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Runaway 'Unicorn' Eludes CHP in California's Central Valley
Author: Randall D. Larson
After a 4-hour chase, this unicorn was finally apprehended by Highway Patrol. (Photo: DJ Becker, via ABC30 Fresno)
Imagine you’re the 9-1-1 dispatcher who receives multiple calls from motorists reporting a unicorn running loose down local roadways. And it’s not a full moon.
That’s exactly what happened in Madera Ranchos last Wednesday evening, February 24th, 2016. It’s a rural ranching community in California’s Central Valley, where roads are long and narrow and many are given numbers instead of names.
"Multiple drivers reported seeing the 400-pound animal, wearing a pink halter and horn, trotting into traffic on different highways," wrote Lee Moran in his report for the Huffington Post.
In a report posted online from Fox26 KMPH-KFRE News, CHP Officer Justin Perry told reporters that, "We got a call of a unicorn running in the roadway on 12th avenue near Road 32. I've been doing this for 14 years and this is my first call for a unicorn."
The unicorn was, in fact, not the mythical, spiral-horned equine of ancient legend, but a cute white pony named Juliet, outfitted with a golden horn for a birthday photo-shoot. Juliet is owned by 5-year old Tatum Boos, daughter of Fresno area photographer Sandra Boos, whose photos of Juliet with birthday celebrants at local parties are a big hit with the younger crowd. During one of those photo-shoots last Wednesday, Juliet asserted her independence and took off into the sunset, horn and all.
“Juliet the Shetland Pony was the star of a Madera Rancho photo shoot with a child, but gathered a much larger audience as she bolted across a field into traffic on area roads.,” wrote Christopher Brennan in the New York Daily News (the shaggy unicorn story now making national news).
"She threw her head up, pulled the lead rope out of [our] hands and that was it," Sandra Boos told KMPH reporter Wendy Lane. "At that point she ran off and the more we pursued her the further she ran.”
After Juliet bolted away from one of the party-goers around 5:30 p.m. she was reported by several drivers on different highways, according to CHP, who dispatched units it to assist the local residents in recapturing the small straying horse.
"Had the pony been hit by a car moving at roadway speed," said CHP spokesman Joshua McConnell in a KTVU Fox2 story, "the driver and any occupants could have been seriously injured or killed." Not to mention the horse.
"She was kind of running amok in a couple of orchards with some white blooms, and blended in with the scenery as well, and she’s not real tall,” Boos told KSEE reporter Patrick Nelson in a story posted at NBC Los Angeles. “She turned to be sleathier than we imagined!”
The small horse ran over hill and dale – well, down roads and through orchards, at least - for more than three hours without anyone able to rein the spooked horse in. The CHP H40 helicopter was called to assist ground units in tracking the animal using its infrared camera.
Boos told the New York Daily News that Juliet had escaped briefly earlier that afternoon at a different party, then broke free again when she got spooked three hours later at the second party, at which time she was decidedly more encouraged to evade her pursuers.
While H40 was able to locate the horned-pony, ground officers and civilians were unable to get close enough to the frightened animal to recapture it. Then a friend of Boos’ remembered that Juliet and her own horse, Shady, were friends. "That's the nature of horses. They want to be in a group, and they're herd animals,” said Shady’s owner, Renee Pardy. As soon as Pardy retrieved and rode her horse toward Juliet, the little pony recognized her friend and happily followed Shady into a compound and it was the fairy tale ending they all hoped for. CHP radio soon proclaimed to all: “The unicorn is in custody.”
CHP Officer McConnell told KTVU Fox2 that it was fortunate there was a happy ending. "No injuries were reported but there were several near misses (by cars). The pony was just lucky. It was returned to its owner unharmed and was secured," McConnell said. "But had the pony been hit by a car, it would have been a different story."
No charges were filed, but as for Juliet, she has received a proper scolding, according to young Tatum Boos. "She got in a timeout because she was being a bad pony," she told KSEE reporter Nelson. She also had a shame photograph taken and posted on Boos' social media page.
To watch the video news report at KMPH-KFRE, and see images of Juliet in and out of her unicorn garb - and see that unicorn shame photograph at the story's end, click here .
- From-The-Field/9-1-1magazine.com (via various online news sources, 2/26/16)