those first three horses that I met one snowy day.

I know that if I live to be a hundred I will still be saving horses. After all, I have them to thank for saving me.