Irma Neve is famous for her love of animals -- literally.
It all started when one of her rodeo horses, Red Blaze, developed cancer in his eye at the age of 4 in 1968. Even though his eye was taken out by veterinarians at a vet school, Red Blaze continued to compete -- and win -- in barrel races.
Then Neve learned Red Blaze had cancer in the other eye. The horse, who had been with Neve through so much, was in danger of never racing again.
Neve and her husband, Bob, searched for any veterinarian who had any experience removing cancerous eyes. No one in their area of Pine River, Minn., could do it. But they finally found someone -- in Florida.
Neve explained to the veterinarian that before Red Blaze was diagnosed with the second cancer he still ran the barrels. He was already blind in both eyes, but Neve did not know it.
"The vet wanted to know why we wanted to spend all that money to save this horse," Neve said. "I said, 'Any horse that will trust a human that much deserves to be saved. We have a bond that can't be broken.'"
The procedure that would have cost between $2,500 and $3,000 elsewhere was provided free because the veterinarian was so impressed with Neve's love for the horse.
"I would never do anything to hurt him," Neve said.
Neve remembers one night when her vow to save Red Blaze any pain caused her to be disqualified from a competition.
"In Arkansas you may place a hand on a barrel to steady it, but in Minnesota if you place a hand on a barrel you're disqualified. We were coming up on a barrel and I had miscalculated how close the barrel was," Neve said. "Even though I knew I would be disqualified, I moved the barrel over so Red Blaze would continue to trust that I would never do anything that would hurt him."
Neve entered Red Blaze in a favorite animal contest soon after his remaining eye was removed. Then the press started calling.
According to Neve, That's Incredible, The Globe, National Examiner, and Paul Harvey's The Rest of the Story all told the account of Neve's love for Red Blaze.
"Bill Bracken from That's Incredible called me up and wanted me to come to be interviewed," Neve said. "I said no. He asked if I knew they would pay all my expenses, and I asked if he knew I loved my horse more than money." Red Blaze was too arthritic to travel long distances.
Bracken backed down and asked Neve if she would bring her horse to be interviewed in a nearby town. Neve agreed.
According to Neve, Tim Hawthorne from Ripley's Believe It or Not offered to interview Red Blaze, but only if Neve and the horse came to him.
Then in 1993, Red Blaze had a heart attack and died at the age of 29.
"Paul Harvey had said he wanted to do the story when Red Blaze died, and he asked me to contact him. But I was just too upset," Neve said.
Neve hasn't stopped loving animals of all kinds. Moving to Oxford seven years ago, the Neves came with goats, dogs, cats, horses and a deer. The deer was given to her after some neighbors found it near its dead mother at the end of the lane. They couldn't take the fawn but didn't want to leave it alone to fend for itself. Then they thought of Neve.
"They knew I loved animals when they offered it to me," Neve said.
Then, two months ago, Neve received another fawn. A lady from Mountain Home brought it to Neve. The mother was killed and the fawn was defenseless. There was another fawn, but it ran into the trees.
"Baby deer cannot make it on their own," Neve said. She plans to either keep the younger deer until she thinks it can survive on its own in the wilderness or keep it to breed.
She takes it out into the field often so it can forage and get used to feeding itself. When it gets older, the deer will become more and more hostile, Neve said, so she is reluctant to keep it.
But she plans to keep the older deer forever.
Neve doesn't have any plans to give up finding and creating homes for lost animals. Neve works with Horseshoe Bend's Sue Legg who rescues animals.
Whether it's a homeless dogs, defenseless deer or blind horse, Neve has a place in her heart for an animal in need.