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Rooting on #TeamJulius

For a long time, I was fascinated with the story of Elijah the pack horse—I thought it would make a great children’s book.

Elijah was stranded in the snowy Colorado Rockies in the winter of 1956. A pilot flying over the peaks saw the marooned horse, who had gotten lost somehow and would have to ride out the winter there until the snow melted. Concerned about the horse, the pilot began delivering hay by plane.

This is the part that captivated me: The Denver Post wrote about the pilot’s concern and kindness and then letters from all across the country as well as Canada, Europe and Japan arrived with good wishes and money to fund the hay drops. Children even sent hard-earned allowances.

Willow and mom, May 2017

I thought about this horse last night as I was one of many people who clicked on to The Maryland Zoo’s Facebook page to find out what was happening with Julius the baby giraffe, who has struggled since his birth a few weeks ago.

Today, he will undergo a major procedure, the zoo announced on Facebook Tuesday. Already, this week the young giraffe received a plasma transfusion, donated by a zoo in Colorado. Julius has struggled with feeding since birth, making it difficult for him to gain weight and stave off infection.

Yes, I am #TeamJulius.

My teens have patiently put up with my need for information on this baby giraffe. They are curious, too, but not quite as anxious. So much so that I posted on Facebook last night, “I am officially obsessed this giraffe and his well-being. Others?”

Of course there were:

“Yep. Right there with you.”

“I’ve been refreshing Facebook for updates an obscene amount the past few days.”

“Me too! Tomorrow will be a long day waiting to hear how Julius does.”

All moms, by the way. But I don’t think this is just parenting thing.

I think it’s because of the care and concern of the zoo team, so evident in the language of their updates. And the way that zoos and giraffe experts across the country have reached out to help Julius and The Maryland Zoo.

It’s also because a beautiful living creature is involved.

Juma nuzzles Willow.

This spring, I signed up for Yoga at the Zoo. Happy for the chance to pose outdoors, I had forgotten that the price of the class included zoo admission for the day. I wandered with my classmates to the giraffe house to see Willow, then the newest giraffe and only a few months old. She is also Julius’ half-sister.

I burst out laughing when I saw her: Willow is beautiful. Improbable as the rest of the herd with their long-necked, spindly leg grace—oh, nature never ceases to amaze—and playful as any kid, she was truly spectacular.

I have heard the counter arguments, that those of us watching for zoo updates today should show the same concern to Syrian refugees or those struggling with addictions. Who says we don’t? This is when I do wonder if this is parenting thing: Who else but us can juggle multiple worries so well?

You should know that in May 1956, Elijah the pack horse was rescued from the mountains. His celebrity grew and he lived a long and good horse life.

I hope there is good news about Julius, Baltimore’s newest giraffe. My teenagers will roll their eyes at me, but I also hope that we continue to care about news like this.

About Jessica Gregg

Jessica Gregg is the editor of Baltimore's Child. She is a happy rowhouse dweller and mother of two.

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