Dr. John Tracey has worked at the West Salem Veterinary Clinic for just more than a year, but he never thought he'd get a call quite like the one he answered on August 5th.
"It was a rather unusual call. We got the call early in the morning," recalls Dr. Tracey, who works primarily with large animals.
He took the call from Stoddard resident Sue Ann Krause, whose horse, Ella, had given birth. The problem was that Sue Ann couldn't find the foal.
"I kept looking, combing the pastures and just looking for this foal," Krause remembers.
This wasn't just any animal. There was a possibility it could be the unique, white-maned, blue-eyed cremello that Sue Ann and her husband, Forrest, had been attempting to breed for months and months.
"We had bred Ella twice before to a cremello, and it's a 50/50 chance of getting a cremello," says Krause, who has been a horse owner for a decade.
This was the last time they were going to try for the rare coloring, so finding the filly alive had some added importance. Lucky for the Krauses, Doctor Tracey was there to help Sue Ann with the search.
"There was an area in the pasture, close to the fence, that was really pushed down to the ground, like a body had been dragged," recalls Krause.
On the other side was a hilly, wooded area. They decided to search in the valley.
"We were going downhill the whole time down into this ravine. Just following where the grass was matted down here or there," says Dr. Tracey.
"Pretty soon I heard him say, 'I think I see him,'" remembers Krause.
"It had been storming overnight. We didn't know when it was born. I thought there was very little chance that we would find it alive," recalls Dr. Tracey.
"When I looked it looked like a dead horse. She was just laying there not moving. And then Dr. Tracey said as he got closer, 'I think he's breathing,'" says Krause.
"It was fairly weak, fairly cold," Dr. Tracey recalls. He knew they had to act quickly. "At that point you kick into gear to try to save it, but we're down in the middle of the ravine. The mare is way up in pasture, so we just decided we had to carry it out of there."
Keep in mind, most newborn horses weigh more than 100 pounds.
"I remember saying, 'Please forgive me,'" laughs Krause. "But I was pushing him from the back end because it was muddy and I knew he was slipping."
"We carried it back up to the pasture uphill. Made me realize how bad of shape I'm in," jokes Dr. Tracey. "We got it back to pasture. Back with the mare."
That trek was just half the battle. Sue Ann's husband, Forrest, had to drive back from West Allis, where he was showing sheep at the Wisconsin State Fair. From there they drove the foal to an intensive care facility in Madison to make sure it got proper nutrition and for monitoring.
The little foal responded to treatment, and today is back home. She's doing just fine, and has her namesake to thank.
"We named her Tracey after Dr. Tracey, because he really did save her life," says Krause.
Dr. Tracey has a story he'll remember all his life.
"That's why you do this," he says. "It's always nice when your clients end up happy and you get a healthy animal at the end of the day."