A Star in the Storm...

A story about a Star, a journey on a dark night, and a guardian angel. In the midst of Super Storm Sandy, six adults braved wind, rain, and flying debris, to help a creature in need.

The story of Christmas is about so many things; faith, kindness, and the triumph of the spirit even in the poorest of conditions. So is the story of saving Star…and in the process, saving ourselves.  

Superstorm Sandy was on her way; the weather maps showed her imminent approach. To ease my concern, I scrolled through Facebook to find comfort in the collective conscience of social media. I came upon a conversation between two acquaintances, one a realtor who had spent the day looking at potential listings. What she found in the back woods of Salisbury Township was a horse that appeared weak and underfed. Confined to a field with almost no shelter, the poor thing had only moldy food and little water...and he was about to be in the middle of a hurricane. Horses are survivors, they can withstand harsh conditions, but not if they’re malnourished or dehydrated.

I messaged the only “horse” friend I have, explaining the situation. Wenda Howe Boyer responded as I knew she would… “We have to do something” was the consensus. We talked options: It was too late to trailer him to a safe place until the storm was over…her trailer was stored miles away, the storm was about to hit, and a horse trailer would get blown all over the road. The most practical option was to take him food and water in the hope that if properly fed, he could weather the storm.

Wenda would go to her barn for supplies, I’d get directions from the other women and we’d pick a spot to meet. After multiple attempts to verbally describe the horse’s location and then to find it on Google Maps, it was clear the animal was truly in the middle of nowhere. The other two women bravely offered to go along to lead us to the horse.

I’m a country girl; I know how to dress for a storm. As I appeared in the kitchen in my slicker fastened with metal bolts and my Wellie boots, my husband, with an astonished look on his face, said, “Where are you going?” After decades of marriage, the fact that I was about to head out in a hurricane to rescue a horse didn’t seem to surprise him. I heard a deep sigh as he rolled is eyes and said, Good Lord; you can’t go out there alone. I’ll take you in the four-wheel drive. We traversed Allentown from the West End to the South side, picking up one of the rescuers along the way. The other would drive her car to meet us.

It was now dark out and the wind was whipping across the parking lot of a CVS pharmacy as four of us sat waiting for Wenda. When her pick up truck turned toward us, I laughed out loud: Her husband was behind the wheel: Another good man following his determined woman in to the fray.

By now, power outages were everywhere. Starting the climb up South Mountain on a narrow road it was hard to see twenty feet in front of the car. Branches and entire trees littered the road. Those that couldn’t be seen could be heard crashing in the woods. A scene from the movie “Twister” flashed through my mind. To add to the tension, after the first two turns, I had no idea where we were.

Finally we turned onto a rutted dirt lane. It was pitch black, rain was coming in sideways, and the wind was now a steady 30 miles an hour when we pulled up to a single-wire fence.

Six flashlights began searching the darkness, when a pair of eyes caught the reflection. He’s here…We found him. Even in those conditions; violent weather, flashing lights, loud voices, he came toward us. Wenda took the lead, carrying a fresh bale of hay in to what can only be described as a filthy, run-down lean-to. Hunger overcame shyness and he took some food from her hand, and then ran off to hide in the darkness.

Assessing the condition of the lean-to; it needed repairs and a good mucking-out, we concluded there was not much more we could do that night. Just as that consensus was reached, an enormous gust of wind, the worse so far that evening, almost knocked us off our feet. It was clear the storm was worsening quickly. We needed to find our way out of the woods and back to civilization, leaving our equine friend with fresh food, water, and our prayers.

On Emaus Avenue, our little band of rescuers peeled off one by one, wishing each other well as Sandy bore down on us. My husband and I retraced our route through Allentown and were crestfallen to turn up our street and find it in total darkness. We were cold, tired, and despite my best efforts, soaked to the skin. There would be no warm house, hot shower or cooked food.

Less than an hour after returning home, while sitting at our kitchen table, bathed in lantern light, a blast of wind with a velocity that made it sound like a jet plane, shook our entire house. The wind seemed to subside, then we heard a creaking and cracking that became louder and louder until it was a giant roar followed by an enormous bang.

My husband tried to open the back door but could only create a gap large enough to extend his arm and the lantern. I heard him gasp. The giant Hackberry tree that stood on the bank up over our patio had come crashing down on the house.

We were relieved to see the flashing lights of the Allentown Fire Department who came to rescue us in the midst of the storm, and grateful to our friends Vic and Jody Mazziotti for offering us shelter in the middle of the night.


