The bond between a horse and its owner is a special one. Just like dogs, horses can develop deep feelings of attachment for the people who are responsible for feeding, brushing, and generally taking care of them.
That’s one of the many reasons Texas-area woman Michelle Pool was devastated when she awoke to find her beloved steed, Opie, missing. Nearly a decade passed before she found any hints as to the fate of her beloved horse.
Michelle Pool remembers the horrible day like it was yesterday. It was early in the morning, and she’d just gotten back from surgery when she saw the first sign something was wrong: the clipped fence.
Stolen Horse International
However, the damaged property wasn’t Michelle’s concern. Rather, it was what wasn’t around that caused her to go into a panic — her faithful horse Opie was missing, vanished without a trace.
Michelle Pool / Today
Michelle first brought Opie home when he was only ten months old. He meant the world to her: “My old horse lived and died on my property at 30 years old,” she explained. “I keep them for life. They’re mine. They’re my four-legged children.”
Texas Highways Magazine
Panicked, Michelle contacted the police before rushing across the street to her neighbor’s house. He was a deputy at the local sheriff’s office, and he had some highly suspicious information to report.
YouTube – AYV Media Empire
He said he had seen a horse trailer the night before, but he had no idea that he was witnessing a crime; he merely thought it was Michelle coming to pick Opie up from her father’s house. In response, Michelle drew up a plan.
She posted flyers all the way down the nearby Interstate 10, even going door to door to ask everyone who lived in the area if they’d seen her pet. No one had, and this raised a red flag in Michelle’s mind for one reason in particular.
Opie, a Saddlebred Pinto, had very distinctive tan and white markings. It simply didn’t add up that nobody noticed such a unique horse. Michelle’s fears grew, and her mind went to the worst places.
Stolen Horse International
“There was no sign of him…I was heartbroken,” she said. “I had to explain to my kids that there are people…who take things that don’t belong to them. They were scared one of the other horses was going to get taken. I said, ‘We’ll find him, we won’t stop looking.'”
Years passed, and although she had filed a report with the online organization Stolen Horse International, she waited and waited without ever hearing anything about her beloved animal. Still, she refused to give up hope.
A decade went by. In the interim, Michelle went through a divorce and moved from Texas to Arkansas. She didn’t know that, miles away in Dayton, Texas, something nefarious was going on.
Flickr – Patrick Feller
Another woman named Della Brade had just posted a craigslist ad. She was trying to sell a horse: Opie. States away in Arkansas, Michelle was none the wiser.
Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images
Deanna Bordelon, wanting to purchase a horse for her 13-year-old daughter, Savannah (pictured below), responded to the listing. She saw the picture of Opie — now renamed War Bonnet — on Craigslist, and he seemed perfect. She went to the ranch to meet him.
Facebook – Savannah Bordelon
However, Deanna was wary; she’d been scammed by horse dealers who tricked her into buying poorly trained animals. She inquired about Opie’s past and was met with a bewildering explanation.
YouTube – Think Like A Horse
Della told Deanna that she’d been given “War Bonnet” as a gift from a pastor eight years ago. According to Della, the animal had a history of abuse. The story made sense, but Deanna wondered where the pastor acquired Opie.
Allegedly, the pastor received the horse from a different pastor, one who claimed that he’d simply found the animal wandering alone down the I-10 interstate. Things weren’t adding up for Deanna, so she did some digging of her own.
Spring Hill Equine
When she got home, she googled War Bonnet’s story. Surely a horse found wandering on the interstate would be newsworthy. But, while searching, she stumbled across Opie’s image on the stolen horses website. The strange story was far from over.
Shocked, Deanna called a number listed on the site to report the crime. Debi Metcalfe, the manager of the organization (seen below), hired an investigator to track down Michelle. Soon, Debi was in contact with Opie’s original owner.
YouTube – Debi Metcalfe
Michelle didn’t believe Debi’s story. It simply wasn’t possible that they’d found the animal she’d lost all those years ago. Debi replied confidently, “No, we really did,” continuing, “I’m 150 percent sure.”
By 2am the next morning, a team of contract cowboys arrived at Dellas’s house to take Opie home — she had no idea he’d been wrongfully taken. Michelle still had one more lurking fear. What if Opie didn’t remember her?
A heartwarming video captured their beautiful reunion. Michelle embraced Opie, and the animal rested his head in her arms, happy to finally be home. She’d given up that her horse would return, but other reunions kept Michelle’s flame of hope burning.
Opie stood a decent chance, she figured, if Prickles the sheep could make such a trek. His story began back in 2013, when a horrific event rocked the entire continent of Australia, displacing millions of residents — including the Grays.
Another Jones Family Farm
The disaster in question was the Tasmanian bush fires. Australia was used to massive blazes, so at first the situation didn’t seem too awry. The government hastily put out a media campaign to increase the public’s preparedness.
Despite these efforts, the fires would turn out to be nothing less than cataclysmic. No one could have anticipated that this fire season would last more than six months and completely destroy 49,000 acres of land, sparing neither homes nor native forest.
