Editor's Note: This month the Herald is featuring a series of stories on the Holiday Wish Lists across the Mid-Columbia and how you can help.
Near the point of certain death in late spring 2013, a starving mare could barely stand.
"It was horrible circumstances, knee-deep in poo," remembered Linda Christiano about the first time she saw the emaciated 12-year-old's deplorable living conditions. "The shelter had nails pointing down. I couldn't even stand up in there."
No food. No water.
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That's what Christiano, owner of Spot-O-Faith Farm in Pasco, found when she pulled up to the ramshackle property with horse trailer in tow.
Even so, a plea from the Franklin County Sheriff's Office to rescue not only the mare but also two other horses brought her a brief moment of hesitation.
Already, the horse lover had rescued, rehabilitated and found new homes for about 30 abused and neglected animals. But the farm wasn't even breaking even, a setback that recently led the former nonprofit to give up its status because of mounting debt and few volunteers to help care for the horses.With not enough cash or hay donations, Christiano, a former nurse, said she dug into her life savings to the tune of $15,000. But she couldn't close her heart when she learned one of the mares wouldn't last another 24 hours, she said.
"Her feet were in very poor shape," Christiano said, "and bones were protruding through her skin."
Only sparse and matted brown hair covered the skeletal frame, and teeth were missing from lack of nutrition. The mare received a poor prognosis.
"The first few days were touch and go," Christiano said of all three horses' tipping points, "and they could physically go down."
First, there was emergency care at a local veterinarian followed by a team of Spot-O-Faith volunteers who hand-fed at the barn every two hours for a period of 12 hours. But to save the mother mare, who was in worse condition, would involve even more constant care.
"It took at least a month of feeding her six times a day to see a major difference," said Christiano, who by summer had the other two horses on a friend's pasture. "When it was 112 degrees out, she was very thin and I tried to take her where she could get shade -- and she almost fell on me."
The lingering memory of suffering in an enclosed space had the fearful quarter horse refusing to enter the barn for shade, Christiano said. But caring people came to the rescue, building a new shelter and spraying water on the animal every four hours during the hot days.
"She was sad," Christiano said of the rescued mare at the beginning of her journey, "but we knew she could turn around and get better - healthy."
Then Christiano paused and said, "Faith can move mountains -- even mustard-seed faith."
These days, it seems a mountain has been moved by a bit of faith and a lot of love. Newly named Mona Lisa trots briskly around the Spot-O-Faith farm, ready for adoption.
-- Those who want to donate to or volunteer at the rescue farm can contact Spot-O-Faith Farm on Facebook or by email to spotofaithfarm @yahoo.com.
-- Also, Columbia Grain and Feed in Pasco, Farmers Exchange in Kennewick and branches of Yakima Federal Savings and Loan Association are taking donations.
-- Lucy Luginbill: 509-582-1515; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @LucyLuginbill