The next day as we surveyed the scene surrounded by engineers, contractors, and equipment, more than one expert commented on how fortunate we were that such an enormous tree had miraculously fallen at a slight angle and not straight down on top of us, how if it had, we would have never escaped unhurt.

I have always believed that the energy you put out in to the universe comes back to you.

Call it karma, or fate, or whatever you like. And so, in the middle of one of the worse storms to ever hit our region, I believe the “horse angel” saved us... Our personal, October version of a Christmas miracle.

Epilogue: The beautiful white horse that six adults risked their lives to save is named “Star.”

Wenda visits him regularly with his favorite treat, carrots. Through her contacts she found his owners and has been able to “motivate” them to take a little bit better care of him, although not at the level that she and I think is appropriate. I accompanied her last week to see him and am glad to report that he has gained some weight. He’s a beautiful creature with soulful eyes and I pray for his comfort and safety. I will continue to tell you about him as his story unfolds.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Meg December 28, 2012 at 02:14 PM
I would be happy to help out with "Star" . Please let us know if you want help. What a wonderful thing you did for that poor horse.
Pamela Varkony December 28, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Meg, thank you so much for your offer. It's a very difficult situation. There are No Trespassing signs posted all over the property and apparently Star's owner is not happy when people interfere. Wenda has been able to get permission to go there, but no one else. I've gone along with her only once since our original visit to see Star for myself, but the reality is we could be charged for going on posted land. I'm very worried about Star since the weather has deteriorated so there may still be a need for some intervention. If you would like to let me know how to privately contact you, please email me at Pam@PamelaVarkony.com. It's reassuring to know there are kind and caring people like you, out there.
Sarah December 28, 2012 at 04:08 PM
I am not sure where you are located but I would like to help if I can. The love and kindness you share with others human and animal alike does reach out to the world. I am in deep south Texas and this warms my heart. Prayers to you and your family and to all you touch. I would have done the same thing. Can anyone maybe buy Star from these owners?
Laura December 29, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Hi- You are amazing individuals and I applaud you for not turning away. I am wondering if anyone contacted Last Chance Ranch in Quakertown to see if they can assist in working through the legalities of getting this boy relinquished from the owner. It's obvious his situation is not sustainable there, to have any quality of life or needed companionship.
Pamela Varkony December 29, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Hi Sarah, Star...and Wenda & I are located in eastern Pennsylvania, so a long way from Texas, however we thank you very much for your concern for Star. Wenda approached the "owner" about buying Star, but he gave her some story about how much the horse means to his elderly mother which of course is nonsense because if the horse meant so much to them, they wouldn't leave him in these conditions. Wenda is willing to take him and stable him with her other horses, and I have offered to share that cost with her, but so far we have not made any headway with the family that has him. I'll try to keep you and so many others who have asked about Star, updated on his well-being.
Pamela Varkony December 29, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Laura, The night of the storm, when we first went out to see Star, we contacted Last Chance Ranch and they said they couldn't help us. I was very disappointed because I've supported them in the past. I realize we were about to get hit with a hurricane, but they were very brusk and weren't interested in the case at all. It seems hard to believe that there isn't something legal that could be done to make Star's last years, he's not a young horse, more comfortable. It's very kind of you to ask. If you have any connections at Last Chance, maybe we could try again.
Jai Shrivastav December 30, 2012 at 05:35 AM
Hi ! Reading your blog really made me feel good. Thanks ! Please keep us posted about "Star".
June Clark January 02, 2013 at 12:19 PM
This story made me cry. This is a wonderful thing you did and are doing. Many years ago I was in a simular situation in Monroe County. There the SPCA told us they same thing they could not legally help us in anyway. We had to contact the police and unless you know some one they were not willing to help either. Not sure if you have freinds on the police force but that was the direction we went. Good Luck to you, your friends and Star. God Bless!
Wendy Petrohoy January 02, 2013 at 01:09 PM
sounds like an act of animal cruelty. It's a shame that something can't be done to protect this horse from his caretakers. Dogs and cats are the only animals that are abused.
Ellen F Johnson January 02, 2013 at 02:32 PM
Your story is deeply moving. Bless you for taking action, especially under such harrowing circumstances. And, now, thank you for staying involved while negotiating a delicate situation. Isn't it mysterious how some animal owners will not relinquish control even while it is obvious they have no interest in the animal and no sense of responsibility. The only way I could personally help would be with a donation; if that would be of use, please let me know. Thank you for not giving up on Star. I do live in this area, so if you need a larger support group, sign me up!
