Goats

A Goat Called Blessing

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My name is Madalitso. You can call me Maddie. It means “blessing”, and the people here tell me that is what I am to them: a blessing.

I do feel your love and your prayers. They are like a blanket of light surrounding me, comforting me, holding me up. They make me determined to get strong and healthy. I want to enjoy this new life laid out before me, this blessing granted to an old goat.

You’d be amazed how much easier pain is to endure when you are beloved. I still have a lot of healing to do, but I’m okay with that. This pain is nothing compared to what my babies went through when the farmer sent them “away”.

They say I’m a free goat. They let me go wherever I want, around the whole sanctuary. At first I was nervous, but I saw that several of the animals here do the same. So, today I am exploring a bit. I still have to move slowly, but there are so many tasty grasses and plants to try, it helps keep my mind off of the pain.

Charlie the rooster has trouble getting around, too. We hobble along and explore together. He gets hot and tired fast, so we spend a lot of time resting in the hay by the fan.

Selick, an elderly blind pig, is also pleasant to graze with. Opie and Daisy, the ducks, are a lot of fun to watch while they jump in and out of their pool and chase each other around, but they never stop talking.

Listen, though, please. I have something important to say. I made it out. I have a name. I am getting the love and care I so desperately needed for years.

But other goats aren’t that lucky. Other goats, other animals of many species, continue to suffer. Many, many more mothers and babies are being torn from one another right now. Most animals live in pain and fear every second of their lives. Most never once experience a kind word or even a moment of comfort. They suffer all day, everyday, until they are brutally killed.

Don’t forget them. Please don’t forget them. Please find a way to help them, just as I have been helped. You can start with the choices you make—what you eat and what you wear. You are more powerful than you think.

Please.

Maddie’s road to recovery will be long, involving a great deal of expensive veterinary care.  Please share her story and please donate towards her care.  Every dollar is matched, and every bit makes a difference.   

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Old Goat

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Please don’t turn away.

I know it’s hard to look at me.  But I am someone.  I matter.  And I didn’t always look this way.  I was young and carefree and healthy once.  People thought I was cute and funny and took videos of my antics.  Please hear my story.  Please acknowledge that I matter, that my life matters, even if I am just an old goat.

I was born a 4-H project– raised by a little girl who loved me, coddled me, kept me clean and fed me well.  We used to pretend that she was a pilot, and I’d leap and jump…a passenger flying in her plane.  She told me all of her secrets.  I knew the names the kids at school called her.  I knew how her mother scolded her for being “scraggly”, and warned her she’d never find a husband if she didn’t learn to clean house.  She cried into my fur when one of her classmates had a birthday party and invited everyone but her.

I loved her so much!  I loved listening to her problems.  I loved to comfort her and make her smile.  I thought we’d be together forever, best friends.  But then one day there was a big contest.  I didn’t win, but she sold me.  She was crying the whole time, her mother admonishing her to grow up.  Her father told her, “That’s just the way things are.”

I was taken to a clean, pretty farm, and put in a pasture with other goats.  They all had horns, but mine had been cut off by the little girls’ father.  I thought of my little girl as they bullied me.  Finally, I understood what she had been through.  I learned to stay out of the way, to be quiet and unassuming.  As long as I didn’t sit somewhere they wanted to sit, or try to eat something they wanted to eat, they ignored me.

The farmer was nice.  He gave me cookies and banana peels when the others weren’t looking.  But then something happened.

I got pregnant.  Oh!  Finally I would have someone of my own, someone to love and care for!  Someone who would never leave me!

Things got really good for a while.  The farmer separated me from the bullies and fed me special food.  Then my baby was born and he was a beauty!  Long lashes, chocolate brown eyes, ears way too big for his little head!  We frolicked and played and I thought I’d never be happier.

I was right.

One day the farmer came and took him away, and then put me back in the pasture with the bullies.  I cried for my baby and did everything I could to get the farmer to give him back, but he was gone.  I never heard from him again.  At least in those days I was too naive to know where the babies went when the farmer took them from us.

