by Fran Jurga | 18 September 2009 | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com
Retired Australian police drum horse Paddy with his officer/owner.
Maybe you'd better grab a tissue before you read this post.
A retired police horse from Australia named Paddy has been nominated for the RSPCA's Purple Cross award, which is given to animals who exhibit behavior that we humans would interpret as "courage".
I hope you will follow the link to the story and read it in its entirety, but this is it in a nutshell: a retired 19-year-old Clydesdale police horse is out in the paddock as the horrific "Black Saturday" wildfires threaten his owner's property in the state of Victoria.
The owner, a policeman, is busy hosing down his house. Paddy, meanwhile, rounds up the sheep and goats in the paddock (which in Australia is what we'd call a pasture and can be many acres), and shelters them from the fire and heat under his huge frame.
Every once in a while, the owner comes down to the paddock and hoses Paddy down and makes sure he is all right. He said afterwards that Paddy never moved despite the embers falling from the sky and the wind roaring up the valley.
When the small animals try to go astray, Paddy rounds them up and nudges them back under the shelter of his huge body.
And so the fires passed.
In his owner's words: "He stood there and did what I asked him. If you can have that sort of communication, all the big parades and the big accolades we've had as gendarme can't compare to that because that was when the chips were really down. I asked him to do something and he said, righto, I'll do that. And that's what he did."
So Paddy was nominated for the RSPCA's prestigious award.
Sadly, news reports from Australia today tell us that Paddy stumbled and fell on Tuesday while out for a hack and was euthanized.
Please click here to read the moving story about Paddy, which was written before his untimely death.
The Purple Cross originated with the Purple Cross Society, which was formed to support the horses of Australia's famed Light Horse Brigade. If you are interested in horse history, there is no better reading than the exploits of this brave crew of horsemen, particularly during their Middle Eastern campaign during World War I, including the battles at Beersheeba and Gallipoli. Their story is marred by tragic suffering and loss and decorated with gallantry and superior horsemanship.
Also of historic interest: Paddy served as a ceremonial drum horse with the Victoria Police in Melbourne. The use of mounted police in that city dates back to 1836, making it even older than the late, great Boston mounted police in the USA, which was recently shuttered by city budget cuts so that Ted Kennedy's funeral had no horse escorts.