Theo Mapley – News.com
Amidst all of this chaos, the Grays were hit on an extremely personal level. It would take longer than they ever knew at the time to recover from the tragedy unfolding around them.
Another Jones Family Farm
The bush fires quickly spread to their own family farm, burning over thirty miles of fencing and leaving the household scarred in more ways than one. Although it hurt financially, fences could be rebuilt; their biggest loss would be one that couldn’t ever be replaced.
YouTube – Jesse Mohr
On the day that the burning flames finally descended on Dunalley farm, one individual in particular let gut instincts take over completely, and simply ran for her life: this was Prickles the sheep.
The bewildered animal fled the farm, running as fast as her legs could carry her. By the time she looked back, she was finally out of harm’s way…or so she thought. Soon Prickles would realize the sad reality.
After the fires had subsided, she tried to make her way back to the farm that had always been her home. However, she ran into a heartbreaking problem: new fencing had been put up, and she couldn’t reunite with her fellow animals and caretakers.
The Grays had to live with the fact that their precious animal was gone forever. Seven years later, celebrating the 6th birthday of son Barclay, the family still hadn’t forgotten about Prickles. On the day of the party, they decided to have a barbecue in the the backyard.
Flickr – Harlands Pinks Photo
Suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, mother Alice Gray spotted something that didn’t sit well with her. It was a strange shape moving in the distance. Soon, the truth would set in.
It was Prickles, they realized in shock. Immediately, Alice’s husband jumped into action, chasing the lost sheep through the outback. He knew if they let her escape again, it would be the last time they saw her.
“We saw this big, white, fluffy thing on the other side of the dam. My husband disappeared and gave me a call, puffing, saying he’d chased her and leapt on her and was holding her down and we all had to go and help,” Alice recalled.
The family all came together in a frenzied race to retrieve their long-lost pet. Finally, after an intense struggle, the Grays managed to load Prickles into the back of a van. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be the end of their troubles.
The Grays had finally tracked down their precious sheep, but they still had to reckon with the grave consequences that had resulted from her extended time in isolation. These would prove to be pretty severe…
20th Century Studios – Castaway
Most obvious were the physical impacts: Prickles had missed a total of seven shearings, and was seriously unkempt. If it weren’t for one special trait of hers, there’s no way she would have survived the ordeal.
Prickles was a species of sheep known as a barefaced merino, and these animals don’t grow wool on their faces. This was Prickle’s saving grace out in the wild. The psychological impacts of those seven years, however, were still wreaking havoc.
The sheep had been wandering alone in the bush for nearly a decade, and when she escaped she’d been only a baby. It would take a lot of work for her to adjust to being around the other sheep, turkeys, and ducks again.
YouTube – Animal Lovers News
Thankfully, she had a loving home to return to. She will spend the rest of her life in peaceful retirement, according to Alice. “She will have a very nice time after her fleece comes off,” the doting farmer remarked.
YouTube – Funny Pets
And the Grays even came up with a way to turn Prickle’s disappearance into something positive. Alice began an online competition to guess the weight of her fleece, and the proceeds are going to a very special cause.
She will be donating all money from the competition to the UN, in support of refugees who are unable to isolate during the coronavirus pandemic. “The money will go to people who aren’t as fortunate as Prickles,” Alice confirmed.
Australia is a fascinating place from coast to coast. For the employees at Parks Victoria Yarra Bend Park, every day holds something new. The dedicated park rangers take pride in the work they do, and they’re fully committed to keeping the wildlife and vegetation safe.
Thousands of people visit the park every year, and they rely on the rangers’ expertise to give them the best experience possible. There’s no telling what sort of animals people will see when they visit, and that’s exactly what keeps them coming back.
The rangers themselves have a lot on their shoulders. First and foremost, they routinely give tours to the public to help people better understand the importance of preserving nature.
Not only does the staff help protect the animals and vegetation, but they actually do their part to help spread the growth of certain species of animals and plants, too.
The park rangers also undergo intense fire prevention training. Forest fires can wreak havoc on thousands of acres of land in a very short period of time, and the rangers need to know exactly how to contain them if they break out.
So it’s safe to say that no job is too big or too small for these dedicated park employees. Some days are more dangerous than others, but each ranger faces his or her job with both enthusiasm and precaution…
When a region like this one is so full of incredible wildlife, you’re bound to run into surprises of all different sorts. Some of them are amazing, and others can be a little startling, to say the least.
So that’s why it was so shocking when the park’s custodian brought something to the rangers’ attention one day. While cleaning one of the rest areas, he noticed one of the toilet paper holders looked like it was moving. He slowly opened it up and was greeted by quite a startling surprise…
It was an adorable little possum who had made himself a nest in between two rolls of toilet paper! The worker was stunned at first, but then he quickly warmed up to the little guy, realizing he had to get him to safety – but how?
