By Rikki King Herald Writer
CATHCART — The firefighters were a little nervous about Duke.
The 1,000-pound Tennessee walker was stuck fast Tuesday, up to his hips in a mud hole and wedged between two trees.
On the drive over, the firefighters knew they were in for an adventure, said Ralph Provenzano, a battalion chief with Snohomish County Fire District 7. When they got to the pasture off of Elliott Road near Cathcart, neither they nor Duke’s owner, Jeanne Whitney, knew exactly what to do.
“He had gotten himself really wedged,” Whitney said Thursday. “It was quite traumatic, especially for the horse.”
Luckily, firefighter Tom Melcher had already called his wife, a paramedic firefighter and administrator at Snohomish County Fire District 3 in Monroe.
His wife, Capt. Cindy Coker, is also a horse person.
“They called and said, ‘Cindy, we’re going on a horse rescue — and we don’t know anything about horses’,” Coker said.
Coker called Dana Bridges, a Monroe veterinarian with extensive training in technical large-animal rescues.
The mud around Duke was so bad that Coker sunk boot-deep on her first step in, she said.
“We actually had to make landing pads with hay bales,” she said. “The suction was unbelievable.”
The firefighters had to chop down trees and roots to get to Duke. Once everyone crowded around, including Bridges, they made a plan, fashioning a pulley system out of a fire hose, a tree and some manpower.
“You kind of have to be half ’Doctor Doolittle,’ half ’MacGyver’ to get these things done,” Bridges said.
Once they backed Duke out of his bind, they found the 20-year-old horse in bad shape, Whitney said.
“A whole row of firemen ended up having to roll him up and get him standing to save him,” she said. “He was so wobbly-legged that he could hardly stand. He fell quite a few times.”
Duke was severely dehydrated and suffering from muscle inflammation and pneumonia, Bridges said. She started him on antibiotics and anti-inflammatories before taking him to a local animal hospital.
Despite Duke’s bad day, Coker always loves working with her husband, she said, especially when the outcome is successful.
Whitney said she is grateful for their teamwork, which probably saved her horse’s life.
She adopted Duke only a few months ago.
Her neighbor had rescued him from a former life where he was battered and neglected.
“He was covered with cuts (then),” Whitney said. “Skin and bones, sores all over him.”
Duke is now recuperating in a neighboring pasture while Whitney fixes up the fence between her pasture and the swamp, she said.
Duke is sore and swollen but doing well considering the circumstances, Bridges said.
“That really could have ended badly,” she said.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; email@example.com