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Remembering Tiny Dino: The First CAS Love Story

Twenty years ago, Catskill Animal Sanctuary opened our barn doors and welcomed Dino, a Shetland pony close to 30 years old. Tiny Dino, at 300 pounds and 36” tall was our first rescue.

Dino was the sole survivor of a horrible fire set by a teenager at Brooklyn’s Bergen Beach Stable. Twenty horses died immediately; two more later succumbed. But according to the firemen who dragged tiny Dino from the burning wreckage, he kicked relentlessly at his stall door as the fire raged until it gave way. Dino was saved—badly burned but alive.

Though we welcomed him with warmth and excitement to our brand new sanctuary,, it soon became clear that Dino’s psyche had suffered even more harm than his body. Day and night, he stood alone in his pasture, indifferent to his pasture mates (companion ponies who lived on the property loaned to us): the inferno, and the sudden, violent loss of all of his friends, had left its mark on this tiny being. He ate. He drank. But that was all. He refused to engage with other ponies. He stood, still as a stone, for hours on end. He was unresponsive to grooming, to touch, to gentle words, to music. His eyes were flat, and his head hung low. The fire, it seemed, had taken not only his friends but also his spirit. 

But then, like a gift from God, the phone rang, asking if we could accept an old blind horse named Buddy. 

“His owners don’t know how to care for him now that he’s blind. He’s hurting himself. He’s terrified. He’s depressed,” explained Susan Wagner of Equine Advocates.

“Sure,” I said. “We’d be delighted.” 

When Buddy arrived, he was quarantined for a few weeks (standard practice for all our new rescues). Once we knew he was healthy, he and I would take long walks each day to build both his confidence and our bond. 

On one of these days, to my disbelief, a gruff, entirely unfamiliar whinny filled the air. Buddy and I were walking past the pony pasture…and Dino was trotting eagerly towards us, calling to Buddy!! He trotted through his pain, severely arthritic shoulder and all, his head held high, because when he saw Buddy, he saw a friend.

For his part, Buddy tugged me toward the whinny, and I witnessed absolute love at first “sight” as the two, nose to nose, took each other in.

Was it Buddy’s spirit? Buddy’s need? Maybe two broken hearts recognizing each other? Other horses had walked past Dino’s paddock and he’d ignored them. All I know is what I witnessed: as soon as Dino and Buddy met, they loved each other. 

For the next seven years, his psyche healed by the steadfast companionship of an old blind horse, Dino, his story, and his friendship with Buddy stole the hearts of all who met him. 

Observing Dino’s journey from psychological devastation to complete recovery was a life-changing experience for us in the infancy of Catskill Animal Sanctuary— one which shaped us for the next twenty years. Dino’s grief was every bit as real, as palpable, as human grief. And, just like humans, Dino recovered with the devotion of a trusted friend. In fact, it was impossible to miss the parallels with a human journey from trauma to healing. So while hundreds of experiences with animals over the years are what allow us to say, unequivocally, that “in the ways that truly matter, we are all the same,” the words first came to consciousness exactly twenty years ago when I watched the unfolding of one of the deepest friendships I’ve ever witnessed—the friendship between a tiny pony who survived a grisly arson and an old, blind horse named Buddy.


With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we’re sharing the love! For a limited time, sponsor one of our bonded buddies and we’ll include a complimentary sponsorship of their best friend—plus a Valentine’s Day gift package! Perfect to share with your someone special.


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One reply on “Remembering Tiny Dino: The First CAS Love Story”

  1. I loved the story and I love animal’s I only wish when I was younger I could of worked in a place like your’s I would of been happy and the animals I took care of would have been also.

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