Brooklyn Stable Fire's Sole Survivor Dies: Ancient Pony Thrived at Upstate Sanctuary

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On Wednesday, August 15, Catskill Animal Sanctuary lost a beloved friend. Dino, the Sanctuary's first resident, passed away peacefully in his stall at 11:30 am, his head in the lap of April Harrison, one of many human friends and caretakers. The tiny pony was in his forties. Dino captivated New York City in 2000 when he survived an arsonist's fire at Brooklyn's Bergen Beach Stables. While over twenty other horses died, Dino, old and weighing under 300 pounds, kicked at his stall door after the flaming ceiling collapsed on him. The door fell; firemen rushed in and pulled Dino to safety. Dramatic photos of the fire ran in city papers, including one of a fireman giving oxygen to Dino.

On Wednesday, August 15, Catskill Animal Sanctuary lost a beloved friend. Dino, the Sanctuary's first resident, passed away peacefully in his stall at 11:30 am, his head in the lap of April Harrison, one of many human friends and caretakers. The tiny pony was in his forties.    Dino captivated New York City in 2000 when he survived an arsonist's fire at Brooklyn's Bergen Beach Stables. While over twenty other horses died, Dino, old and weighing under 300 pounds, kicked at his stall door after the flaming ceiling collapsed on him. The door fell; firemen rushed in and pulled Dino to safety. Dramatic photos of the fire ran in city papers, including one of a fireman giving oxygen to Dino.

Dino's wounds were profound and included burns over most of his body, the loss of vision in one eye, and permanent lung and throat damage. His former owner struggled for weeks over whether to euthanize him. But it soon became clear that Dino wanted to live--small in stature, Dino had the heart of a giant. So for months he remained on oxygen while his skin healed and hair grew back.

Catskill Animal Sanctuary officially opened when Dino arrived in January of 2001. In her book about the work of CAS, Where the Blind Horse Sings, director Kathy Stevens describes her impression of the wily survivor:

Though his life-threatening wounds had healed, Dino's psyche had not. Day and night, Dino stood alone in his pasture, indifferent to his pasture mates. We humans loved him, groomed him, gave him what few treats were safe--mostly finely chopped fruit, as age had taken nearly all of his chewing teeth. We talked, we sang, we brushed, we kissed. Dino stood passively, his head lowered....the fire, it seemed, had taken not only his friends, but also his spirit.

Soon after Dino arrived, though, a terrified blind horse named Buddy came, and a deep friendship soon blossomed. Visitors smiled as they watched the two graze side by side, or saw them napping together, Dino's head generally under Buddy's tail--evidently to keep the flies away. With flattened ears, Dino promptly ushered out cats or wild birds who wandered into his field. "Don't come near my friend," he threatened. Dino reveled in caring for his blind pal.

For nearly seven years, Dino was one of the Sanctuary's most beloved ambassadors. Of the thousands of people who visit CAS, many, particularly children, came time and time again to see him, drawn by his story, his quiet strength.

Despite his compromised health, Dino always made it clear that he loved simply being alive. In the end, though, Dino's esophagus, filled with scar tissue from the fire, gave out. In the last few years, caretakers replaced hay, which caused Dino to choke, with frequent, small, soaked meals. On Wednesday, even that was too much. His food lodged in his esophagus, and not even multiple attempts by a skilled veterinarian could dislodge it.

Dino was humanely euthanized in his stall, surrounded by those who loved him: Rambo the sheep, Big Ted the draft horse, and a dozen caretakers. It took a full-horse size injection to stop Dino's heart. "Of course," the vet said. "You're a big guy...you want us to remember that."

CAS is currently raising funds to support the ongoing and costly care of its permanent senior residents. The drive, called the Old Friends Fund, has been renamed The Dino Drive in honor of a toothless, arthritic old pony who modeled for everyone he knew the value of enjoying each precious moment.

A memorial service will be held sometime in September. In the meantime, just a day after his death, Dino's stall is already a shrine filled with flowers, photos, and notes from people who loved him.

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