Every year after that, I got pregnant.  I usually had two babies.  One year I even had four babies.   I tried not to love them, I knew they’d just be taken away and killed.  But I failed.  I loved every one of them.  And every time they were taken from me, a piece of my soul went with them.

One day, I realized I was an old woman.  My body was worn out.  My feet couldn’t hold me up anymore, my ankles were too weak.  It hurt to walk, but I had to walk to graze and browse.  I had become so skinny, there was nothing to me but my rumen and some bones.  But still I pressed on, grazing when the sun went down, staying out of the other goats’ way.  I thought of my babies and my little girl.  The memories sustained me.

I thought for sure, now that I was too old to have babies, that the farmer would send me away to the place all the others have gone.  But instead, something happened.  I think it might be something good, but I’m not entirely sure yet.

I did get sent away, and now I am at a place they call a sanctuary.  None of the other animals are frightened here, and none of them are bullies.  I made a friend, sort of.  A woman comes and sits with me.  She sings songs and strokes my fur, and keeps trying to get me to eat.  Part of me wants to melt into her and let her hold me.  I want to cry into her hair like my little girl did with me all those years ago.  I want someone to love me like I loved that little girl, and like I thought she loved me.

I don’t know, though.  Maybe she’ll send me away like the little girl did.  Maybe she’ll kill me and eat me, although she doesn’t smell like a person who would do that.  I just don’t know.  I’m an old goat now.  If they are not going to kill me, what could they want from me?

Could it be possible, after all these years?  Have I found someone to love me?  Might I even make friends here?  Maybe I am finally safe…

Maddie’s road to recovery will be long, involving a great deal of expensive veterinary care.  Please share her story and please donate towards her care.  Every dollar is matched, and every bit makes a difference.   

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Leif’s Light

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Sometimes, these precious beings don’t stay with us as long as we’d like…

A compassionate humane police officer brought Leif E. Greene to us.  She had rescued the skinny little goat from a dark, dirty garage, where he was tied up. Children were taunting him, throwing rocks, and he had no escape. The person who had called in the complaint stated that this had been going on for months. No wonder this little guy didn’t trust humans!

At the time, we were still struggling to keep our new calf Mookie alive. He had terrible digestive problems, refused to eat solid food, and struggled with bloating daily. Mookie was skin and bones, and nothing we tried was helping him heal.

Cookie before he met Lief
Mookie before he met Lief

Leif took one look at Mookie and decided they were new best friends. He pranced over to him and invited him to a hearty game of tag. The next morning, Mookie ate solid food for the first time. By the next day, Mookie’s digestive problems had disappeared. The calf and goat played all day long, until they fell asleep in a heap, like puppies.

Mookie eating a hearty breakfast while Leif encourages him
Mookie eating a hearty breakfast while Leif encourages him

A few days later, Leif looked me in the eye and smiled. Progress! This precious little being, on the strength of love and play, was saving Mookie’s life, and had a heart so open he was willing to give humans another chance.

Soon, Leif was dancing with joy every time he saw us. He even began to leap over his fence to find us anywhere on the property, demanding that we play with him and Mookie.

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In the mornings, as I fed Mookie his bottle, Leif pranced joyfully in circles around us, stopping occasionally to kiss Mookie or me. He was actually celebrating Mookie’s care! This little goat stole my heart, and I felt it would burst for the love of such a giving soul.

***

FOUR MONTHS LATER…

One day, he seemed like a healthy, joyful goat that would be with us for years to come. The next day, his kidneys shut down, and then his heart stopped.  We don’t know why, the vets don’t know why.  We rushed him to the hospital, but there was nothing they could do.

His time with us was invaluable, if all too brief. Our sweet little angel died in our arms, knowing he was much beloved, and that we were sorry to see him go.

Everything changes.

We cannot be surprised.  We must simply have unending gratitude that he was in our lives at all, and that his friendship saved sweet Mookie’s life.

Long may your light shine, Leif E. Greene, in the star world and in our hearts.

