LAKESIDE, Calif. (KGTV) - A community is rallying together to help a San Diego icon and her beloved horse, Falcon.
“I have a lot of affection for him. He’s such a ‘people’ horse, always trying to grab your attention,” said Joan Embery.
The conservationist says a week after her 17-year-old Arabian had surgery to remove intestinal stones, he's slowly on the mend.
“He looks fantastic, a little skinny but he’s getting better,” said Embery.
Two stones were removed from his intestines, the biggest one weighing more than eight pounds. The bill for the life-saving surgery: more than $15,000.
“I told the vet, ‘I don't know how I'm going to pay for this,’” said Embery.
For Embery, it's been a struggle since the pandemic begin, emotionally and financially.
The pandemic halted events at her Pillsbury Ranch in Lakeside, as well as her speaking engagements. All have been slow to return.
In September 2020, she lost of husband of 42 years, Duane, to a non-COVID lung infection.
“He always helped me get through challenges but without him, it's really tough,” said a tearful Embery.
A year ago, Embery was let go as Goodwill Ambassador for the Zoological Society of San Diego after some five decades working there. Embery became a fixture on The Tonight Show, beginning in the 70s.
Embery says she's now fighting to keep her longtime ranch, geared toward wildlife education.
“Financially, it’s been a struggle. It’s one day at a time … We are trying to hang on the best we can, but it's not easy,” said Embery.
Several days ago, a friend started a Gofundme campaign for Falcon's vet bill. Immediately, the community responded. The campaign has raised more than $3,000.
“Brings me to tears thinking about it, because I’m not a person who tends to ask. I don't like to ask. I will ask for people to support my wildlife programs but not personally,” said Embery. “I do know there are a lot of needs out there. For people to support me and my horse is huge. I do appreciate it. It's a special community.”