Monthly Archives: April 2017

And Life Goes On…

The best thing about having lots of animals is that they don’t let you wallow in grief over the ones you’ve lost. No sooner had we laid Cuzco to rest and wiped the dirt from our hands than the rest of the herd was clamoring to be let out of their pen and taken for a walk.

Goat stampede!!

The goats always know when I’m carrying my goody pouch!

Miss Tigerlily is carrying her pregnancy very well. Much like her grandmother Lilly, she barely looks like she’s expecting. But there’s a tell-tale bit of warmth and swelling in her udder area, so we’re guessing she has to have at least one in there. Smile

Phil and I call these clouds with rays falling through them “Jesus clouds” because they look like those paintings of Christ’s resurrection or return. Very fitting for the day Cuzco went to heaven. I don’t think the goats noticed or cared.

This middle-aged gray gelding named Jet was once the little black colt who started it all. I had no horse companions for our expected foal to frolic with (other than his exhausted mother) so Phil and I went on the hunt for a suitable goat companion that would be there for him when he was born. And that’s when we found Cuzco. Jet and Cuzco were fast friends until Jet grew up and joined a proper horse herd, and Cuzco grew up and joined me and Phil’s “people herd”.

Sometimes I feel like the Pied Piper but with goats in my entourage instead of children (and with this outfit, I think it’s appropriate!)

Royal Responsibilities

The herd has been going through a little bit of adjustment with Cuzco gone, but because Cuzco wisely passed leadership to Finn beforehand, there haven’t been too many ripples. There has been more head-butting between Finn and Sputnik, and the goats have been wilder on our walks lately, but no real disruptions.

But the power transition has not been completely seamless. The other day Phil and I watched through the window while a hilarious spectacle unfolded in our front pasture. Petunia (our herd queen) was really picking a fight with Jezebel (the lowest member of our herd). Jezebel looked like she’d rather not have any part of this altercation, but Petunia wouldn’t leave her alone (which is unusual–Petunia is typically one of the more laid-back personalities in our herd). Finn, feeling the burden of his new position as herd king, saw his clear duty to step in and break up the fight. Sadly for Finn, Petunia didn’t recognize her younger brother’s authority and refused to stand down. Finn kept running into the fray and trying run Petunia off, but she would turn and hit him back or circle around behind him and come at Jezebel from the other side.

Since Finn couldn’t run Petunia off, he instead tried to engage her in a fight with himself. That’s when Sputnik got involved. Petunia is Sputnik’s mother and the two of them have remained very close. Petunia keeps Sputnik on as a kind of bodyguard, and when Petunia is in trouble Sputnik is always the first to run to her aid. Finn was partially successful at drawing Petunia off to fight with himself until Sputnik came charging in to rescue his mommy.

Now all three goats were going hard at it until Petunia took off running full blast across the pasture and out of sight. Finn panicked. His herd was dispersed and he didn’t know what to do! He ran calling after Petunia, but about halfway across the field he stopped and looked back at the rest of the herd. Should he leave them? Were they safe without him? But what about Petunia?? The herd must not be separated! Finn began running back and forth between Petunia and the herd, calling and cavorting angrily. Eventually Sputnik went to retrieve Petunia, but Finn couldn’t let Sputnik act in a leadership capacity alone, so he continued racing back and forth between the two factions, brandishing his horns in frustration while the hair stood up on his back. He’s definitely taking his new leadership role very seriously!

Cuzco was usually more content to sit back and watch from a distance. If a fight needed breaking up the only thing he had to do was step toward the offending parties and give them a “look” and the fight was immediately over. Finn clearly has some proving up to do. Right now I think the herd is viewing him as a sort of Barney Fife, but luckily Finn does not usually overplay his hand so I think they’ll start taking him seriously before too long. There’s also a kind of dual kingship going on with Finn and Sputnik. Finn is undoubtedly the more dominant of the two, but they have become fast friends and are sharing a shed, sharing the feeder, and largely sharing responsibility for the herd. I think Finn is trying to avoid a direct confrontation with Sputnik because Sputnik is currently the bigger and heavier of the two and he also has the herd queen on his side. Finn seems to know that if he gets too pushy those two will rebel and dethrone him. Finn is a wise goat who I think will choose his battles carefully once he gets used to this new role of his.


