Last week I said goodbye to my dear friend Sputnik. I did not expect to lose him so soon. Sputnik’s legs weren’t straight. In 2017 I took him to CSU to have his joints x-rayed because they were not aligned correctly. The vets thought his tendons were contracted. We hoped they would eventually stretch down, and they did a little bit, but it was never enough to give him flexible joints. He was always stiff-legged and a little bit clumsy, but he loved to work and he was not sore, so we didn’t limit his activities in any way. Our long trek through Death Hollow in 2019 changed all of that. Sputnik came away from the adventure with a lot of pain in his lower front legs and especially in the right front. A few days’ break and some anti-inflammatory medication set him right again, but it was the beginning of his winding down.
Our trip to South Dakota in September 2021 was Sputnik’s last. Although he loved being out on the trail, he was sore most of the week. He avoided the trail whenever possible, preferring to walk on the softer grass to the side. We took it easy on him but he was slow and needed frequent breaks.
Sputnik’s last big event was the Christmas parade in December 2021. I gave him painkillers a few hours before and he did a grand job pulling our carriage alongside Finn, but he was limping by the end. He went well through the winter and I hoped that he would be fine as a pasture ornament and occasional carriage puller for the next couple of years. Unfortunately it was not to be. Sputnik’s limp got progressively worse as the weather turned warm, and when June rolled around he began to go downhill rapidly. In the course of just three weeks he went from happily limping around the yard to barely walking on his right front leg at all. He could no longer keep up with the herd. Medication did not stop the daily worsening of his condition. The lameness rapidly became so severe it began affecting the rest of his body. So on June 23rd–one week after Sputnik’s 8th birthday–we quietly laid him to rest and buried him beside his mother, Petunia, who also died untimely in January 2020.
Sputnik was a unique and brilliant individual with a devotion to learning new tricks. Words cannot encompass all that he was, so I will post my favorite photos throughout the years and our many adventures together. Sputnik’s life may have been short, but it was cram-jammed with travel and excitement. One thing I can say for certain is that Sputnik never led a dull life. And this is how I choose to remember him…
June 16th, 2014. My first difficult delivery. Sputnik was the second born kid and before his head was fully out he had his name. I’ve often been asked where I came up with that name and I can’t say. He was just born with it. I found out years later that it means “fellow traveler.”
In October I tattooed ears and the green ink smeared in a rainstorm. It was suitably ghoulish for the season.
Sputnik loved performing tricks. Here he is showing off at the Weld County Goat Extravaganza in April 2015.
Sputnik’s first trip to Utah in September 2015.
I had just taught Sputnik how to give kisses. We had a romantic moment under the pictographs at The Window in the San Rafael Swell.
We followed it up with a trip to Escalante where Sputnik learned to carry a packsaddle.
Calf Canyon Falls, Escalante, UT.
Jumping parking barriers at the Yule Log Festival in Beulah, CO. The Yule Log Festival became an annual tradition for us.
Hiking Graneros Gorge near Colorado City, CO in spring 2016. For such a wildly spotted goat, Sputnik had a rare talent for blending in perfectly with the background.
2016 was the summer we taught the boys to drive. So we drove to Dairy Queen one hot summer day after the County Fair and took advantage of the drive-thru window.
Sputnik helped teach the kids at the packgoat competition at the Pueblo County Fair. He was always very patient with them.
Teaching kids how to drive a team of goats at the Fair.
Climbing Uncompahgre Peak near Lake City, CO in late September, 2016.
I made a practice of having Sputnik jump over or through unusual things.
Bartlett Trail near Rye, CO in October 2016.
Hauling in the Christmas tree December 2016.
We finished off 2016 with a local hike to a frozen waterfall near San Isabel.
Sputnik was the hero of the hike when I attached a leash to the back of his saddle so he could pull three women up a steep, icy slope.
Sputnik and I enjoy a pleasant afternoon drive in early 2017.
Sputnik all duded up in his Easter finery. He was always a hit pulling the kids around in his cart at the community Easter egg hunt.
In June 2017 I hosted the North American Packgoat Association (NAPgA) Rendezvous in Lake City, CO. Sputnik was one of the celebrities at the event. One of my fondest memories of Sputnik is of remembering his face in the rearview mirror of my truck. He would crane his neck out to the side, lift his face into the wind, and let it blow through his beard and flap his ears wildly around his head.
