BRINNON, Wash. — Sadie, a 20-year-old thoroughbred mare, fell 200 feet down a mountainside and was shot in the head to put her out of her misery.
But the horse was too tough to die and lived nearly a month in the wilderness, until her owners were told she was still alive and brought her home, her owner says.
"She survived everything," said Janet Boling, who lives in this town about 25 miles west of Seattle.
Took Pack Trip
She said it was mid-September when her husband, Steve, and 7-year-old son, Philip, took Sadie on a pack trip to the Jupiter Lake area of Olympic National Park in the Olympic Mountains.
Sadie started acting up on a trail, and Steve Boling couldn't hold her. She slipped and rolled 200 feet down a steep slope. Steve Boling and his son walked out. The next day, Janet Boling said, she and two others hiked to the horse.
"She was cut everywhere and bleeding. Her left eye was swollen shut. We decided it was best to put her down," Janet Boling said last week. A friend shot Sadie in the head, and they left.
"A good week later the Forest Service got reports of a horse wandering around and got in touch with me," Janet Boling said. "I just said it couldn't be her. She had been busted up and bleeding everywhere."
A hiker described the horse and the Forest Service finally convinced Janet Boling it was Sadie. It had been three weeks. Boling was out of town, so earlier this month a brother-in-law hiked in with oats, carrots and apples for her. Water also was packed in because a watering hole had dried up.
The family rented a helicopter with a sling and on Oct. 11 Sadie was flown home and landed in her own yard.
She had lost 150 of her 950 pounds. Her left knee is swollen and she's blind in her left eye, but a veterinarian checked Sadie over and said she was otherwise in good health, Janet Boling said.
"She's happy and content to get back home and she's eating everything she can get a hold of," she said.
Sadie's packing days are over. Janet Boling said the horse will just be a pet now for the Boling children, who also include Adam, 6, Jason, 4, and Melissa, 2.
Janet Boling doesn't know whether the bullet is still in Sadie's head or why it wasn't fatal.
"The vet said horses have a small brain and a thick skull and unless you hit it just right . . . it knocks them down but they get right back up again," she said.
"My vet says thoroughbreds are usually very delicate and can't take a whole lot, and for a horse that age to go through that, she has a lot more than just a will to live," she said.
Sadie is the first horse the Bolings have owned. They bought her in July from a family in Shelton.
"It was a bad thing that happened to her but fortunately it had a happy ending," Janet Boling said.