Windchill’s legacy lives onWindchill isn’t just a weather term in the Twin Ports. It’s the name of a 9-month-old colt found starved and frozen in a wind-swept pasture in February 2008.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Windchill isn’t just a weather term in the Twin Ports. It’s the name of a 9-month-old colt found starved and frozen in a wind-swept pasture in February 2008. Rescued by Jeffrey Tucker and Kathi Davis of Oakland, the colt’s story reached around the world, sparking outpourings of gifts, a team of dedicated volunteers and even death threats.
Windchill passed away 20 days after his rescue, but his fight for life launched a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending animal neglect and abuse, prompted proposed state legislation and brought a miniature horse outreach to local schools and nursing homes. The experience, Tucker said, changed his life.
“If you had asked me prior to 2008 if I would have made a promise to an animal and kept it, wrote a book about it, started an organization with like-minded individuals who wanted to change the future ... I don’t think I would have believed you,” Tucker said. But Windchill’s quiet spirit, his will to live, his bright eyes and welcoming nicker made a lasting impact on Tucker, president and chief executive officer of Integrity Health Network. Although it took five years, he fulfilled his promise. The first printing of “Warmed by Windchill: A Tiny Colt’s Fight for Life” began this week through Terrace Books, an imprint of the University of Wisconsin Press.
“It touches your heart in places that you didn’t know existed,” said Polly Niemi, secretary of the Windchill Legacy Ltd.
The book is more than a regional tale, said Andrea Christofferson, sales and marketing manager for the University of Wisconsin Press.
“It’s a very powerful, moving story,” she said, and it shows the depth of the human connection to Windchill. What made the story outstanding was the groundswell from everywhere when the story broke.
As Tucker put it, “I’m far more aware that the world is smaller than what I thought it was. That came to roost over and over, how small the world actually is.” When he mentioned on his blog that he liked chocolate chip cookies, they were inundated with packages of treats. The same thing happened with cigars. When they needed alfalfa for the colt, a woman drove two hours each way to bring them some.
The rescue of Windchill opened Tucker’s eyes to animal abuse.
“I’m more aware,” he said. “I’m more aware of human cruelty. I’m more aware of lack of education.”
He also learned that one person can make a difference.
“I don’t want people to use the excuse ‘I’m just me. I’m just one person,’” Tucker said. “I probably beat that drum pretty hard in the book. It was one person who found him in the pasture. It was two people who dragged him out of the pasture and from there it just multiplied and multiplied.”
The story continues to this day.
“It didn’t end with the death of little Windchill,” Christofferson said.
Those who cared for the colt founded the Windchill Legacy Ltd., a nonprofit organization devoted to ending animal abuse and cruelty.
Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, wrote an animal neglect and abandonment bill, known as “Windchill’s Law.” The legislation seeks to bring clarity to Wisconsin statutes about what constitutes proper animal care. It was introduced twice and is slated to be introduced again this fall.
Niemi has been lobbying for the bill over the past five years.
“Jeff made a promise to Windchill to tell the story,” she said. “I made a promise to Windchill that I would do everything I could to make the laws better so that other horses who weren’t being cared for, something would be done.” Both she and Tucker said they hoped the release of the book would bring attention to the Milroy’s bill.
In another attempt to end the cycle of abuse, the Legacy provides miniature horse outreach programs to schools and nursing homes.
“The biggest thing we want to do from my perspective is we want to change people’s attitudes towards animal care, you know, what’s proper animal care, what is not proper animal care and to start with the kids,” Niemi said. “I was a teacher for 25 years so that’s how you change things. You change things by teaching kids the proper way to do things.”
“Warmed by Windchill” is available for sale. Christofferson suggested people drop by their local bookstore to order it. The Bookstore in Fitger’s will have copies for sale Monday and books can be purchased online at www.thewindchilllegacy.org or http://uwpress.wisc.edu and other sites such as amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. Tucker said any proceeds he receives from the book are earmarked for the Legacy.