We climbed Uncompahgre Peak at the NAPgA Rendy. Sputnik was worn out at the top! Here his is taking a break at 14,320 feet above sea level.
Farmer Nan and Rooster Sputnik taking first prize at the Colorado State Fair goat costume contest. Sputnik was a very patient soul!
The International Goat Days Festival in Millington, TN was the pinnacle of Sputnik’s career as a harness goat. I dressed as Juno, Greek goddess of the hunt (or was it war?) who is sometimes depicted driving a goat-drawn chariot.
Sputnik won the famous Goat Days chariot race, edging Finn out by a neck!
After Tennessee, we traveled down to Arkansas where we posed on the famous Hawksbill Crag.
We spent a day tromping down the Buffalo National River and hung out on this big tree.
That was the same trip where a spider spun a web between Sputnik’s horns.
This is one of my favorite pictures of Sputnik. He was a very solemn-looking goat with his noble Roman nose and beard. The line of headstones in this deserted graveyard near a ghost town suited Sputnik’s serious personality.
We stopped in Tulsa, OK on the way home to visit scenes from Weird Al Yankovik’s 1989 move, “UHF.” Sputnik took a long drink out of this lovely fountain.
Viking princess warrior in her goat chariot at the Rye Homecoming parade in 2017! Sputnik was the perfect proud, prancing steed!
Big as he was, Sputnik had a talent for standing on very small objects.
I drove Sputnik to the bank one day. A friend’s young packgoat-in-training tagged along for the adventure.
Rodney was way too big to actually ride Sputnik, but we figured he could sit up there just for this one photo op. Sputnik didn’t seem to mind–in fact, I think he liked the attention.
Sometimes Sputnik was a goofball.
In March 2018, Phil and I took the boys to Missouri. We stopped at a carriage shop in Jasper where they had these enormous Shire statues. Sputnik was alarmed by the giant fake horses!
Earth Day 2018. We picked up a shocking amount of garbage along Boulder Ave. outside of Rye!
In June 2018 we stopped in Utah on our way to the NAPgA Rendezvous in Idaho so we could visit our friend Herb. We loved these bright yellow and purple rocks!
The drought in early 2018 was intense and the Spring Fire (one of the largest in Colorado history) was roaring less than an hour south of us, filling the sky with smoke and ash. I bathed and clipped the boys for the 4th of July parade and took some glamour shots in the odd light.
We debuted our fancy new carriage at the Westcliffe 4th of July parade that year!
In late July, 2018, the floodgates opened and Colorado turned green again. Tragically, I lost my horse Jet to a lightning strike during one of those intense storms. For months I’d been planning to attend an “all-women’s pack trip” in the Mount Massive Wilderness near Aspen with the editor of Pack Animal Magazine. Because of Jet’s devastating loss only two days before, I almost canceled my plans. I’m so glad I didn’t! Sputnik was a total Boss on this trip! He carried a 48 lb. pack and was eager to do it!
At the end of August Phil and I drove the boys and their carriage in the Colorado State Fair Parade.
The boys made a lovely turnout, but the long wait during lineup was exhausting!
That fall Phil and I took a trip to Taos, NM. We stopped at Wheeler National Monument near Creede, CO on our way there. What a unique place it is!
Sputnik and I took a break on a hiking trail overlooking Taos.
Snow fell the night before our last hike in Taos. This is one of my other favorite pictures of Sputnik. The aspen leaves lying on the freshly fallen snow were breathtakingly beautiful, and Sputnik blended perfectly with the backdrop.
Sputnik and Finn became traditional fixtures at the annual Beulah Yule Log Festival. It was expected for them to wear their harnesses and help drag the Yule Log back to the pavillion after it was discovered from its hiding place in the woods.
2019 was a Banner Year. Phil and I took the boys to Texas in April where we hosted a small NAPgA Rendezvous and visited my relatives. Sputnik showed off his tricks for my family.
My grandfather’s wife, Dominique, took a cart ride around their yard.
I had a hard time persuading my grandfather, Charles, to take a ride, but Sputnik finally managed to persuade him.
Charles and Dominique’s yard was full of tasty green things to eat! Mmm!
During the Texas trip we stopped at a nursing home where my aunt’s mother Peggy lived. She grew up with goats and always said they were her favorite animal. While there, Sputnik gave rides not only to Peggy but also to the other residents in the home.