I can’t believe it’s been a week. Our final day with Cuzco was a beautiful one and I took lots of photos. Cuzco came onto the patio for a few powdered donuts and I made sure to get a shot of his face in the doorway. This is the eagerly expectant look that greeted me every morning at feeding time for many years. Cuzco always got fed first, and he always ate on the patio where the other goats couldn’t pester him. There are a lot of Cuzco noseprints on this window!

“Mmm… donut! Gimme gimme donut!!”


Cuzco also ate a lot of peanuts that day. They’re not as good as donuts, but they’re still yummy.

Beautiful, noble goat. Cuzco always did know how to strike a pose.

“Got an itch! Got an itch! Got an itch!”

My two handsome boys.

We didn’t go far and we walked very slowly, but Cuzco seemed to really enjoy his final stroll through the pasture. He spent time grazing the soft spring grass in the dappled light and shadows beneath the pine trees. He couldn’t chew it very well, but I’m sure it tasted good.

I will never again be able to eat Pringles without thinking of Cuzco. These were his favorite. He ate almost the entire can in one sitting. Pringles are a very rare treat around here, but I have a feeling I’ll be buying a few more cans than usual this summer. Great… a yummy, expensive feel-good food just became irresistible! “This is your fault, Cuzco!”       

Cuzco’s final resting place. His baby portrait is carved at the top of the totem pole.

“Fare thee well, old friend”

Today we said goodbye to our old friend Cuzco. I gave him a final grooming, and we put the other goats away so Phil and I could take him for a last short walk with us all to himself as he’s always preferred. He couldn’t go far. He was so tired. He had a wonderful last day. He ate four powdered donuts and the remains of last night’s popcorn full of butter and cheese dust. He got to lick the bowl clean. He ate many peanuts and animal crackers on our walk, and he finished up with almost an entire can of cheddar Pringles. He was a happy goat right up to the end. It was truly a sign when we came back from our walk that Cuzco stopped at his own graveside and waited there while Phil and I went on across the pasture and up to the house to retrieve a few things for his burial. I’m sure he knew, but he was ready and, true to form, he wasn’t afraid. Cuzco cheated death so many times in his fifteen years that I guess by now he had nothing left to prove. He reminded me of “The Tale of Three Brothers” in the book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows–“And then he greeted Death as an old friend, and went with him gladly, and, equals, they departed this life.”

Also true to form, he gave us a perfect Hollywood exit. Cuzco has never graced the Silver Screen, but if any goat deserved a star on the Walk of Fame, it’s him. He lay down, leaned his face against mine, and when our vet gave him the injection he simply went to sleep. There was not a gasp or a groan, not a shudder or a flinch. I felt his last breath hit my cheek and then his head fell softly into my lap where he lay still while his heart gave it’s final few beats. And I am reminded of yet another Harry Potter quote: “…death is like going to bed after a very, very long day.” Cuzco set his affairs in order when he passed the leadership baton to Finn, and there was nothing left for him to do.

I left his collar and ID tag on him. I figured that way when he got to Heaven they’d know he belongs to us and won’t send him the other direction for being ornery and growling at Saint Peter. Even if he has to stay in “unclaimed baggage” for a while, at least they know we’ll pick him up eventually. I also left him with the remainders of the can of Pringles so he can snack along the way. Yeah, I know it’s all very silly, but it felt better than hauling that stuff back to the house with me and then having to look at it. Cuzco had sneezed in the Pringles can anyway so they were all his.

