Local daughter helps dad meet abused horse from Mexico, Rafael
When Debbie Baker Evans saw her dad’s reaction to Rafael’s story, she promised herself that one way or another, she would arrange for him to meet the abused quarter horse.
Ken Baker, an 85-year-old Korean War veteran, was diagnosed in March with dementia. His doctor evaluated his illness to be moderate to severe. But one thing would never change for the elderly man
“My dad just loves horses and animals,” said Evans.
Baker’s fondness for animals translated into an effusive reaction when he came across an article about Rafael, an emaciated horse from Juarez, Mexico, who almost died from starvation and harsh treatment by his owner, before being saved by a woman who spotted him on the streets.
“I walked into the room and I didn’t know what was going on, but my dad was crying,” recalled Evans. “He held the newspaper in his hand, and he said: ‘I can’t believe how these people treated this little horse.’”
Evans set to work immediately. And it wasn’t long before JP Novic, executive director and co-founder of Center for Animal Protection & Education, received a phone call from the 59-year-old business owner.
And on Friday, with Baker in a wheelchair, the parties converged on the pasture of CAPE Animal Sanctuary in Grass Valley, an area where members from the nonprofit nurture a dozen animals, including Rafael, back to health.
Novic said the sanctuary is not open to the public, but the organization made an exception for Baker.
“I think it was just because she really was advocating for her father,“ said Novic, “and just letting us know that it would mean the world to him, so how could we say no?“
“We couldn’t say no to that,” seconded Shellie Frost, creative director and co-founder of CAPE. Both founders of CAPE were present during the special meet-up.
After being led out of his corral by Novic, Rafael gently lowered his long neck so Baker could pat his chestnut-colored spine, parts of which are still covered with scars from the weight of the harness Rafael was forced to wear.
“I am just soft-hearted, I guess,” said Baker when asked why it meant so much for him to meet Rafael.
“I was expecting worse than that,” Baker added, referring to Rafael’s poor health condition reported by media after the horse was rescued.
“They had him and they really nurtured him back to health,” Evans explained. “He’s on his way to recovery 100 percent.”
As if reading the concern from Baker’s blue eyes, Rafael gave him a tender peck on the ear, which Baker returned with a soft smile.
Rafael has regained some of the weight lost before he was rescued and he is slowly on his way to better health, said Novic.
Evans said the trip to see Rafael means a lot to her and her father.
“I thought if he saw Rafael in person, he would know how well the horse is being taken care of,” said Evans. “I think it made his day. He was extremely happy about that. It warms my heart seeing how happy my dad was afterward.”
Evans said she moved Baker to Grass Valley so he is closer to her and her husband, both co-owners of Uptown Salon & Gifts on Colfax Avenue. He is now living at Brunswick Village Assisted Living, where he is visited by Evans at least once a day.
“I feel good being there for my dad. He was always there for me. I remember episodes of him carrying me out on one Christmas morning and putting me on a horse,” said Evans with tears in her eyes.
Watching her father’s health deteriorate wasn’t easy at all.
“It’s heartbreaking, to watch (him) go from a healthy hard-working man to somebody that can’t even move his legs now,” Evans said.
But, she said, she is confident that he will remember Rafael.
“I can’t give my dad’s health back to him, but I can share memories with him,” said Evans.
To contact Staff Writer Teresa Yinmeng Liu, please call 530-477-4236 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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