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Third place winner Katarzyna Geiger Ichabod Crane High School, Valatie

Who Would Have Thought I’d Learn from a Farm Animal?

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.
- Pablo Picasso

Before fall 2008, I have never had to experience the devastation I faced on a trip to a nearby apple orchard.

My previous intentions to pick apples were quickly overtaken by feelings of fear, anxiety, and a need to make a change. My eyes grew wide as I watched a small and dying goat lying on the ground, being trampled by 10 other goats. I approached her and the closer I got, the more my heart fell to the ground. She struggled to try and get on her feet to escape the other goats fighting each other for food. My eyes filled with tears and I ran into the store asking why no one was helping her. They explained to me that her tendons were too short in her legs and she was too weak to live among the other goats. Instead of trying to help her they wanted to just let her die. At that moment I realized that I needed to save this animal but could not grasp how a 12 year old was more interested in saving this animal’s life than grown adults.

I had my ambitions in order but had no idea how to execute my plan. Living in a rural upstate home how could I support a goat? Where would I get the money? How in the world would I convince my parents to let me bring home a crippled farm animal? I discussed the problem with my parents and had to spend weeks proving that I was responsible enough to take care of a living creature. I also started a shoebox labeled, “goat fund”, and saved all my money to put towards supplies. In the end, we all agreed that the goat could not be left there to die. My family and I had no previous agricultural experiences so with a plastic kiddy pool filled with hay, we picked up the poor animal and began an adventure of a lifetime.

With not one goat supply I went store to store to find food, wood in order to build her shelter, and a huge supply of hay. When I returned home I was very afraid that since winter was near, she would be too cold outside. I put hammer to nail and made a stall in my downstairs basement. I filled it with hay, supplied her with necessities, and then went forward in getting her healthy once again. Every day I brushed her, I clipped her hooves, with a collar and leash I took her for walks around my neighborhood, and gave her all the attention I possibly could, still having to attend school everyday. The day I named her Clarabell was also the day I grew a complete attachment to her.

I knew in the back of my mind that I was no veterinarian or goat expert. With this I knew I would not be able to keep her forever. I began to look for an experienced farmer, who could truly correct Clarabell’s condition. After a month of searching I finally settled on one, said some very difficult goodbyes, and returned home without my beloved Clarabell. I went to the farmer and asked to see my goat and the second I saw her I dropped to the ground stricken with unbelievable sadness. She was near death, worse than before, and it looked as if she had minutes to live. Her fur was almost completely gone and her hooves were cutting into her feet. I ran her to vets all around the county. Every single person I talked to wanted to just euthanize her. I just knew I had to save her; there is no way I would let her die. One of the most vivid and memorable moments in my life was what followed my attempts to seek help. Two people from Farm Sanctuary in Watkins, Glen, New York, walked toward me as I held my dying friend. I explained my entire story and they told me that she did not need to be put to death; instead they wanted to help. My eyes flowed with tears of complete joy and relief. I looked down at Clarabell and knew that all would be well once again. They corrected her condition and she is currently living with other goats, just as it should be.