Cuzco is laid to rest under our totem pole. His baby portrait is carved at the top. When we look out the window or come up our driveway we’ll see his marker and be reminded of all the wonderful, happy times we had together. I’ll never forget my “Cuzco the One-Horned Wonder Goat”. He’ll always be larger than life, like the goat version of John Wayne. It’s been very hard to let him go, but it was the right thing to do. He was ready, and as he gently passed from this life I could almost hear him whisper “Thank you.”

This was our last photo together.

“Cuzco’s Campfire”

Last night’s campfire really couldn’t have been more perfect. It was warm enough for me to wear shorts but cool enough I wanted a jacket–exactly the temperature I like at a campfire. There was not a breath of wind all evening. Last night Phil started the fire before I brought Cuzco out. We didn’t want another goat flambeau disaster. No “Cuzco Crisp” at this campfire, if you please! We brought him out after the paper was burned up but the new fire smoke was still rolling. He spent some time, as always, taking in the vapors.

Although it was “Cuzco’s” campfire, there was a limit to our hospitality. I brought the squirt gun so we could keep the old fella at bay whenever the cooler was open. Phil and I wanted at least SOME of the buns and graham crackers for ourselves. Besides, when Cuzco goes on a junk food frenzy, he doesn’t exercise much caution. The line between comestibles and garbage is forgotten and Cuzco will inhale any box, bag, wrapper, or bottle that comes between his mouth and the goodies. Although Cuzco has always prided himself on his stomach of iron, I can’t imagine such a smorgasbord would be good for his digestion.

“No, you don’t like hot dogs, Cuzco!”

“Well, I don’t know. I haven’t tried this particular hot dog before!”

“Cuzco, get off my hot dog!”

“Are you sure I don’t like hot dogs? Just because I haven’t liked them for fifteen years doesn’t mean I won’t like them tonight!”

Cuzco has always begged for a s’more, but he’s never been allowed to taste more than a small piece of mine. A good s’more is too much work to feed to a goat! But last night was a special occasion and Cuzco isn’t just any goat. For the first time in his life, I made him a s’more for his very own. It was ooey-gooey with melty chocolate and a perfectly toasted marshmallow that was crisped on the outside and liquid in the middle. Cuzco put the finishing touches on it himself. Like any over-excited kid getting his first s’more, he immediately dropped it into the ashes. He dove toward the campfire to retrieve it but Phil held him back while I fished it out for him. I picked out a few embers and sticks but Cuzco snatched it out of my hands before I could quite finish de-ashing it. Oh well, charcoal is standard seasoning at any campfire and it’s good for the digestion. Cuzco swallowed the thing whole and a big gooey gob of marshmallow dripped down the side of his chin. He spent the rest of the evening trying only somewhat successfully to lick it off.

He also got to hear some fiddle tunes.

Toward the end he stood braced against my chair for balance. I tried to convince him to lay down because his knees were buckling and his hind end was swaying, but he preferred to lean on me instead. I liked having his sticky, knobby old head in my lap anyway. It was a good campfire.

Easter Goats!

Every year our community has a big day-before-Easter party with an appearance by the Easter Bunny, an Easter egg hunt, and other games for the kids. When the weather is nice Phil and I try to bring a goat or two and the cart down so the kids can ride. Last time we did it was in 2015 (we got snowed out last year), and Pac-Man was our cart goat of honor. This year it was Sputnik!

His yellow and white horn wraps with the purple halter looked appropriately festive for the season. We’ve always had trouble figuring out what to do with the reins on these occasions. The kids love being able to hold them, but of course I can’t have them pulling my goat’s head around. I’ve always hooked them to the neck strap instead of the halter, but the kids can still slap them up and down on the goat’s back. My other goats never really noticed this so I’ve not worried about it too much unless the kids were slapping too hard or too often. But Sputnik is very sensitive to rein slaps and I want to keep him that way. So I fastened the reins to the top rail with a clove hitch and it was perfect! Most of the kids still didn’t realize the reins were only decorative. This also kept the reins off the ground. Usually the kids drop them in the dirt when they get out and I’m constantly having to go back and pick them up. Not this time!

