Stalled stranger gets the finger, then a helping hand in Detroit

- There's a lot of bad news that comes out of Detroit. This isn't one of those stories.

Lisa Ponke runs the Day Dreams Farm Equine Rescue and Rehabilitation in Marine City. This week, she reached out to tell the impression that total strangers made on her life.

The small rescue is in St. Clair County, about 25 minutes south of Port Huron. As she puts it, they're pretty broke most of the time. Despite the financial struggles, they're dedicated to rescuing animals. Through her work, she sees the worst in human beings who are guilty of abuse and neglect.

"It seems like that's all we see anymore on TV, the worst of the worst. People treating each other badly, cops doing bad things, whites hating blacks, blacks hating whites, people just generally being mean for the sake of being mean.  It's making me tired and cynical."

Maybe what happened to her in Detroit will stop the tide of cynicism for her and for others.

They do all their rescues in a 22 year old vehicle. The 1994 GMC Suburban has logged over 150,000 since the rescue got the vehicle five years ago. In that time, Ponke has been hauling horses to the rescue to help bring the animals to better health and then hauling them out of the rescue to foster or permanent homes.

The Suburban has no heat but it is mostly reliable and, with a donated trailer attached, it works to move animals.

On Wednesday, she was taking one of their rescued horses to a foster home. She climbed in to her old truck in the 15 degree weather and knew it would be a cold ride. That's how important the horses are to her.

She dropped off the rescued horse and picked up another one: Flicka. She's an abuse case and they don't know exactly what happened, but they do know she was dragged behind something.  (Scroll down for more of Flicka's story)

She was heading east on I94 right at rush hour Wednesday. Suddenly, her old faithful Suburban suddenly became less so. It died in the right lane just as she was passing the exit for Mt. Elliott.

With a horse in the trailer, she could only sit and wait. She called 911 and waited, blocking the right lane in her ice cold truck and she cried.

Meanwhile, the rescued horse is in the trailer. Imagine how cold it must have been in there.

Perhaps the only thing colder was the people passing her. They honked at her and flipped her off. Not exactly a warm welcome to our beautiful city.

"I was scared. I'm actually shocked somebody didn't hit me," Lisa said.

She admits she's from a small town and hears horrible things about Detroit. She was alone and worried for her safety and the safety of her horse. So many people had buzzed by without seemingly caring about the person in the vehicle. 

Then someone knocked on her window.

Lisa was crying uncontrollably by this point. She said it was a build up from everything she's gone through. She feels like they've seen setback after setback and couldn't believe that her truck had just quit.

The window on the old truck was frozen solid so she couldn't roll it down to talk with the knocking person. That's when a man opened the door. She told her story to the kind stranger. She said she didn't have heat and she was freezing. He told her that he was heading home for work with his wife and Lisa could wait in his car for the cops to show up and help.

She points out that, yes, she's white and, yes, he's black; but none of that matters.

"It was a risk, I didn't know these people and again, I see things go bad on TV all the time," Lisa said. "These two human beings were some of the sweetest, most compassionate people I had met in a very long time."

She said the man worked at AT&T Detroit and his wife also worked, but she couldn't remember where. They came up on their stalled truck and trailer and helped someone, without any reservation to say no. She said they sat with her the entire time until police arrived. She said she'll never forget their kindness.

The two things she didn't get were their names. That's one of her regrets.

After waiting for a bit with the two strangers, two Michigan State Police troopers pulled up. They put her in their car to stay warm. Lisa knew that the horse and trailer needed to get home and the truck would have to be towed. She called a friend with a truck to come meet her.

Then came the hard part: moving the horse and trailer. It's extremely risky to move a horse inside of a trailer when it's not hooked up to a vehicle. It was even more dangerous on a busy highway.

They devised a plan: they unhooked the trailer from the broken down Suburban, then used the MSP car to keep the trailer from rolling away as they hooked up the other truck.

It worked!

Shortly after, a tow truck pulled up to pull away her Suburban as Lisa and her friend drove the horse home in a snowstorm.

Lisa called the troopers an asset and she was lucky to have them.

"These two officers were not only professional, they were downright compassionate and quite helpful, and no doubt an asset to the uniforms they wear. We are lucky to have these two watching out for us. In the end, we were joking and laughing," Lisa said.

But again, she didn't get their names.

Lisa told her story to try and dispel any notion that there's not any good in the world.

"This story could have gone sideways a million different ways, but it didn't. It didn't because some amazing human beings, TOTAL STRANGERS, came to my aid and got me through. It makes me think there really IS hope for humanity. I wish I could thank all of these people who crossed my path at just the right time. I'm not sure how I could ever repay them…….We always seem to see the worst of humanity on TV, these people are obviously the BEST of humanity."

She said she forgot to get the names of her helpers because she just wanted to get home and wanted her day to be over. She said she wants to give the helpful couple a proper thank you and that she's 'eternally grateful' to them. 

There is some good news. Lisa says the problem with the truck appears to be the alternator, meaning it could be up and running again next week. Her brother owns a shop LTM Auto Service Center in Pontiac and does all the work for free. He's getting it fixed up for her. 

Flicka was at an auction where Lisa and another buyer were bidding on her. She said that the other buyer would have taken Flicka to Canada and had her slaughtered. That was last summer. This week, she was taking Flicka back to the rescue from a foster home to work on her emotional scars. Now that she's back home, Lisa and company will work on getting to behave like a regular horse.

Lisa's dream is to take rescued horses and use them to help people. Being where they're located, just east of Anchor Bay, they're at the mercy of the weather this time of year. They don't have an indoor space to do rehabilitation work and they are limited in what they can do to help. Yet she still gets calls and emails every day. They also hope to start a therapy program but, for now, that's a dream. There are still horses and other animals that need to be helped.

Click here for more information on Day Dreams Farm.

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