Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Tag Archives: juniper

Juniper: reslience and carrots

I wrote about Juniper about six months ago, and her incredible story of surviving 9 months of intense neglect.

Her story is sad and powerful, and her crooked legs make us all feel powerless, I think. She doesn’t have much interest in human interaction, which is understandable, and yet she’s not afraid of us either. So, if you have come armed with bribes, like carrots, you have a chance at some incredibly precious interaction. I captured a very short video of this last weekend.

You can see her sweet face, you can see how gentle she is when she takes the carrots, and you can see that she’s balancing on the tip-toes of her front hooves. That is, indeed, as straight as her legs will go. And you can see that she does not appear to feel any pain. It is what it is, and she’s got shelter, food, and water, as well as the company of some of the less rowdy goats, so she’s happy about life, all in all.

This resilience amazes me. And it’s the common story when it comes to abused and neglected animals who find their way to the sanctuary. That amazes me most of all.

They need so little from us, when all is said and done. Mostly they just need us to not hurt them.


a full day at the sanctuary

We were very slow at the sanctuary today. It was hot and humid, which doesn’t help, but we also kept getting distracted by various conversations. I told Terry about my coworker, and that I was starting to see that I was underestimating the power of the sanctuary. She said that she’s seen people go vegan overnight just because they had a chance to touch an animal and it made them think. I have always understood that the purpose of the sanctuary is outreach as much as it is saving the animals themselves, but I didn’t realize how effective it is.

We also had the meet the new goat, Hannah, who is in quarantine for a couple weeks until she is free of parasites and has gained enough weight to be strong enough to manage the crowd of rowdy goats. She was found in SE DC wandering around, so we don’t know her full story. What we do know is that she is between 6 and 15 years old (the vet couldn’t give a better estimate), she came from a small farm in Virginia, and she has had babies. The likely story is that she was a nanny goat, producing babies after babies who were then killed for whatever reason people have to kill goats, and when she was “spent”, she was probably then sold…perhaps she was sold to Santeria practitioners, who commonly use animals in their rituals. She’s so skinny it is hard to imagine that anyone would have bought her for another purpose.

So she was wandering the streets, picked up by animal control, and now she is safe and sound at the sanctuary. She is skinny and has two kinds of parasites, she has pink eye and a secondary eye infection caused by the pink eye.

She’s a mess, in other words. Terry said that she seemed to have given up at first. Weak and tired, she let them do whatever they needed to medicate her, and hardly reacted. She just sat there with her head down, barely breathing.

Today when we went up to the quarantine barn to clean out her stall and give her fresh water and some attention, she was perky. When she heard us, her head came up and she looked alert and curious. She has been eating a lot of hay, but not the grain feed. She doesn’t seem to know what it is or what to do with it. I tried to feed it to her from my hand, but she wasn’t even interested in sniffing it. She likely has never been giving anything but hay; she certainly doesn’t know anything about treats.

She wasn’t too certain about us at first – the last time a bunch of people were in her stall, she got poked a few times with needles, but we scratched her neck, where her horns can’t reach, and her eyes drifted closed in happiness.

She’s going to be fine.

Wilbur not only stood up while he ate, shifting his weight for a while until he seemed to find a stable position (Dave says he’s had to relearn how to balance, and that’s what all the shifting around is about), he walked outside to the little mudhole he’s been working on. Watching him walk…amazing, and uplifting.

Jolene, a pig who hadn’t been feeling well recently and who thus has been living in the part of the barn where the quarantine stall is, apparently is feeling much better. She hung out with the cows for a while, and then walked all the way down to the creek, which would be a good 5 minute brisk walk for us, longer for her. It made me laugh! And wonder – how did she even know the creek was down there?

She came back up with Jake, who had been hanging out in the woods near the creek.

In the chicken barn there was some excitement when there was a black snake in one of the egg laying boxes. This is not an uncommon occurrence, and usually we call Dave over to take care of it. But I picked up a snake once before at the sanctuary, and I figured that I was being silly by calling Dave away from what he was doing to take care of this.

So I picked up the snake, who was at least 5 feet long, and carried him down across to the other side of the creek. When I went through the gate, which required some wrestling to get open, the snake wrapped his tail around one of the rungs of the gate. It was pretty funny, to me.

These snakes are constrictors, but generally speaking they only go after the hen’s eggs. Still, to be on the safe side, they are relocated. He wasn’t too happy about it, but I do hope he appreciated the nice place I picked out for him!

By the way, if anyone has advice on handling snakes, I’d welcome it. The picture looks like I’m choking him, but I promise I was holding him only tight enough to keep ahold of him. I don’t know much about them, however, and for all I know it isn’t healthy for them to be held with their head straight up like that.

When we were finally done with the chores, we got to feast on some peach cobbler and soy ice cream that nothoney had brought for us. It was so good! And we got to meet her Mina, which was great, as we’d all heard so much about her. She is a super sweet dog, didn’t even think about chasing after the accidentally-tamed adolescent geese who had no fear of her at all. (This lack of fear of people and other natural predators is why the wildlife rehabbers asked Poplar Spring to take them.)

Earlier when Mina was walking around, the cows lined up to check her out. Their typical curiosity!

By the time the cobbler was eaten, Mina was completely tuckered out.

Dogs aren’t generally brought to the sanctuary, as they can disrupt the rescued wildlife as well as freak out some of the sanctuary residents, but Mina has been quite sick, and there are always exceptions to the rules. Mina is one of them.

One of the other volunteers had brought grapes, so after stuffing ourselves with peach cobbler we fed grapes to the chickens and to the goats and sheep. Juniper spends more of these hot days in her own stall with the fan keeping her cool, until later in the afternoon when there is more shade and the wind tends to pick up a little, cooling things down. It was nice to be able to give her treats when she didn’t have to deal with any of the other goats around, and it was nice for me, because it was one of the rare times I was able to interact with her. Usually she just doesn’t want to be around people, but clearly she makes exceptions if you’re a person-with-grapes. I fed them to her, and my heart melted. I’ve always been a bit in awe of her, and her story, and admired her from afar, so it was special to have her welcome me into her space…even if it was temporary, and only because I had grapes.

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.