When Atlas and his 18 goat friends were rescued from an animal hoarder in June 2010, I had been on staff for nine months. By then, I had heard many stories about animals having arrived at CAS in terrible shape, and these goats were no exception — emaciated, infested with parasites, their hair falling out in clumps. Yet nothing could have prepared me for meeting the goat who stood out from the rest — the one hobbled by 6 inches of overgrown rotting hooves, who wobbled on legs permanently bent at ninety degree angles and knees the size of oranges, yet who possessed the kindest, most soulful eyes I have ever seen. We named him Atlas, the iconic figure of strength and stoic endurance from Greek mythology, often shown kneeling while supporting an enormous globe on his shoulders.
From the moment I met him, I knew that I would never be the same. Many animals rescued from severe neglect and abuse arrive skittish, withdrawn, distrustful. Some are terrified. Some are angry. Â Not Atlas: he was hungry for affection. If you sat down in front of him, he would inch over on his shaky legs, and nuzzle your face before laying his head in your lap. I often wondered how this animal who had endured such suffering could be so open and loving. Soon I realized that he must have known that he was safe and loved by compassionate people, and that he had been given another chance at happiness. In his heart, I believe, he had left his sad past behind him and embraced his new life at CAS.
â€œLive each day as if it were your last!â€ is something that we hear a lot, and while itâ€™s much easier said than done, Atlas did just that. Â As part of the free-ranging â€œUnderfoot Familyâ€ in the main special-needs barn, Atlas was a quiet yet powerful presence. Â He charmed all who were fortunate enough to meet him, enjoyed his ginger cookies and strawberries with gusto, zipped around in his custom-made wheelcart, and up until the last few weeks of his life, refused to let his disability get in the way of greeting friends in the main barn, and occasionally strolling to the nearby willows. The chickens and turkeys flocked to him each day — he and Henrietta shared a special bond — and the birds spent many peaceful days nesting in the hay beside him. Atlas reminded us that every day is a precious gift, and that forgiveness is essential if we are to make the most of second chances. Â For all these reasons and more, Atlas had many friends.
Earlier this month, his crippled body had become so painful and immobilized that we knew we had to set him free. So, on November 11th, a year and a half after he joined the CAS family, we offered him our final act of love by letting him go in peace. Nestled in his favorite hay bed, munching alfalfa until the last moment, and surrounded by many of the people who cherished him most, Atlas passed on in peace. We will forever miss the sparkle in his eyes, that crooked smile, and his gentle spirit. At the same time, we know that he would want us to fill the space he left behind with more souls needing a second chance at happiness — so we move on and honor his life by doing just that.
Check out snapshots and videos of Atlasâ€™ life at CAS, and please share your memories with us!