H. R. Paul January 02, 2013 at 04:38 PM
This is an amazing story about people that I have known going above and beyond the call to lend assistance and give unselfishly when at all possible. Star's future certainly seems brighter and I believe the horse certainly has found it's guardian angel. At the same time, I couldn't help thinking in general why as a populace we can't take care of human beings in this same manor. I realise of course that animals cannot fend for themselves, and rely on the kindness of people for quality of life. This being the core difference between man and beast. My point being, if we kept a closer watch on people that are in need, the aged, the mentally ill, the misfits and the down trodden, we could make our world a slightly better place to live. It shouldn't take a helpless animal to motivate people and offer assistance in their respective communities...
KJB January 02, 2013 at 08:20 PM
Give Justice Rescue a try. They've worked miracles helping many animals in deplorable conditions whose owners were less than ideal, particularly when the "authorities" were no help at all. File a report through their website: http://www.justice-rescue.com You can also see the results of their work on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JusticeRescue Please keep us posted on your progress.
Pamela Varkony January 03, 2013 at 03:05 AM
Thanks, Jai. I will try to do so. I am afraid, though, that the more attention we bring to the situation, the more the owner will become defensive and never let Star go. But when there is more news, I promise I'll post it.
Pamela Varkony January 03, 2013 at 03:08 AM
Hello June, The night of the storm, when Star first came to our attention, we called the Salisbury Township Police and they did not seem at interested in helping. It was the night of the hurricane, so they had other priorities. There was no follow-up afterward. We're in a very difficult position because the owner is so defensive. We don't want to put him in a position to do something spiteful like move Star to another location where we couldn't help him at all.
Pamela Varkony January 03, 2013 at 03:12 AM
Wendy, this is a difficult case because it's not really abuse, it's more neglect, and although we may think it's cruel, the laws of Pennsylvania maintain a very low bar for what is considered abuse or cruelty to a horse. When Wenda spoke to the animal control officer, she said that every time the owner is about to be cited, he does just enough to meet the minimum care standard. It's very sad.
Pamela Varkony January 03, 2013 at 03:15 AM
Hello Ellen, What a lovely offer, thank you so much. Wenda and I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for Star. Like you, people have offered donations toward his care, donations toward purchasing him, and even offers to build him a better shelter. I promise you we won't leave him in these conditions forever. We are going to develop a plan to help him. When we do, that support group of your will come in very handy.
Pamela Varkony January 03, 2013 at 03:22 AM
Mr/Ms Paul, Your message goes beyond the actual situation of helping Star in to the deeper territory of the philosophy of human kindness. If I may, I will share my viewpoint on this subject. In my life, I have worked many years with volunteer, non-profit, NGO organizations, many in other countries, including Afghanistan. Sometimes people will say to me, but there are so many people here in the U.S. who need help, why do you work overseas. That question is at the core of your lament: Helping an animal when people are suffering. I believe that God guides me to where I am needed and can do the most good. I learned a long time ago that I cannot save the world, so I settle for saving whatever person...or animal I find in my path. Like the story of the hundreds of starfish that had been stranded on a beach after high tide, and the man who walked along picking some up and throwing them back. We can't save them all, but perhaps I/we can save one. Bless you for the work you do saving who you can.
Pamela Varkony January 03, 2013 at 03:27 AM
KJB, Thank you for the recommendation about Justice Rescue. I'd never heard of them before... I just "liked" their FB page. I think we're going to work through Lehigh Valley channels if we can, but will certainly keep Justice as an option if all else fails. And I promise we'll keep everyone updated, although as I said in previous response, we need to be careful not to antagonize Star's owner, so we'll be staying off the radar screen until we have something solid to report.
Elizabeth Brunkhorst January 03, 2013 at 09:18 PM
Sometimes it helps to bring a bake good or etc for the owner. Sounds strange but Thu slowly working your way to getting star out, this maybe can easy the way.! If you need help with hay or feed , horse blanket, bake goods etc. Please let me know. Liz B.
KJB January 03, 2013 at 09:48 PM
Pamela, Is it possible to build or repair Star's housing so it provides her better protection from the weather? Would the owner be open to some caring people coming to help make Star more comfortable and maybe donate some hay and other goodies for Star? Just a weekend project and then we'll go away. Maybe that would be a start and after a few months they would feel less threatened and be more open to rehoming Star to your friend. And yes, baked goodies for the own might also be appreciated. I have some T-111 wood in my garage you can have for Star's stall, and I can ask my carpenter friend if he has any extra.


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