A beloved pony that provided therapy to hundreds of disabled children at the Therapeutic and Recreational Riding Center in Lisbon has died, leaving saddened riders as well as veterinary bills that are eroding the center's scholarship fund.
The gray Connemara, named Jerry Mallon, died last month. The popular, 18-year-old pony had developed an intestinal illness earlier this year, and when it suddenly worsened in July the horse was put to sleep.
The pony's expensive care has left riding center owners John and Helen Tuel with $25,000 in veterinarian bills and an empty stall thatwill bring a tear to many a child's eye.
"He was a fighter right to the end. A special pony," said Bettina Catalano of Clarksville. Itwas Catalano who stayed up all night with Jerry into the morning of July 4, when a veterinarian put the animal to sleep.
The vet bill has all but eliminated the center's scholarship fund, which paid $20,000 so about 125 children could ride last year. This year, the numberof riders served will be "greatly reduced," said Helen Tuel.
So far, the Tuels have raised about $3,500 toward the veterinary bills, "so we have a long ways to go," said Helen Tuel. Most of that money came from individual contributions.
"A lot of those individuals don't have this kind of money to begin with," Tuel said.
When Jerry became sick with an intestinal ailment earlier this year, his owners went forward with costly surgery in hopes of saving the pony.
The afternoon before his death, Jerry appeared to be fine, said Catalano, aformer owner of Jerry who had been nursing him in a corral on her Clarksville property since his two operations in April.
But at about5:30 p.m., "I heard a lot of banging in the stall and I went out andJerry was rolling around in a lot of pain," she said.
A tranquilizer seemed to help for a while, but by morning he began to develop symptoms again, and the veterinarian recommended putting the pony down.
At the center's annual riding show July 6 and 7, a dedication forJerry was inserted in show programs.
Given the expense and pain caused by the Tuels' decision to allow veterinarians to operate on Jerry, Mrs. Tuel said the center couldn't afford another such episode.
"We still feel we did the right thing, but I doubt we would do it again."