Whatever spooked Scooter, it scared him into a full-blown horse frenzy, kicking and writhing in the dirt.
He tore through a 4-foot pasture fence, wriggled under a deck, collapsed in a dog run and finally expired on the ground – maybe from a heart attack, maybe from suffocation, but definitely from a last breath taken in fear.
Normally, Scooter wouldn’t budge if you fenced him in with a string of dental floss. There’s no reason for such a docile animal to get so worked up, to launch himself into a mania.
But the more Lori Lawrence and her husband, Jim, think about it, the more they’re sure Scooter died due to plain unkindness: Somebody shot at him on purpose, or shot so near to him that the stress turned to lethal panic.
“We hope it was a mistake,” said Lori, 52. “I hunt. My husband hunts. You have that odd person hunting who gets all giddy and sees something move.”
The Lawrence family lives in rural Franklin County, not far from Youngsville and Wake Forest, isolated enough that their driveway passes another house before you reach theirs. They had three horses altogether, along with dogs, swans and ducks.
Along two sides of their 4-acre property, there’s a 210-acre piece of land where people hunt. They’ve found arrows on their property before.
Scooter was 18, theirs since age 2, when he formed a tight bond with Jim Lawrence.
“We did a lot of trail riding,” Lori said. “They spent a lot of time together. He’d share an ice cube with him or a carrot. I’ve always said that horses are very expensive therapists. That was his friend.”
When they found Scooter, the family called the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. Lori said deputies didn’t find any evidence of hunting at the edge of their property, and they suggested maybe coyotes scared her horse.
But Lori didn’t think so, and neither do I. The family has dogs on the property, so the horses weren’t strangers to canines. Coyotes might have rattled them a little, but not enough to trigger Scooter’s mania.
I checked with Brittany Saad, the woman in Harnett County I wrote about last month who had adopted 28 Arabian horses, and she told me that they had cared for a horse that had been attacked by coyotes and had both its testicles ripped off. But not during the day. And not without leaving any bloody marks behind.
Thinking further, it doesn’t even seem likely that normal hunting frightened Scooter. He’s lived on the property for more than a decade, and he’s long heard the sound of guns in the distance. So he’s gotten used to loud noises. I’ve always had dogs, and I live close enough both to downtown and to the state fairgrounds to know how much they hate the sound of fireworks. Still, that noise has never incited anything like a nervous breakdown.
So whatever set Scooter off must have been highly unusual, and it must have happened right under his nose.
I know lots of responsible hunters, and I’ve known plenty of bad actors who get thrills out of hurting things that are helpless. So it’s easy for me to imagine a “Hey, watch this” scenario where somebody thinks it’s funny to walk up behind a skittish animal and fire a gun in the air.
So I’ll pass along the message Lori Lawrence passed along to me:
Keep off land where you haven’t been invited, and keep your hands to yourself.
If you do hurt an animal like Scooter, even if you’ve done it illegally, have the decency to make an anonymous call to the authorities and maybe clean up the mess you’ve made.
It’s one thing to be cruel and stupid. It’s another to leave the evidence lying out for somebody else to find.