And he entertained the crowd with his tricks, as always.
Sputnik introduced our friend Connie Losee to goat driving at the Texas Rendy.
The main NAPgA Rendy was held in Wyoming in June that year.
I set up an obstacle course and Sputnik showed everyone how it was done!
Strangely, Sputnik was one of the only goats I knew that liked baths. He loved to have the water sprayed directly into his face.
We took friends hiking to a local arch that summer. Sputnik carried everyone’s picnic lunches and helped tow some of the older folks up the big hill near the end.
In September 2019 we went back to Ferron, UT and met up with friends from Washington state and their packgoats. Taffy and her faithful and beloved friend, Bourbon, are in the back. Sadly, Bourbon passed away in the prime of his life like Sputnik.
Skillfully navigating the rock formations in Goblin Valley, UT.
We camped out in the San Rafael Swell and hiked to The Window on this trip, just as we’d done in 2015.
Another photo under the pictographs. My, how Sputnik grew since the last time!
Sputnik was very good at helping me down steep slopes. He always held steady so I could use him for an anchor.
Exploring Little Wild Horse Canyon.
After we left the Swell, we traveled south to Escalante where we hiked up the Escalante River.
Only a minute after this photo was taken, and less than 15 feet from the spot where he’s standing, Sputnik stepped in quicksand and sank immediately up to his chest. He couldn’t move and Phil and I worked frantically to remove his packs so we could pull him out.
The greatest adventure I ever had with Sputnik was the time we got lost in Death Hollow. The camera was waterlogged that day so there were no photographs of that beautiful place, and the goats marched admirably for much longer than they should’ve had to. When we climbed out the next day and continued our trek back toward Escalante, Sputnik’s feet were bothering him. Nevertheless, he plodded steadily along, carrying his saddle and our tent without complaint.
Sputnik matching the scenery as usual…
The bacon zone at Bighorn Canyon!
Sputnik discovered a love of Gatorade on that trip!
Sputnik’s last Yule Log Festival. The pandemic canceled festivities in 2020 and 2021.
But it was a very enjoyable last Yule Log Festival. Sputnik tried every variety of goodie from the cookie table, and he even got his own cup of wassail (which he LOVED!)!
Sputnik helped me haul logs that winter. Look how proud he was!
2020 was an odd year for everyone and ours was no exception. But in September 2020 we visited our friend Herb in Ferron, UT and we had a great time hiking the formations in his neck of the woods. It was our best adventure with Herb ever!
“Goodie, please? Goodie-goodie-goodie?”
Blending in again as usual.
Phil and I ended that trip by stopping off at Rattlesnake Arches in Fruita, CO. Sputnik was exhausted after Ferron and became very footsore, but by the time we realized he was too lame to hike, we’d gone too far and there was nothing to do but press on around the loop. His usual enthusiasm wasn’t there so the trip was difficult and not nearly as fun as expected. Still, it was a beautiful place and I’d like to go back and remember it how Sputnik would have liked to enjoy it–without sore feet.
January 2021 after-Christmas party!
The community Easter egg hunt was cancelled in 2020, and it was modified in 2021. There were no Easter eggs and no goat cart rides, but we filled the goats’ packs with bags of candy to hand out to the kids as their parents drove them through the park. Sputnik was a big hit.
In September 2021, Sputnik took his final road trip. We traveled to South Dakota, stopping on the way give the goats a break at a city park in Nebraska.
Sputnik enjoyed the hiking, but he laid down to rest his feet at every opportunity. He couldn’t bear to see the other goats get saddled and not wear one himself, so I saddled him up each morning but I didn’t tell him his panniers were empty.
A rare moment with Sputnik in the lead.
Finn became kinder toward Sputnik as Sputnik’s lameness became more prominent. They spent more time lying down together and less time with Finn bossing Sputnik around.
We had a last mini-Rendezvous with some other goatpackers in Slim Buttes, SD. It was Sputnik’s last hoorah and he did very well for himself. He still managed to outpack several other goats on the trip even on our extra-long day hike. But there would be no trip afterwards. Our next adventure was in Utah and I knew the slickrock would be murder on his poor feet. He’d earned his retirement, even if it was early.
Goodbye, dear friend, my faithful “fellow traveler.” May your feet be sound and pain-free as you hike on in the next life.