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Words Escape…

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Words escape. Words are wispy, vague, slippery.  A thousand– even a million– of them cannot paint a picture of a life and a love and a death and a joy, a being full of rich complexity and glorious simplicity.  The wonder and the grief and the gratitude and the billion hallowed moments that make up a life are so essentially related, so fully interconnected, it renders that life unutterable.  One wordless love.

Nearly fifteen years ago, I set out to change the world with two goats by my side.  One was all sweetness and harmony, the other was all impishness and shenanigans.  Both had eyes that glimmered with mischief and senses of humor that were subtle, complex, and silly.

These little goats were my family, my friends, my confidants, my loved ones, my little devils.  Truer than any human loved one has ever been– could ever be.  These goats were my home.

And now they are my past.  My memories.  My spirit friends.

My goats are gone.

Ruckus and Hootenanny were young when their first family decided, after only a few months, that having goats wasn’t such a good idea after all.  They had tried to keep these intelligent, rowdy, energetic, mischievous little rascals in a tiny pen.  As a result, they broke out constantly to wreak havoc on the garden.  Finally, the people found a way to lock them in the pen so they could not escape.  And the little goats just cried and cried, not understanding what they had done to cause them to be held prisoner in this way.

Finally in frustration, the people gave up the goats.  And I was lucky enough to get them.  I gave them a huge pasture, an airy barn, a jungle gym, and we played constantly.  What fun those little devils were!  It was impossible not to laugh in their presence, so full of comedy was their every move.

But the days wore on.  I became much less carefree and no longer played with them.  And they went from being two of my only farm animals to be two of nearly 200. They kept having fun.  I never tried to fence them in– they free ranged over the whole farm, and yet never left the property, taking great joy in their liberty.

***

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He loved autumn

Months have passed since I wrote these words, since I set Ruckus’ spirit free.  And still words escape me.

It is not that I mourn him; it is that I cannot describe, with mere words, who he was to me– who he was to the world, who he still is and ever will be.

His death was beautiful and peaceful.  He faced it fearlessly, with his two closest two-leggeds at his side.  He knew he was loved; he knew it was his time.  My dear, sweet Ruckus had no regrets and neither do I.  I did what I set out to do.  I gave him– and beloved Hootenanny, who crossed over a year before him— a good life and a good death.

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Ruckus spent his last day with his beloved family, two- and four-legged

This is my job and I do it quite well.  And yet…

My goats are gone.

Ruckus believed in me.  He had faith in me.  He stood by me lovingly, unwaveringly, through the dark times, times when I struggled to care for my growing flock of orphans, when it was just me and the animals, alone on the mountain.  And he remained steadfast even as he watched the light come back into our lives– as he watched the sanctuary– and me– bloom.

I remember one day, very early on, when I despaired of ever succeeding in this mad experiment of plucking as many lives as possible from hopeless pits and giving them the freedom to experience a joyful, natural life.  It was the deepest part of winter– when the sky darkens in these mountains as early at 3:00 pm.

One of my beloved goats, Hullabaloo, had been killed by predators.  Her blood stained the snow and ice.  I locked them in every night for safety, but she had found a way out in search of mischief.  If I had been more adept at fixing things, I could have created an escape-proof pen, and she would have lived.  Further, I had not even heard her being attacked.  I had vowed to protect her, and instead, she was eaten alive.

I fell to the icy ground, wind howling around me, and sobbed.  I was unfit for this task.  I couldn’t go on.  After I was all cried out, I made my way heavily into the barn to finish my chores.

And there was Ruckus, gazing at me steadily, faithfully.  He trusted me to care for him– to care for all of them.  He believed in me, and I could not let him down.  In order to live up to the trust of that little goat, I found the strength and help I needed, and banished the darkness.

Through the years, I often found Ruckus’ calm eyes on me.  His faith never wavered.  There is something that happens to you– or at least it did to me– when someone places their faith in you so wholeheartedly.  You find inner power you never knew you had.  You draw on all of your reserves and you find a way to live up to that trust.

I set out to save him, and he set me up to save hundreds more.  That one little goat has changed so many lives.  And I have realized, as I write this, that he knew I was ready.  He wouldn’t have left if he did not know, for certain, that I was strong enough to go on.  That I have the faith I need, and know who I am.

