If there is one date that I’ll never forget, it’s April 19, 2017. It was right after our busy season, and Holly and I were headed home after dinner. Our neighbor, Ed, called about 5:30 telling me not to panic about all the Luther police and Oklahoma County sheriff cars. Ed’s neighbor had his daughter and granddaughter visiting him, and the 4-year-old granddaughter had gone missing.
I was concerned because there are wild dogs, coyotes, bobcats, and cougars that roam around my property. Since we were still on the road home, Ed was checking my barns and around my property to make sure she wasn’t playing hide and seek. It had recently rained, so there weren’t any tracks in the mud. The police were using search dogs, and they requested that we not walk across the properties because if our scent crossed hers, the dogs might get off track.
Once we got home and were allowed back onto our property, three drones went up to provide an arial view. We decided to check a few more places and to stay in communication, just in case we found her. I went to do some chores and walked towards my paddock. One of my draft horses, Penny, was staring straight north and not moving. I leaned against the fence and watched Penny, then I changed positions so that I could see everything that she was seeing.
I kept telling myself, “Listen to what she’s telling you.” She turned to the northeast, and her body posture completely changed. I jumped the fence and started sprinting to the other side of the paddock to get a better look, because I knew what she was trying to tell me at that point. The cattle were running away from one of the north ponds, so I knew something wasn’t right. I saw a head pop out of the pond and realized it was the missing granddaughter. I called the neighbor to ask what the girl was wearing (a baby blue coat) and her name (Charlie).
I jumped the paddock fence and ran towards the child, calling her name. I ran a quarter mile from the house, and when I picked her up, she just started sobbing. The adrenaline rush dropped, and I felt like I was about to pass out, even through the excitement of finding her. We got her back to her mother and grandfather, and as you can imagine, it was a happy reunion.
Charlie wrote me a thank you card that said, “Thank you for finding me. You’re a good neighbor.” She drew pictures of the horses, me carrying her, and us walking home. Holly told me that they had come over with the card and banana nut bread. Ed said that Penny tried to tell him the same thing, but he just didn’t hear it.
Animals have this amazing ability to let us know what’s going on, even without speaking. Their posture, actions, and demeanor can show how they feel about their environment and if something isn’t right. You don’t have to have words to listen to the world around you. Keep listening, and listen harder.