I was in shock.
All locked up in a place I had never been before.
I have learned to keep things like this at arm’s length when I hear about them on social media, YouTube, and the like.
But this came out of nowhere a few weeks ago and at this moment I couldn’t think. I couldn’t react. I was frozen in place. Was I going tharn I wondered? Like the rabbits in Watership Down? The word had become a part of my vocabulary before I had even finished the book. It was a good word that filled a definite void in the English language. Tharn: that icy steel clutch of fright that could so thoroughly paralyze a rabbit that he would be unable to act, or react, easy prey for an enemy. Humans need a word like that. For some, going tharn was an every day answer to life. And now I was wondering if it was happening to me. In the old days, the question would’ve never come up.
But that was B.P. Before Poppy.
I knew I was teetering on fragile ground, where rational thinking can, without warning, give way to self‑pity. But I was accustomed to being in control, not being controlled, and a few moments ago choice had been removed as an option. I was being forced to act. My life, and Poppy’s, would depend upon it.
Over the years hundreds of requests have poured in asking us to give a home to this horse or that one, most of whom “will soon be off to the slaughter houses if not adopted.” Had we said yes we would now have between 500 and 600 horses on our 31 acres, none of which would be healthy because obviously that’s way too many horses to thrive on 31 acres. And we, for sure, would be forced into the horse adoption business. So a few years after publication of The Soul of a Horse I declared that in an effort to get my work done and to feel less guilty, I would stop altogether reading and responding to these requests. Yes, I would ignore all these horses needing help. But I didn’t manage to feel any less guilty.
“You have no option,” Kathleen said. “You got into all of this to help horses lead healthier and happier lives, and you have helped thousands and thousands do just that. To continue that work takes enormous amounts of time. Time you cannot spend on one horse at a time. Somebody else has to do that.”
She’s right, of course.
But I always say Never say never!
I was also right. Or so it seemed on this particularly beautiful sunny day.
For there, not 20 feet away from me was a beautiful paint mare.
Who was about to lose her life.
Five weeks before, our Zeke had run into something unknown that poked him in the eye and penetrated the surface. The Vet’s first prognosis hoped that he wouldn’t totally lose the eye. Would he be able to see out of it? Probably not. He was locked up in a stall at the vet’s, a catheter was put in place and he began to receive three different medications multiple times a day. He was a good boy considering he had not been in a stall for more than five years.
Every day I would take him the breakfast he would normally get when at home, a pocket full of treats for which he had to perform, and I would usually let him graze on the vet’s grass for 30 minutes or so.
That particularly beautiful sunny day was easy to remember as it was the only sunny day in the preceding several weeks. And it was the day I had overheard the vet respond to the owners apparent request to have the paint put down.
The owner put the paint into one of the stalls behind the building, went inside to get some paperwork, and drove away pulling an empty horse trailer. The paint watched them go, issuing a muffled nicker that broke my heart.
I tromped inside and confirmed that my assumption was correct. The paint was left there to be put down.
The vet toyed with his answer for a bit, finally filtering it down to a single word.
Caterwauling fury that turned every head in the waiting room.
And I stomped out toward the stalls in the back.
It turns out that the Paint was around 25 years old and in excellent health except for COPD, which can be managed with daily medication.
I spent time with her and she was very sweet. I began to teach her to smile and plied her with treats every time she did it right. I brought Kathleen over to meet her and together we told the vet to tell the owners that we could not stand by and watch her be euthanized for no reason whatsoever. We would take her. I wanted desperately to send the message that perhaps next time they should buy a motorcycle instead of a horse. I didn’t, but we deliberated for hours about how any human being could possibly make such a decision and drive away.
We brought her to her new home, and her new name, Poppy. And with knowing absolutely nothing about how she has lived in the past, we have assured her that she will live out the rest of her life being a horse, not an inconvenience.
Learning to Smile
The tears haven’t stopped. Every time she walks up and sniffs noses all I can think about is that had I not been standing there with Zeke on that bright sunny day, the next day she would’ve been a lump under a tarp waiting to be carted off by a dead animal removal service.
