Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

juniper, a picture of survival

Juniper tugs at my heart, always. She doesn’t like to be around people, and seems to put up with other goats more than enjoy their company. When she walks, it is with two front legs that don’t straighten, yet there is something peaceful and contented about her demeanor that fills me with awe. And of course I know her story, and it is a tale that is both impossibly sad and incredibly uplifting.

Juniper came to the sanctuary, a case of extreme neglect, and no one thought she would survive. Yet she had already survived a long harsh winter with no care, no food, and no water, and so it is perhaps no surprise that she survived her rescue as well. She is the definition of a survivor.

Her early life likely was pleasant. She was the family “pet”, had a yard to wander, (human) kids to play with, and food and water as needed. Yet when the family moved away, she was left behind, locked into the yard, left to fend for herself. No food, no water. A leaky shed for her only shelter. She survived on the grass and weeds growing in the yard. She grew weaker and weaker, eventually too weak to raise herself from her knees.

Moving around the barren yard on her knees throughout that winter, she was surviving on sheer will. The neighbors were not ignorant of her plight, but it took all winter and into the following summer before someone decided that they could not let her suffer any longer, and called the authorities. To be clear, it took them nine months of watching Juniper get weaker and weaker as she starved and got sick before they took action. Nine months!

When Juniper was rescued, her hooves were horribly infected and badly overgrown, she was severely malnourished and dehydrated, and too weak to stand. Terry and Dave cleaned her up, treated her hooves and parasites, got her into a nice dry stall with plenty of fresh hay, fresh water, and food.

Juniper lived, defeating expectations. Her emaciated body filled out. Her hooves healed.

The only sign now of her ordeal is that her front legs won’t completely straighten. The tendons and ligaments were permanently damaged through her months of starvation and walking only on her front knees.

She doesn’t seem to be in pain, and she seems to be happy. She loves laying in the sun. We have a bucket of water that we bring out to where she lays down, though she usually ignores it. She doesn’t travel near as far as the other goats, but she does go out into the grassy pasture on those nice sunny days. I’ll see her sitting on the hillside, and it catches at my heart. There is something about Juniper.

She amazes me. That she didn’t give up through that long winter. That she didn’t lay down and die as she slowly starved and grew weaker. That she just kept on going, kept on surviving, somehow had enough hope each day to maintain the will to keep going, until she was finally rescued…that is an awe-inspiring tale to me.

I’m not the only one who is moved by Juniper’s story. Ryan, a fellow Poplar Spring volunteer, is running in this year’s annual Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary Race for the Animals. It is a 5k, and he’s got a donation page, which he has dedicated to Juniper. If you read his post, you can follow the link to Terry’s beautifully written account of Juniper’s story, just after her rescue.

The race is this Sunday, on May 17th! Come out if you can, it is really neat to see such a crowd of people racing or supporting the Race for the Animals. And consider supporting Ryan’s fund-raising efforts. He’s going to sweat hard for those 3.1 miles! For Juniper.


15 responses to “juniper, a picture of survival

  1. avolve May 11, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Individual stories of suffering, like this one, are really powerful. They can also be very uplifting. For me, the locate the tension between (often misconstrued) aspects of the welfare v rights debate.

    Of course, some people will fixate on the individual and not see the structural/overarching factors that lead to such atrocities. Conversely, what is often a problem is that we can lose sight of the metaphorical trees for the forest (turning the cliché on its head to a degree — see for an unrelated reflection).

    The overwhelming scale of suffering in society and the task of achieving lasting change often overshadow how important these ‘little things’. No one can deny that Juniper’s life is valuable, an no less valuable than any of ours. The act of rescuing her may have little, and some may argue any, direct impact on changing the root causes of exploitation of animals (specieism, carnism). It has made an enormous difference nonetheless.

    Accounts of her rescue are very powerful and may plant the seeds of change. Without the trees, there would be no forest. Sometimes we need to appreciate a/each tree.

    Thank you for sharing Juniper’s story — and, once again, your skill with a camera…

  2. haldana May 12, 2009 at 4:39 am

    Juniper was one of the neatest goats I met at the sanctuary. She is such a sweet, pretty girl even after so much. Thanks for posting about her 🙂

  3. mary martin May 12, 2009 at 8:03 am

    Thanks for sharing. Poor Juniper. Yet lucky Juniper! I won’t get into the people who waited 9 months, but I’ll choose instead to be warmed by the thought that Juniper’s life is now safe and contented.

  4. nothoney May 12, 2009 at 9:55 am

    I’ve always wondered about Juniper’s life story. All I knew was that she was crippled because of neglect. Great story, Deb, and it makes me miss the sanctuary all the more.


  5. Deb May 13, 2009 at 5:15 am

    @avolve, we’ve had that conversation before, at least to some degree, about the forest for the trees, as well as the “cute pictures” thing. There is always that tension in me with regards to the sanctuary – the beauty of these individuals who have been rescued weighed against what they are actually symbols of, the incomprehensible number of other individuals who never have a chance and die by the billions. I hope sharing these stories does help others. I’m not sure I’ll ever know if it does! I seem to be compelled to share them, and at least other vegans do enjoy them!

    @haldana, I was actually thinking of you as I wrote this post! Juniper really is a special girl.

    @mary, lol, yeah, I choose to not rant about the people who watched her suffer for 9 months also. it would have consumed the entire post if I’d started!

    @nothoney, glad you enjoyed it!

  6. Gary May 13, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Juniper is beautiful and inspirational, as are the efforts of Ryan and others to provide her with the good life and freedom she always deserved. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at the Poplar Spring Run (or stroll, in my case).

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  8. Deb May 13, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Gary, I will actually be at the sanctuary on race day, so I won’t see you! But you’ll get to see most of the other volunteers. And there’s this woman who will likely be there who has a blind dog, a chow…Stevie, I think his name is. Give him a good head rub if you see him! He’s hard to miss. 🙂

  9. nothoney May 15, 2009 at 8:06 am

    Deb, what time are you planning to be at the sanctuary on Sunday? I might be able to get away for a few hours.

    Send me an e-mail note: nothoney at


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  11. Deb May 16, 2009 at 5:10 am

    nothoney – it’s just normal volunteer hours at the sanctuary.

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  13. shirari May 22, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Thanks for sharing this story. Juniper looks so happy in her new home.

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