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Foal House

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It is probably best that Mark and Jackie Tresl never had kids. Though they have plenty of outdoor space—232 acres of rolling farmland in southeastern Ohio—it can get cramped in the one-room log cabin they share with Rodent and Misha. Rodent is their dog. Misha is their horse.

A 13-year-old American quarter horse weighing close to 1,300 pounds, Misha has been a permanent resident chez Tresl since shortly after Jackie, now 41, adopted her in 1986. “We felt sorry for her,” says Jackie of the then-5-month-old foal, who was suffering from pneumonia when they found her living on a nearby farm. While nursing Misha back to health, they brought her inside one night to keep her warm. “We invited her in for just one evening,” says Jackie, “then the next evening….”

Now, 13 years later, Misha, whose paddock adjoins the house, spends 12 hours of her day indoors, though she sleeps on the enclosed porch. And yes, she is housebroken. It took about three weeks. “I’d take her out whether she had to go or not,” says Jackie, who used cream-filled doughnuts to reward Misha for doing her business outside. “She’s never had an accident in the house.”

Still, a horse in the house is impossible to ignore. “When we first got her,” says Jackie, a semiretired ICU nurse, “we had to pretend we had a 400-lb. 1-year-old running loose.” So the Tresls horse-proofed the house, pushing furniture up against the walls and moving food and electrical cords out of reach. Every day, hoofprints must be vacuumed off the carpet. And every other day Misha gets a hot bath in the barn. “People are surprised that it doesn’t smell in the house,” says Jackie. “But she’s so clean.”

The daughter of an auto mechanic and an employment counselor, Jackie Tresl grew up pet-free near Cleveland. “I begged and begged for a pet,” she says, “but no.” To make up for the lack, she adopted, at one time or other, a stray cat and a rat she refused to dissect in nursing school. “Mark didn’t want children; I never had a huge-urge anyway,” she says. “And then I got Misha.”

Mark, 40, a sometime mechanic whom Jackie met when she took her Volkswagen to the auto shop where he worked, has no problem with Misha—and neither, so far, has anyone else. “She couldn’t be any healthier,” says Jackie. “I think it would be inhumane to put her outside now.”

In addition to grass, hay, corn and treats—costing about $65 a month—Misha “just eats what we eat,” says Jackie. Everything from spaghetti and pizza to those cream-filled doughnuts. About the only way Misha cramps the couple’s style, Jackie says, is that “we can’t argue in front of her.” Misha gets too upset. But perhaps that’s understandable. “When horses are in the wild, they’re in a herd,” says Mark. “Now we’re her herd.”

Mike Neill

Kelly Williams in New Concord, Ohio