It all happened in less than five minutes. Zeke had to be there, and I had to be there at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon when the previous owner drove in with Poppy. Usually I was there around 3:00 pm. Not 4:30. The the entire scenario had been orchestrated by God. Precisely timed. With someone who God knew would look into her eyes and be drawn helplessly into her heart. Coincidence can only stretch so far.
She had been isolated away from other horses for more than three years.
And then she found Zeke.
To Live again indeed.
Available Everywhere May 19, 2020 From Harper Collins Christian Publishing
Joe Camp showed his first film to every studio in Hollywood but couldn’t get a distributor. Nobody wanted the original Benji. Nobody. Zero. Eighteen months later Variety reported that the movie had the #3 box office gross of all movies for the summer.
In 2018, more than forty years later, Variety published an article entitled “The Best Movie Dogs of All Time.” There were 20 on the list, itemized by preference. Benji was #1.
“This is God’s hand at work,” Camp says. “Up close and personal.”
Joe Camp believes that you can accomplish whatever you want to accomplish in life, no matter how impossible it might seem. “God planted the passion you have in your heart and He will use it to make your life extraordinary. Against the odds.” Joe Camp’s journey with Benji is a riveting true story that dares you to dream.
Film director, author and “master story teller” according to The New York Times, Joe Camp teaches readers by example how they can create joy-filled extraordinary lives by trusting God. By understanding that what God allows often seems to contradict his purpose. And by discovering why that assumption is usually wrong.
Camp had to learn that every devastation that he believed to be surely the end of life as he knew it had to happen exactly as God orchestrated it or there never would’ve been a Benji. Or six Benji films. And there never would’ve been a best selling book changing the lives of horses all across the planet. Or a second love of his life after his Carolyn was called home.
This “master story teller’s” journal, laced with wit and wisdom, is emotionally involving and packed with suspense while totally shredding our resistance to fully trusting God with our every devastation so that we might see our adversities for what they are: God molding us, directing us, strengthening us and teaching us how to get past the multitude of obstacles that any worthwhile dream will throw at us.
Camp says, “My fondest hope is that this book might inspire you to mount a white horse and charge off after things worthwhile, to reach for heights heretofore perceived as unreachable, to adventure into uncharted waters with passion, honesty and God by your side… and leave this world a better place for your effort.”
“Any book that you read that is written by Joe Camp is a time of joy. You can’t help but appreciate what a wonderful writer he is and how entertaining a story teller he is. Read this book, it will make you happy!” – DB, Reader
“Mr. Camp can not write a bad book. His insight and easy way of telling a story is a joy to read. I love all of his books.” – Cheryl, Reader
“I am a great fan of Joe Camp. As always, no matter what the subject, Joe’s stories are never boring. I consider him one of the best story tellers of our time.” – Dorothy Doyle, Reader
“A very spiritual reading. Good for any person who questions his own conscience as to why he/she thinks a certain way, or why others behave in a way which might be misconstrued.” – A. B. Gardner, Reader
“Great story and written in a way that only Joe Camp can. Even with the most mundane of topics his writing style is both witty and enticing. He has an ability to pull you right into his story, be it about horses, dogs or just life. I have all his books both in digital format and good old hard copy. There’s always a good time for Joe Camp’s books in any format!” – SLBarbara, Reader
“Beautifully written, honest, and inspiring. Hands down Joe Camp is an artful storyteller. His struggles, losses and successes offer encouragement and hope that in the end things will work out.” – C Cortiz, Reader
“The tightly written, simply designed, and powerfully drawn chapters often read like short stories that flow from the heart.” –Jack L. Kennedy – The Joplin Independent
“Joe Camp’s new book, God Only Knows is a riveting read with an important message. Through Camp’s thought-provoking, well told, and courageously honest story, we have the privilege of witnessing another’s life at warp speed, to see how it all brilliantly plays out. It’s a detailed, emotional, complicated, exhilarating story, with an ending only God could have written! Several years ago I read Camp’s The Soul of a Horse – Life Lessons from the Herd and it blew me away. I loved this new book no less and highly recommend it!” – Raina Smith, What Raina’s Reading, OnlineRI.com
