President’s Message:

Rest in Peace, Dreamer and Billy

Laura Ann Cammisa, President of NYSHA

His name was Dreamer. He was a magnificent bay horse, with a temperament to match, and I will never forget him.

I was working at a humane society at the time, and we were investigating a horse breeding operation. Although we had given the owner warnings to improve the conditions, she had not done so. Since our primary concern was the care of the animals, we made arrangements with her to surrender those we were most concerned about in exchange for reduced cruelty charges and a plan not to continue her business. She reluctantly agreed.

As we walked through the dark barn discussing which horses to take immediately, we came to an older racing stallion named Dreamer, and her words have haunted me since ­ “You may as well take him, he’s no use to me anymore.” It took every ounce of strength to hold back my own negative comments.

Dreamer stayed with us at the shelter until he was well and then placed with a staffer who was captivated by his sweet personality and gentle charm. Eventually, our mascot goat, Billy, went to live with him. Their reunion was a heartwarming yet poignant reminder that animals have memories, feelings, and a sense of loss when separated from their friends and families.

Dreamer was one of many abused horses we rescued that we traced back to the racing industry. Thankfully, most could be rehabilitated and placed in homes. People were always surprised when we were able to share their track records: ­ winners for awhile, then “no use” anymore.

Horses rarely serve us these days in our daily lives ­ they are not used for transportation (except in the lamentable carriage horse industry), farm work, or in war zones ­ but we continue to exploit them in the sporting arena. We say we love horses, we hate to see them injured in the name of “sports,” yet we continue to put on our pretty hats for a day at the races to watch them run, make some money, and make someone else quite wealthy. That may seem to some a good day, but for every such day and great horse, there are too many Dreamers living a nightmare.

Over the years, I visited Dreamer and Billy regularly. They were devoted companions, inseparable, peacefully grazing with their other barnyard friends. I will always remember the image of the two of them walking side by side up the little hill in their pasture. Dreamer died at a lovely old age and Billy followed him shortly. He was long forgotten at the track, but for those of us who had the privilege of truly knowing him, he will always be remembered, loved, and an inspiration to never forget the thousands of others with a story like his. Rest in peace, Dreamer and Billy ­ you deserve no less.

Laura-Ann Cammisa

New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol.XXIII, No.1, Spring­Summer 2009.