Sputnik was awesome at the job. It walked him once or twice around the area to make sure he was calm and he only jumped once and balked twice before he got in the groove. He was a little hesitant about leaving Finn at first, but he soon realized that he was ok without his buddy.

I love the flowers on the back of the cart.

“Good job, Sputnik!”

Phil brought Finn down so the kids would have a goat to pet. It’s always been a little difficult doing these things with just one goat because half the kids want to ride and the other half want to pet so it can get very crowded around the goat and difficult to start off safely. So Finn got to be our “meet and greet” front man while Sputnik did the grunt work.

After the event I took the boys into the field for some nice close-ups while their festive horn wraps were still in place. Both boys’ personalities have matured and their training is starting to feel really solid.

Sputnik has gotten to be quite a personable fellow recently. I hope it’s a permanent change. He used to be so shy and so averse to being touched or crowded. Now he’s finally coming into my space instead of me always having to come into his. He seems to be perfectly ok with being brushed now too. I could never touch him with a brush without sending him into a panic, but yesterday I brushed him all over and he never flinched or acted worried. Who knows–maybe by summer’s end he might realize he actually kind of likes it.

Finn’s horns are getting a very nice spread to them. There’s a lot more horn to wrap these days! Happily for us, Finn is usually quite careful of his horns and I’ve almost never been poked, prodded, bumped, hooked, or scraped by them. We do have to give him the occasional reminder, but usually when he passes close to a person he tilts his head way over to the side now.

The Best Things in Life are… Donuts!

It’s supposed to be very nice weather all weekend. I’d like to plan a campfire in Cuzco’s honor. For once in his life he can have all the leftover hot dog buns, and I’ll even give him a whole Hershey’s chocolate bar if he wants it (usually he only gets one or two little squares). It will be “Cuzco’s Campfire”.

I bought him a fresh tub of powdered donuts this afternoon. Usually he only gets them when they’re close to expiration and on sale half price (in other words, rarely). Phil and I gave him a few this afternoon. He dropped one in his eagerness to snatch it out of my fingers (grabbing things quickly is tricky for him now that he no longer has teeth in the front). It rolled toward the edge of the patio where the dog was waiting with eager jaws. But Cuzco never lets a donut escape! He dove for that thing like a striking cobra, and unfortunately his greed surpassed his reflexes. His knees buckled and he crashed face-first into the pavement, but by golly he got that donut! I don’t think he cared that he did a face plant. He jumped right back up for another one and then licked my fingers afterwards.

He also felt good enough to go for a walk today. I think those sugary donuts gave him an energy boost because he was more or less able to keep up with us this time. Good ol’ fella. I’m glad he’s still game for a walk. Not being able to go is heartbreaking for all of us.

Final Farewells

The new spring grass is soft and green, but Cuzco has a hard time enjoying it any more. There aren’t many teeth left in his old head, and he’s tired and slow. His swollen old joints ache when he lays down and they ache when he stands up. Moving is slow and painful, and he’s starting to lose his balance. Finn never had to battle for Cuzco’s position at top of the herd. Cuzco’s own body betrayed him and he quietly surrendered the crown without a fight. It’s more merciful this way I suppose. Losing to Finn would have been humiliating. At least this way Cuzco decided when to let Finn take over and he never had to be defeated. Finn is not too mean to the old fellow, but he’s not too nice to him either. Cuzco has some payback coming to him I’m sure, but thankfully Finn is not a cruel goat. Cuzco has been a good example to the young leaders in our herd.

I called my neighbor to come dig a hole. He’ll be here in a few days. As hard as it is, it’s Time. Cuzco has missed three walks in the last week, and we have to go slowly and wait for him when he decides to come. I hate looking back only to see him standing near the house staring longingly after us but unable to muster the strength to come. Cuzco has never missed a walk in his life. Even if all the other goats stayed home, he came. The worst weather never stopped him. But Time has little respect for young feelings trapped in an old body.

