Written by Susan Wagner, President & Founder of Equine Advocates.
When my sister, Karen and I were first contacted by Joan Axelson back in 2004, she said the wanted to become a supporter of Equine Advocates and learn more about the work we did. Over the next few years she expressed her desire to visit us, especially since she was fully sponsoring two of our rescued mules, Henry and Hank the Tank. Both had been rescued from slaughter and both had been severely abused. She wanted to meet them. Joan lived in northern California and our horse sanctuary is located in upstate New York. She finally arranged to come in the fall of 2009. I can remember that day she arrived like it was yesterday. Karen and I were scheduled to pick her up at Albany International Airport at 11 pm. Her plane arrived on time and meeting her was almost like a reunion – as though we had known her all of our lives. This wonderful woman was just so excited to be here so that she could finally meet her “boys.”
Not only did Joan not want to rest when she got here from her long trip, but insisted that she meet Henry and Hank immediately…which she did! Joan was so delighted to be here that after about an hour of touring the sanctuary and meeting horses, we went back to the house and ate a “late” dinner (it was past one in the morning!)…And then we went back outside to see more horses! She didn’t go to bed that night until 3 am. Joan dearly loved cats and enjoyed having one of our house cats, Tina, as her roommate during her stay.
Joan spent several days here. Karen took countless photos of Joan with many of the equines, including one of Nelson, a gorgeous Wild American Mustang who had been captured by the BLM in Nevada. After Joan returned back home from her trip, she informed us that she she wanted to sponsor him, as well. She also went on to personally rescue horses from bad situations in California.
Joan stayed in touch with us by phone and through the memorable heartfelt letters and notes she sent to us regularly. Karen would send her new photos of her boys and I spoke with her on the phone, often discussing when she would visit us again. Sadly, that was not to be, as she began to deal with a series of serious health issues that prevented her from making that long trip again.
We shall never forget the compassion and warmth of this truly remarkable woman who also became a great friend. She abhorred cruelty and had tremendous empathy for the equines here, most of whom were rescued from slaughter and abuse, including Henry, Hank and Nelson.
I cannot help but think of Joan when I see her “boys” every day. They are a great reminder of the caring and love she had for them and every animal with whom she came in contact. The world is a better place because Joan Axelson was in it. She will be sorely missed by all of us.
Top photo: Joan and Hank the Tank. Right photo: Joan and Henry. Bottom photo: Joan and Nelson.