The Perry Hill Farm in Bedford, N.H., has seen better days. The full-service equestrian academy once boasted an indoor arena space, housed stalls for 32 horses, and a party room where customers once celebrated birthdays and where summer campers played. Since a devastating Sept. 6 fire, however, all those things are gone. Fourteen horses were lost along with a family of three cats. Or so it seemed.
Enter Colby, the farm’s mascot and family pet, a 1,000 pound pig.
Like the farm, Colby looks like her best days are behind her. She is 9-years-old, rather old for a pig, and never in a hurry to get anywhere. So, three days after the fire, when Colby finished her breakfast and began to trot eagerly into some nearby woods, her caregivers became curious and decided to follow her.
“She was on a mission. For her, it was quite a distance,” Harriet Finks, who owns Perry Hill Farm, told ABCnews.com.
Harriet said Colby trotted up to a spot in the woods and began to sniff at something. That something turned out to be Gumbo, one of the cats Harriet and Elissa had presumed lost in the fire.
“Colby took us to him. We thought we lost him with the horses,” Finks said. Those horses included Bahia Belle, a champion American Saddlebred that Harriet’s daughter Elissa rode to numerous victories in her days as a junior exhibitor.
Thanks to Colby, the Finks’ still have a reason to celebrate.
“Gumbo was in the woods for three days, injured and alone,” Harriet said. “We have a lot of wild animals and you couldn’t see him. He would have died out there. Now we have him back.”
Gumbo could not walk due to severe burns on his feet. His back and one side of his body were covered in burns, the tips of his ears were burned off, his tail was charred, and he had no whiskers. He spent the next month in a veterinarian’s care. Now at home with his hero Colby, the unlikely pair is joined, miraculously, by Gumbo’s sister Gidget. Presumed dead, Gidget returned to the farm nearly two weeks after the fire.
Though the struggles will continue for Harriet and Elissa Finks, they remain thankful for Colby’s heroics and for Gidget’s return. In addition to the lucky felines, seven other cats made it out at the time of the fire, along with seven ponies, a miniature horse, and two goats.
Finks estimates it will take around $1 million to rebuild the facility and replace equipment and animals collected over 25 years. Without any income, however, Harriet says they are more focused on getting by day-to-day. In addition to a fundraising site and Facebook page started by Elissa, many of their riding students and parents have set up relief events and a fund, through TD Bank, to benefit the farm.
Harriet is grateful for the help of her friends in this devastating time, and that includes the porcine kind.
“We’re thankful for Miss Colby,” she said, “we’re thankful for everyone. Everyone’s been very helpful.”