Helping Our Lil’ Guy

Tomorrow is a big day for one little guy: specifically our “Lil’ Guy,” a special needs calf who arrived four weeks ago when a beef producer released him to us. At 5:30 a.m., we’re loading him into our trailer and heading to the veterinary school at Tufts University, where X-rays and nerve function tests will help us determine which of several options is right for him.

Lil' Guy relaxes on the grassLil’ Guy has a bad leg (which he drags when he walks) and a crooked spine. He’s been like this from birth, unable to walk unless first lifted by a human. Once he’s on his feet, he spreads his three good legs in tripod fashion to keep himself upright. Sometimes he falls when he takes a misstep. It’s not an easy thing to watch.

When we first agreed to accept Lil’ Guy, we imagined that the right thing would be to euthanize him to end what appeared to be enormous suffering. “He has no quality of life,” we said when we saw the video sent by a concerned friend of the farmer. But at Catskill Animal Sanctuary, our job is to ensure that each animal thrives. It’s not as straightforward as it sounds because they’re all individuals with unique preferences, personalities, and needs. And, as with all the decisions that have come before it, the decision about whether and when to euthanize an animal has as much — maybe more — to do with whether that animal wants to carry on as it does to do with his suffering. The questions we ask when considering euthanasia can’t be limited to, “Is he suffering?” and “Will this condition improve with proper care?” but should include, “What is he telling us? What does he want?”

What Lil’ Guy wants is to live. Despite a bum leg and a crooked spine, Lil’ Guy has as strong a life force as any I’ve ever felt in 15 years of working with animals. Surrounded by love, receiving daily physical therapy, lying in a generously bedded double-sized stall, he’s improved remarkably in four short weeks. Each morning, we open his door, and he chooses when to leave to begin his day outside. Not only does he no longer need help getting up: he also spends most of his entire day out in the sun, grazing to his heart’s content. When it’s time for bed at six p.m., getting him back to the barn can be a challenge! Lil’ Guy, in short, is more than a trooper. He’s an inspiration.

And so: when Lil’ Guy is lifted onto the trailer at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow, many, many hearts will go with him. Three of us are traveling with him, all uncertain of what the day will bring. As of now, there are three possible options:

  1. Surgery to shorten the ligaments that are fused and hardened and prevent his knee from bending (which is why he drags his leg)
  2. If nerve function tests suggest that surgery will likely not work, returning home with him and devising a rigorous rehab program that could include physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, herbs, water therapy, and more.
  3. Euthanasia


Four weeks ago today, I honestly imagined that we were accepting a little life only to end it — that we were taking Lil’ Guy in to end his suffering. Indeed, it’s likely that many of you watching him think, “Oh my God … please put him down.” But the powerful lessons offered by our crooked little calf are lessons of being “in the moment,” lessons of seeing and feeling each individual to determine a course of action, and lessons, for sure, about the power of love in overcoming adversity.

So, having the gift of knowing one special animal, we feel fairly strongly that euthanasia is not in his best interest. We’re prepared to change our minds, of course, based on what X-rays and nerve tests reveal. After all, this is about what’s right for him, not about what we might want.

Please keep Lil’ Guy in your thoughts tomorrow, and we’ll keep you posted as we learn more. If we do bring him home without surgery (option 2), we’ll certainly need your help as an extensive and lengthy rehabilitation program will be costly. We hope you’ll be there for him.



Love Spoken Here, Rescues


26 replies on “Helping Our Lil’ Guy”

  1. Many many prayers and positive thoughts!!!! Definitely there for Lil’ Guy!

  2. Thoughts and prayers are with this handsome little love. Thank you all so much for taking care of him. I hope he can stay to live a long healthy and happy life.

  3. Lil’ guy has captured our hearts.. Sending all out positive love and prayers tomorrow. Your love and endless hard work are so rare- thank you beyond words for leading by example of how to live life with love, kindness and respect for all precious animals. CAS is amazing- we will donate and help spread the word ..

  4. The love at CAS knows no bounds… Lil’ Guy is surely feeling that love. Bless you all for giving him your all, he is in my prayers!

  5. Sincere prayers and positive energy for him…since he is improving and enjoying his day in the pasture, please don’t put him down…he is beautiful…

  6. I have to say that I was thinking the same thing you were when I first saw his photos.,,that ending his suffering may be the most humane solution. But as I’ve watched along with you, his obvious enjoyment in grazing and being outside made me realize I was projecting my feelings on him. He seems like an animal that wants to thrive. Wishing you well in finding good solutions for Lil Guy.

  7. One of my favorite stories from Kathy’s books is about Noah. He was rescued from the worst conditions the CAS staff had seen a horse in, & he was in such bad shape that a lot of people were pressing Kathy to euthanize him. Kathy was not an animal expert when she took the plunge, & opened CAS – which makes said plunge even more of a brave move! Her years of taking good care of animals’ bodies & spirits, & getting to know them closely, enabled her to develop instincts about what the animals are capable of, that experts would not easily grasp. If you haven’t read Noah’s story BTW, you are depriving yourself!
    Noah was given what he needed to survive physically, but he also received lots of love. If any of you cynics out there doubt the healing power of love, this story can teach you something. Suggestion: keep a box of tissues handy. & no, wiping tears from your face for stories like this IN NOT A SIGN OF WEAKNESS.
    It seems that Kathy & her wonderful staff have another Noah case on their hands! If Lil’ Guy has a chance of surviving, & even more importantly living a happy life, it’s now – @ CAS, w/ people who ask the kind of questions that only they can answer properly.
    Once again Kathy, you leave me in absolute admiration, that in a world as pragmatic as this, there are places like CAS, & the people who make it happen! My wife & I we’ll be up there in a couple of weeks. The soul batteries are ready for the annual recharging, & CAS is just the place. Can’t wait to see that paradise on earth again.

    1. Thanks for asking about him! We’re taking it day-by-day. Lil’ Guy is feeling strong and shows us that he can walk through the pain. As long as he wants to keep fighting, we’ll keep working to help ease his pain and improve his quality of life.

    2. Thanks for asking! He continues to be an inspiration to all of us. We’ll never be able to fix his legs, but we can help him manage the pain and increase his mobility. We’re following his lead and right now he’s telling us to get out the way. He has a hill to climb!

      1. Sorry 2 hear he has pain when he walx, but his will 2 live a good life means he’s @ the right place! The wonderful staff @ CAS will find ways 2 make his life great – & that seems 2 already have started. Smart & lucky Lil’ Guy – he seems 2 already have fallen n love w. his new home. Looking 4ward 2 meeting him – if visitors r allowed 2 meet him yet.

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