Park employees were quick to build a small shelter for the possum, and they promptly moved him into his new home in the park’s trees. As far as they were concerned, he was just as important as every other animal in the park!
They posted a picture on Facebook letting all their followers in on the news. You can even see the little guy’s bushy tail hanging out of his new nest. It was yet another job well done by the dedicated staff at Parks Victoria!
If the possum in this story looked a little bit different from the possums you’re used to, that’s because it was an Australian species of possum—and not the American one. Though they share a similar name, these animals are actually very different!
There are more than 23 varieties of possum living in Australia. The one at Parks Victoria was the second-largest, and the most common: the brushtail possum. He more closely resembled a squirrel than a possum, actually.
The brushtail possum typically has a pointed face and pink nose, with long oval ears and bushy black tail. In Tasmania, there are three color variations: silver-gray, black, and gold. Possums who live in denser, wetter forests tend to be darker in color.
Australian possums are known for their hearty diet of plant life. They are not affected by most toxins found in the local foliage, giving them much more of a varied diet than other creatures who thrive on the area’s vegetation.
While they will eat almost any plant that they come across, they are the most partial to a diet made up of new shoots and leaves. They are particularly fond of fruits and veggies and can destroy an entire garden with their feasting!
The pygmy possum is the smallest variety of possum living in Australia. He might look like a mouse, but he actually has more in common genetically with the American possum than anything else!
Possums can be found all over Australia looking for places to make their homes. They have even been known to creep inside of roofs to build a better-insulated nest. The possum who found that toilet paper in the Australian park must have thought that he hit the jackpot!
Some only think of opossums as pests, but they’re missing out on some serious cuteness. While it’s easy to assume opossums are rodents, they’re actually members of the marsupial family like kangaroos. That’s right—mom opossums carry their young in a pouch!
Believe it or not, some people even keep opossums as pets! When you see adorable photographs like this one of a beaming (and sweater-wearing) opossum next to his happy owner, you can easily understand why.
Not every animal out there is as doting to their young—some let the babies fend for themselves early on. But the bond between young baby opossums and their mothers can’t be denied. Look at this cutie learning how to hang on to his mama!
Baby opossums might just be the most heartwarming little critters on the planet… even when they aren’t wrapped up in a snuggly fleece blanket. Just look at that happy grin!
Opossums are social and they love hanging out together—literally. Can you believe these little guys’ impressive strength? It looks like they never skip tail day at the gym.
Opossums are just as sweet as can be when you give them a chance. You might associate them with trash—they love scrounging for it at night—but they really are quite affectionate. This cutie can’t help but curl up inside the palm of her favorite human friend.
They sure are a lot cuter when they’re not hiding behind the boiler in your basement or hissing defensively from your trash can! This little angel looks like he couldn’t make any noise other than the sweetest squeak!
Were you really going to call animal control on this little one? Even though opossums are wild animals, it’s in their nature to support their family members—even their human ones.
They’re really almost kind of… magical. It feels a little silly to say that about the same animal that makes people cringe, but when you see photographs like this one, it’s pretty hard not to believe it!
Just look at the ears on this little guy. He’s like a real-life Mickey Mouse! When you see images like this it’s hard to believe that Walt Disney settled on a mouse for a mascot when he could have had the cutest animal of them all: an opossum!
This guy really just wants to chill out and relax with you. Studies are still out, but most folks will tell you that it’s impossible to be stressed with a baby opossum holding your hand.
Opossums are skilled acrobats and can hang upside-down for hours at a time. It looks like this one might have been a bit too ambitious and got more hang time than he could “swing,” but he likely made it to safety with no problem!
Did you know that opossums love to give hugs? Even if they’re grown up or they’re hanging out with their human, “hugging it out” is genetic. Just check out this little cutie’s sweet embrace!
Opossums have some pretty adorable relatives, too! Ladies and gentlemen, please meet the pygmy possum. That’s right: just when you thought that opossums couldn’t get any cuter, this guy shows up!
Even though opossums (which are American) and possums (which are Australian) are both marsupials, they’re quite different. Still, they’re both cute in their own way. And when they’re babies, they can fit in the palm of your hand!
It’s like someone combined the cutest parts of every animal. For the love of all that is adorable, look at his toes and try not to melt into a puddle. It’s almost impossible not to.
Speaking of, look at this possum’s little hands compared to her human friend’s thumb! Isn’t it incredible how animals can be this tiny? Yet, because they’re built for the wild, they’re hardy creatures!
While there are no official reports on the subject, surely some people have keeled over at the sight of this sleepy, cuddly baby opossum. Move over, cats! We might have to reconsider our favorite pets…
“Enjoying your watermelon, guys?” Just when you thought there was no way the cuteness could continue, these opossums decided to show you how well they like to share their food with one another. How sweet!
Now that you’ve seen just how adorable these creatures really are, you’re going to have a hard time thinking of them as unwanted pests ever again. Nothing with such a sweet smile could ever be anything other than endearing!