Beautiful spirit.  Beautiful goat.  Treasure of my heart, my gratitude will never cease.

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My Song

This song of mine will wind its music around you, my child, like

the fond arms of love.

    This song of mine will touch your forehead like a kiss of

blessing.

    When you are alone it will sit by your side and whisper in

your ear, when you are in the crowd it will fence you about with

aloofness.

    My song will be like a pair of wings to your dreams, it will

transport your heart to the verge of the unknown.

    It will be like the faithful star overhead when dark night is

over your road.

    My song will sit in the pupils of your eyes, and will carry

your sight into the heart of things.

    And when my voice is silent in death, my song will speak in

your living heart.

– Rabindranath Tagore

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Hootenanny’s Silence

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Here I am again.

It’s not a bad place to be.  It’s kind of beautiful, although there is a longing in me as well… a sadness at my own frailty…my inability to solidify what I sense and see and hear beyond the physical realm.  I know she’s not that far away.  I can feel her here next to me, just beyond the veil. But I can’t see her anymore–I can’t touch her.  I hear her voice, but it has an ethereal quality to it, not like the laughing bleat of her earthly voice.

Hootenanny is gone.

After thirteen years by my side, my naughty little goat has crossed from this plane to the next, and I can’t see her anymore.  I will never catch her butting defenseless roosters, bullying horses out of their food, sticking her tongue out at the pigs as she refuses to let them enter their own house, gleefully eating produce freshly donated by Wegman’s, playing tricks on volunteers as she follows them around “supervising” their work, or sleeping peacefully after a long day of mischief in a soft pile of hay, her head resting on her beloved Ruckus.

I never believed in the maxim that we shouldn’t speak ill of the dead.  Hootenanny was a naughty goat, sometimes even a bully, and I plan to speak of her that way.  I loved her maddening antics.  I can’t tell you how many times Hootenanny outsmarted me over the years, and I found myself running in circles as she dodged and jumped and narrowly escaped me while I tried in vain to get her to go hang out with the other goats and stop harassing the rest of the peaceful animals at Indraloka.

I remember one time, about five years ago, there was a teenaged boy cleaning the barn.  I went to check on him, and found Hootenanny, a broom in her mouth, chasing him around the barn!  Shaking with suppressed laughter, instead of coming to his rescue, I quietly backed out to get my camera.  Alas, by the time I returned, the volunteer had managed to get his broom back and was busily trying to pull Hootennany’s head out of the feed bin, where she was gorging on sweet feed.

So you see, she was not a good goat.  And she was certainly not a gentle goat.  Hootenanny was a funny, fierce, stubborn, clever, naughty goat.  A goat not easily forgotten.  That was my girl.  My maddening, ridiculous, lovable little instigator.

A few months ago, Hootenanny fell ill.  Despite the valiant efforts of a team of vets and round-the-clock care here at the sanctuary, she fell into a vicious cycle, improving slightly for a few days, and then coming down with new symptoms over and over again, growing weaker every time.  Ruckus, her best friend and lifelong companion, spent many an hour grooming and comforting her.  Their love for one another was complete, all-encompassing, and unconditional.

On the first full day of spring, in the quiet of the afternoon as the cows and horses napped in the breeze, Hootenanny called me to her side.  She fell silent as I knelt beside her, collapsing in my arms.  Bent over her with my arms beneath her head, we made close eye contact as I said, “It’s okay, baby.  I love you.”

The Anishinaabe death song welled up from deep inside me.  The Anishinaabe people say that during the fourth stanza of the death song, the spirit crosses to the star world.  And if the eagle comes soon after, we know that her spirit has safely arrived.

I looked her in the eye, cradled her gently, and sang with love, concentrating on her ease and comfort through my tears.  As the song began, her eyes flickered for just a moment with her old spark.  At the fourth stanza, the light in her eyes faded and her spirit gently lifted out of her body.  I cried a bit more and laid her to rest.

Less than an hour later, an eagle swooped down all the way to the barn door, circled the pastures a few times, and then flew high into the sky, fading from sight.


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