Friday, July 20, 2012

Goatee, You Will Be Missed

Yet another sad day has come.  Goatee, my 6-year-old Nigerian Dwarf pet goat was found dead yesterday afternoon.  The kids had gone to play with him again and take him for a walk, one of their favorite activities.  Earlier yesterday morning, they had taken him out on his leash to let him savor weeds and tasty treats outside the barnlot.  The very same varieties that grow within the barnlot, yet he seemed to relish the ones outside the fence so much more.  He adored attention and loved for the kids to pet and play with him.  For years now, Goatee has been a companion when I took walks around the farm.  In the cool weather, he would be quite frisky, standing on his hind legs and raising his back hair, then bouncing away and back to me when he wanted to play.  He would stand up tall and make a growling sound in his throat, with a silly goat grin on his face, but never once did he ever butt me.  Instead, pushing his head gently into my leg or hand to indicate he wanted me to push him and play.
Alas, he was not so gentle with the dogs or sheep and I believe this was his undoing.  From the evidence found at the scene, it would appear he may have picked a fight with his barn companion, a large ewe by the name of Belle.  Many times I had seen Goatee challenging Belle and warned him that was not a good idea.  I did not foresee that she may finally have enough of his shenanigans and cause him serious harm, as she always regarded him with irritated patience.  It seems she must have finally butted him back, in the side, ramming him up against one of the timbers in the barn where he fell and lay still.
We will miss you, Goatee.  I will miss your happy, mischievous spirit.  I will miss your bleats asking to be let out as you peer through the bars of the barnlot gate watching me work in the yard.  I will even miss you escaping from your pen and trotting directly over to the yard, nosing up the gate latch in order to come in and much roses, especially the prettiest and freshest blooms.  We will miss your little goat nibbles and gently taking treats from small hands.  We were blessed to know you and hope you are now kicking up your heels and dancing in deep clover and fresh rose petals.
Until next time, may we all live so that we are missed after we are gone.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Season of Sadness

Now that the holidays are behind us, I must report a sad event.  We had to have Jordan's beloved Great Pyrenees,Chuck, put to sleep on November 30th as he had become increasingly aggressive..  About a year ago, he turned on the sheep and killed three last fall.  After much research, discussion, and soul-searching it was decided that he would become Jordan's companion instead of a livestock guard dog.  He adapted very well to living inside Jordan's house on the Ione farm and was an excellent companion, riding in the pickup and accompanying Jordan on trips, whether they were just out doing farm work, taking their daily run, or visiting friends out of town.  His role as Jordan's constant companion was further cemented when, shortly after becoming a house dog, a fire began in the wiring of the old farmhouse they were living in.  Chuck jumped on Jordan's bed, barking an alarm and waking Jordan in time to put the fire out before much damage was done.  Even though we could no longer trust him around livestock, he was such a joyful dog, and was wonderful around cats, chickens, and kids.  It seemed Chuck had found a different niche than what we had intended for him, as he had saved Jordan's life and had so many other valuable qualities.  He also dearly loved his chickens and protected them from predators such as raccoons and opossums, or other dogs.

Unfortunately, this fall, as the weather began to cool, Chuck became harder to manage, even chasing cats, who he had always done so well with.  He also began growling at us if we disciplined him in any way.  Jordan had done extensive submission training with him to make sure he never became aggressive toward people, but something was wrong.  This aggressive behavior culminated one night as Chuck had accidentally gotten out and killed sheep once again.  We caught him in the act and he ended up turning on Jordan and biting him, breaking skin and severely bruising Jordan's forearms even through a heavy coat.  After consulting with the vet, the heart-wrenching decision was made to have Chuck put down.  It is hard to have an old or injured pet put down, but a physically healthy dog in the prime of his life who has been such a protector and companion is an entirely different thing.  But he could no longer be trusted and he was too powerful and adept at killing.  If he was willing to hurt Jordan, what might he be capable of with someone he had no bond with?

I believe strongly that a cherished family pet deserves to have their family with them when they die, so Jordan and I stayed with Chuck as the vet administered the medication.  As Jordan stroked his head and ears, his eyes locked trustingly on mine until they closed and he lay down with a gentle sigh.  As the tears flowed freely in that exam room, I only hoped he could forgive us all for what had to be done.

We took him home on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon and buried him next to his old friend, Roxy, on the hill overlooking the house and barn.  It was a warm and sunny afternoon, so mild for the last day of November.  Suddenly, a red and black butterfly appeared, fluttered around my head, landing for a brief second, then flying to Jordan where it also circled him several times before disappearing into the sunlight.  Through the tears, the healing and forgiveness had begun.