Cuzco has been telling me for the last week or two that he is ready. He began by refusing his joint supplement in any form. Lately he’s been largely refusing alfalfa pellets, sweet feed, and sunflower seeds. He picks at the new grass, and he still eats the leafy alfalfa I put in his feeder at night, but he doesn’t act like he’s very interested in most of it. It’s like he’s too tired to be hungry any more. His eyes are still bright and eager for peanuts and any other junk food I want to feed him, but he’s done eating real meals any more. Like my 100-year-old great grandmother, he only wants dessert, and at his age I’m ok with that. I plan to feed him up well on his favorite treats this week. He’s entitled to his own plate of garlic cheese knots from the local pizzeria. I’ll probably buy him a tub of powdered donuts, and I’ll be making him a big bowl of popcorn with butter and cheese dust. We’ll try to make these last few days very good for the old fellow.

I’m sure we could string Cuzco out longer, but at this point he’s still relatively happy and he still has his dignity. I cannot have him get to a point where he starts falling or where he can’t get himself up in the morning. I don’t want Finn or Sputnik to hit him too hard and break something. I’m afraid even a playful knock could do some serious damage, and I don’t want Cuzco to suffer. Right now he can still potter around the pasture picking at grass, and he spends many hours laying contentedly in some warm, sunny hollow. I don’t want to wait until Time takes even these little pleasures away from him. He’s been a good goat for many years and he deserves a good ending. Fifteen is quite a respectable age for any goat. When I think back to how many close calls he’s had in his lifetime, I’m amazed he made it this far. What a trooper!

Some days are just… blech

Yesterday was a fiasco. You know… one reason I didn’t have children is because I didn’t want to get barfed on. I don’t do well with barf. For me, barfing is a group activity and once someone starts I have a hard time not participating.

Last year we somehow managed to escape the dreaded projectile vomiting that seems to strike one of our goats in April. But this year it was Rocky. Phil and I were taking the goats for a walk and I noticed Rocky was making a lot of noise. He was making a soft, grunty “baa” nearly every time he took a step, almost like he had hiccups. Every now and then he would make a louder baa-aa, but he was keeping up fine and didn’t seem distressed. About halfway through the walk, Rocky burst into a run right next to Phil, and as he passed by an enormous explosion of green goo shot from his mouth and nose. It covered the ground around us, splattered Phil’s pants, and (of course) my face. It was horrifying.

We got back to the house and I swilled Rocky’s face and chest with water from the garden hose. I wasn’t about to try medicating him as long as he was covered in that slimy green putrescence! First I gave him a shot of C&D antitoxin. He was surprisingly well behaved for the injection even though I had to give him 10 cc’s.  Next I filled a drenching gun with activated charcoal, straddled the now wildly struggling little monster, and tried to force the nasty black stuff down his gullet. It was a rodeo. Rocky backed, bucked, plunged, threw his head, knocked me into walls and gates, bit my finger, and finally, as a last resort when I wouldn’t get off his back, sent a rocketing cascade of vile, rancid, green slime all over my hands, my pants, and my shoes. I needed help. Phil held Rocky’s backside in place (and got a painful scrape down his calf from a protesting hind hoof for his trouble) while I got the goat’s head back and plunged the charcoal down his throat. A lot of it ended up on my pants and hands and on the goat’s face, but he swallowed some of it and I’m sure it did him some good. At least, he stopped baa-ing pathetically after that and had a good appetite for his dinner. He was right as rain this morning. I’m not sure my pants or shoes will ever be quite the same. I hosed myself down before venturing into the house. I don’t like things that barf on me. I avoided joining in the activity this time, but Rocky should be careful. If he ever barfs on me again I might return the favor!

Little stinker…

Darth Vader’s Barnyard Fashion Statement