You go to do a little thing, like help save people’s lives after a major hurricane, and you never know where it’s going to lead you.
Take the case of Kaye Harris.
Kaye and her husband, Glenn, own ponies, wagons and a merry-go-round for a party rental business. Glenn, a black belt recipient, also teaches karate. They live an idyllic life in a log cabin farmhouse a few yards off the levee on River Road surrounded by “15 ponies, three horses, four dogs, three cats, a snake, two kids … and two miniature horses,” says Glenn.
Standing and watching the goings on in the Harris corral and barnyard is akin to being a spectator at the Audubon Zoo at feeding time: Every human and every creature is moving in every direction seemingly at the same time.
Through the blur of activity however, stands Molly, a 21-year-old pony who has gained international repute … the hard way.
“She’s the love of my life,” Kaye says as she rubs the nose of the gray pony who has “been to hell and back” as one observer puts it. “Now, she’s giving back all the goodness in her.”
Molly easily stands out in the menagerie that is the Harris barnyard only because her right front leg is tailor-made for her, a prosthetic metal limb that is her trademark – a reminder of the horrors of Hurricane Katrina and what followed. Molly hardly limps and everywhere she walks in her barnyard and beyond she leaves her mark: a smiley face that was permanently implanted on the bottom of her rubber hoof.
“That’s what she’s all about,” Kaye says, “Smiley faces. That’s what she leaves behind wherever she goes: smiles, encouragement. Men, women, children, those injured in war and accidents, the elderly…they all want to touch Molly, to hug her neck. She brings tears to their eyes. Then they smile and don’t want to let her go.”
So just who is this little horse, who, except for her human-made limb and the countless photos taken of her and the tons of fan mail she receives and accolades already generously given, wouldn’t particularly stand out in anybody’s corral?
The saga of “Molly the Wonder Horse,” as she’s sometimes called, began shortly after Kaye and Glenn traversed every inch of Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans East days after the storm as they ran errands for first responders, fed them, helped stranded victims of the vicious storm then finally, despite their near collapse from exhaustion, turned their attention to stranded and abandoned animals, rescuing dogs, cats, horses and more
“Somebody told us about a pony abandoned in a barn on Monticello, right on the Orleans-Jefferson line,” Kaye recalls. “We went there, and we had to tear down one side of the barn to pull out this little pony. She had been housed there for three years. We got her out and left a note for the owners.”
In the end, the owners threw up their hands and told Kaye Harris, “Do whatever you want with her.” Ever the lover of the growing number of animals she was bringing onto her property, Kaye took Molly in.
Mixed in to that growing animal horde was a pit bull who eventually, despite careful precautions by the Harrises at keeping the animals separated, tore into Molly, shredding all four of her legs and chewing into her jaw.
“I was out for a short while and when I got home, there was blood everywhere,” Kaye says. “Molly took 17 stitches in her jaw and five in her belly. But the worst injuries of all were those legs, right up to her body. To say I cried would be an understatement, but I knew we were going to save her … and that she would be special.”
With meticulous daily care from Kaye and a friend – much of it with Kaye sleeping in the barn next to Molly – the little horse slowly began to mend. Through more weeks of Kaye’s tears and Molly’s crying out in pain; all night vigils and seemingly endless treatments in the barn; and “conversations” between Kaye and Molly, the horse talker in the log cabin knew that the little pony would walk again and that the two of them would be bonded for life in a special way.
Surgeons at the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine “performed a miracle” and fitted Molly with a prosthetic right front leg replete with that ‘smiley face’ hoof.
“The road back was very difficult and painful, for both of us,” Kaye says. “But eventually she began to walk, and word got out, and we realized that Molly was saved because she had a purpose in life. She was saved to become an encouragement to others. I knew this in my heart. I knew this is what it was all about.”
Since those dark days and the miracle that followed, Molly has traveled the country to children’s hospitals and homes for the elderly and the incurably ill, all paid for by donations to a foundation set up for just that reason – to serve as an inspiration to men, women and children in distress. When donations run low, Kaye and Glenn Harris pay for the trips out of their pockets.
And the results are always the same, Kaye Harris says: “They find a great joy in her. They see what Molly has overcome and it gives them great encouragement. I’ve seen grown men, battle hardened veterans get teary-eyed as they look into her eyes, into the reality of what she … and they went through. It’s quite a blessing. That’s when I remember those long nights of her suffering on the barn floor. I knew that she would pull through. Just for this reason.”
Visit Molly’s Foundation online at www.mollythepony.com.