By Linda Cicoira
Four ponies from the famous herd that lives on Virginia’s Assateague Island died last week after enduring a hard battle with swamp cancer. The figure brings the death toll to seven ponies.
Denise Bowden, a spokesperson for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Co., which owns the herd, made the announcement Friday. “After much consultation and much professional vet medical opinions, a decision was made to humanely euthanize the … remaining ponies fighting this awful, awful fungus.”
“Shadow, Lightning, Calceti’n, and Elusive Star, as well as the others, received the very best care money could buy,” Bowden continued. “They had surgeries, more medicine than you can imagine, round the clock care and lots and lots of love and attention. They just couldn’t fight this off and before we let them suffer any more than they have been, we feel the right decision was made.”
Three other ponies — Lyra, Essie, and Raindancer — had succumbed to the disease during the first half of December.
The pony committee of the fire company is working with Fish & Wildlife and four vets. “If anything good has come out of this it is that Dr. (Richard) Hansen is/has diligently worked on creating a preventive vaccine for this fungus and is now awaiting FDA approval,” the fire department official said on Facebook. “Cross your fingers that it gets approval and we can work to vaccinate our ponies very soon. Also, Fish & Wildlife Service is taking a good hard look at this fungus and will hopefully be doing everything they can to eradicate it from the refuge. It isn’t only a pony problem. It can affect any animal that comes in contact with it.”
“Throughout this whole swamp cancer process, we have consulted with Dr. Hansen and Dr. (Bob) Glass. They have been generous with their time and service. Our vet team has been hands-on practically 24/7.” Bowden said Monday that Drs. George Marble and Charlie Cameron from Eastern Shore Animal Hospital have also been working with the ponies.
“This has been a learning experience, an exhausting experience, and life experience,” she added to the department’s Facebook page. “I ask that when you say your prayers for 2019 that you say an extra prayer for the ponies, the cowboys, the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Co. as well as the entire island community. I can’t say it enough, you guys rock!”
Hundreds of folks from the Eastern Shore and across the country have been mourning the ponies.
“Every loss is hard, but this is particularly hard,” wrote Darcy Cole of the island. “We watched Shadow grow up from a foal and (we) were looking forward to seeing many beautiful foals from her. We thank the fire company for trying to save her. We appreciate that they tried. We would much rather have them try than to have put her down without trying. We pray that what has been learned will save other ponies in the future. And we pray a safe vaccine will become available so the whole herd can be vaccinated against this. Thank you to each and every person who played any role in her care during her illness. We appreciate it more than we can ever express in words.”
“With all the joys these ponies bring us, the sorrows and losses sting that much more,” wrote Debbie Swick of Pennsylvania. “Lifting prayers that health and prosperity reach all the ponies here, and yet to come in 2019.”
Maryann Madden Egbert wrote, “Everyone made a heroic effort on behalf of these beautiful creatures. Thank you for your professionalism, caring and compassion, and for keeping a concerned public in the loop.”
By Linda Cicoira