“This book swept me away. From the first to last page I felt transported! It’s clever, witty, inspiring and a very fast read. I was sad when I finished it because I wanted to read more!” Debbie Chartrand, Reader
“I LOVED the book! I had it read in 2 days. I had to make myself put it down.” Anita Large, Reader
“This is not a book about faith…it is about knowing that God has a better plan. I bought this book just a few days after a “friend’s” betrayal that left me with feelings of anger, despair, pain and hurt. I figured that the book might help me some. I was right, it did help me….a lot. Joe Camp overcame incredible obstacles of all sorts: financial, artistic, personal and differing points of view as to how things were “always done” and he did it all by realizing, a step at a time, that God has a better plan even if it does not look like it at the time. As the title of one of the chapters states: No is still an answer. Joe’s perseverance, fortitude and dedication to his goal in spite of the odds he faced, has given me the conviction to know that I, too, can succeed even after the proverbial rug has been pulled out from under me. And I want to say…thanks Mr. Camp!” – TWH Rose, Reader
A NOTE FROM KATHLEEN
Hi everybody. This is Kathleen. I sent Joe to the barn so I could write this piece of truth… about this book. This one’s more about Benji and less about horses… unless you’ve ever wondered what kind of person could begin writing a book like The Soul of a Horse less than a year-and-a-half after acquiring his very first one. This book will answer that question (in spades!). Because this journey is the one that created the man who has meant so much to you and your horses. You will love it. I promise. Thanks bunches and thank you so much for the support and encouragement you’ve given my hubby – Kathleen
What Critics and Readers Say About the Books of Joe Camp
“Joe Camp is a master storyteller.” – The New York Times
“One cannot help but be touched by Camp’s love and sympathy for animals and by his eloquence on the subject.” – Michael Korda, The Washington Post
“Joe Camp is a gifted storyteller and the results are magical. Joe entertains, educates and empowers, while baring his own soul.” – Rick Lamb, Author and TV/Radio host “The Horse Show”
“This book is absolutely fabulous! An amazing, amazing book. You’re going to love it.” Janet Parshall’s America
“Joe Camp is a natural when it comes to understanding how animals tick and a genius at telling us their story.” – Monty Roberts, Author of New York Times Best-seller The Man Who Listens to Horses
“I LOVED GOD ONLY KNOWS! Joe writes extremely well. The words flow so beautifully that it feels like I’m having a conversation with him. The feelings he brings out are wonderful…uplifting and sometimes sad. I think anyone who saw the Benji movies will want to own this book. The movies move so flawlessly from scene to scene that no one would ever know how much work was involved just to get that one shot and also all the work going from city to city to promote it. Towards the end of the book when he’s looking for a distributor I got so pumped! Why? Because when the ‘big wigs’ wouldn’t take on the film he never ever let anyone tell him he couldn’t do it. He soldiered on (and we are all glad and grateful that he did! ) For who benefits more than Joe from these movies? WE DO! And the good feeling from them radiates throughout the entire world.
Thank God for such perseverance and tenacity. He knew within his soul that this could work… no ‘if, ands or buts’. That in itself is one of the greatest lessons of all… never give up! It’s too easy to lay down and die…..why not fight for what you believe in and help change the world?
Anyone starting out on their own, absolutely MUST buy this book. It is so easy nowadays to leave your passion behind if you believe what others say. So difficult to have faith in yourself, that it can work, that it WILL work, if just given the chance. I’m thrilled for Joe Camp! And I thank him for sharing his gifts with us all.” – Margaret Churchill – Reader
“I simply love the way Joe Camp writes. He stirs my soul.” Debbie K – Reader
“God Only Knows is awesome. I could not put it down. And to tell you the truth, I’m not a “Reader” of books!!” – Jo Hammons – Reader
“I got my book yesterday and hold Joe Camp responsible for my bloodshot eyes. I couldn’t put it down and morning came early!!! Joe transports me into his words. I feel like I am right there sharing his experiences.” Ruth Swander – Reader
“I love this book! It is so hard to put it down, but I also don’t want to read it too fast. I don’t want it to end! I can’t wait for the next one !!!!!!!!!” Nina Black Reid – Reader
“I LOVED the book! I had it read in 2 days. I had to make myself put it down.” Anita Large – Reader
“LOVE the new book… reading it was such an emotional journey. Joe Camp is a gifted writer.” MaryKay Thul Longacre – Reader