YORK, Pa. -- It was late in the day, later than she usually stayed at horse sales, when Kelly Smith walked past a pen holding horses that had been sold for slaughter.
Ms. Smith, director of Omega Horse Rescue in Peach Bottom, noticed a brown bay mare with blood running down her leg.
She and another rescuer tried to staunch the bleeding, first with napkins from a lunch counter and then with a coat someone had left nearby.
For more than 20 years, she's rescued horses and built relationships with others at the Lancaster County horse sale, including people who buy horses for slaughter. She got permission from the buyer to treat the horse and called a vet, who sutured the leg.
By then, Ms. Smith said she wasn't leaving the horse behind. She bought it for $360.
Like so many times before, she took photos and uploaded them to Facebook to show her followers what she was doing.
Hours later and hundreds of miles away in Harwich, Mass., Brittany Wallace, 16, was on the computer doing research.
It was early morning on Nov. 13, and she had spent the night on the couch to be near the family dog, Kona, who was sick. Kona died at 6 that morning.
She thought about her childhood, growing up with Kona and her horse, Scribbles.
Scribbles and Kona had joined the Wallace family in the same week when Brittany was 9 years old. The family sold the horse when Brittany was older, and later lost touch with Scribbles.
But Brittany still loved to ride. Over the summer, she had used her own money to rescue a horse. A high school junior who's taking classes at Cape Cod Community College, Brittany decided to work on a paper about horse slaughter for her English 101 class.
While working on the paper that morning, she went on Facebook.
"I'm never on Facebook that early in the morning. I don't really see a lot of stuff that people post," she said.
She saw a photo of a horse's leg covered in blood that had been shared by a friend on her newsfeed. She remembers thinking, that poor horse.
Then she saw another photo and she knew: That's my horse.
Scribbles was Brittany's first horse, only five days older than her owner.
For the next 4 1/2 years, the pair was nearly inseparable, Kay Wallace said.
"[Scribbles] baby-sat her, she taught her what she needed to learn," she said.
The first time Brittany fell off Scribbles, the mare put her head in Brittany's lap and comforted her.
Brittany taught Scribbles how to "bow" by putting her muzzle down on her leg and putting her hoof out.
"No one could make their horse bow like mine could," Brittany said. It was their special thing.
"It was almost like kids playing and experimenting; they would spend every waking minute together," Kay Wallace said.
Over the years, Brittany became more skilled at riding and looked to become more competitive. When Brittany was 13, the Wallaces decided to sell Scribbles. The family worried about putting the horse, who was also 13 then, under too much pressure.
"We sold Scribbles because Brittany had outgrown her in the fashion that people sometimes push their horses to jump higher and higher, regardless of whether a horse is happy or not, and we didn't want to do that," Kay Wallace said. "We didn't want to break her spirit."
So the Wallaces found Scribbles a home with someone they knew, where there would be a pasture and she would work with children. Brittany went regularly to visit Scribbles, and they continued their friendship.
Then, more than a year ago, Brittany lost contact with Scribbles.
A numb Brittany showed the photos to her family that morning.
The horse in the photo looked tired and thin, Kay Wallace said.
They weren't certain the horse in the photo was Scribbles, but knew a way to find out for sure.
Scribbles had a distinctive scar under her tail. Brittany remembers complaining when she was younger because "it was the only flaw she had." They contacted Ms. Smith and asked her to look.
Ms. Smith was skeptical.
"There are thousands upon thousands of brown bay horses in this country. It's a color that a lot of horses are, so to pick her out of a crowd of hundreds of horses, she would not stand out for any reason other than having this scar," she said.
"And sure enough," Kay Wallace said, "there was the scar."
There was no hesitation, Kay Wallace said: Scribbles was coming home.
Through word of mouth and Facebook, the Cape Cod community lent its support to the family. The $400 it cost to adopt Scribbles and money for vet bills were covered by donations.
Scribbles stayed at the horse rescue for a month, because she was under quarantine and needed time to heal. The Wallaces drove more than nine hours to reunite with Scribbles on Dec. 13. Brittany remembers being nervous as the family made its way to York County.
"We didn't really know what it was going to be like or if she was going to remember us," Kay Wallace said.
Ms. Smith made the reunion festive, decorating Scribbles with big, red bows.
"When they walked in and she heard their voices, her ears pricked up and she knew," Ms. Smith said.
Brittany started to pet Scribbles, touching her leg.
"I don't think I've ever been as happy or gotten as many butterflies in my stomach," she said.
And then, in the midst of an improbable reunion, something amazing happened.
Unprompted, Scribbles began to bow. Brittany couldn't stop crying.
"Seeing Scribbles ... be happy and prick her ears forward, it's like heaven," Brittany said.