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.