Friday, February 27, 2009

Andy The Goat, 2001 - 2009


Andy spent every day out in pasture with his friends. To the left is Odie; Half Pint is the black horse in the background. That's Argus in the center.

ANDY THE GOAT died suddenly Wednesday morning, quietly bringing to an end our eight-year odyssey with a goat who truly believed he was a horse.

Years ago, a local cattle rancher brought me a tiny baby goat, orphaned after his mother was killed by a mountain lion. She had named him "Orphan Andy." He fit in the palm of my hand, and for weeks, we took turns bottle feeding him.

Metamorphosed by love and good pasture, Andy grew into a strapping young man, tipping the scales at 180 pounds. Andy became an escape artist, prompting the installation of thousands of dollars of new fencing. He killed a couple of young trees along the way, and once, in a daring escape, managed to decimate my heirloom rose collection. We joked that Andy's nickname was "You F$%#@&G Goat!" Love and frustration filled my veins in those early days of goatkeeping.

Andy learned that he could open stall door latches with his lips. He once let six horses out of their stalls. I came home to the entire equine population running around the barnyard. Of course, Andy had opened the feedroom door as well, prompting a grain-bin raid. Fortunately, I arrived home in time to curtail any damage to equine or property.

When Andy's goat companion, Billy Bob, died several years ago, he was left alone. Last summer, I decided that he was lonely and would be happier living with my neighbor's goat herd. I dragged Andy down the road, assuring him he'd love being with his own kind. He eyed the strange creatures suspiciously, refused to get near them, then jumped the five foot fence and ran for home. I put him back with the horse herd and never mentioned goats to him again.

Andy loved the horses and truly seemed to feel he was one of them. He particularly loved Half Pint the Percheron, who was always careful not to step on his friend, and who went out of his way to share with Andy any treat that came his way. Half Pint guarded Andy in the pasture, and when frightened, Andy would run and hide between Half Pint's legs.

At night, Andy, having been turned out with the horses for the day, returned to the safety of the barn, where he bedded down in a stall and paddock with Odie the Mule. Odie, not as starry-eyed as Half Pint in his relationship with Andy, nevertheless treated the goat kindly. Each evening, the two, with half-closed eyes, shared a mound of hay pellets. Afterward, Andy would settle down in the corner of the stall, in a special mound of straw just for him.

The rest of the horses barely put up with Andy. A few, Argus and Ridge included, openly disliked him, sending him dirty looks and the occasional hoof raised in threat.

Lately, Andy, who tested positive last year for Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE is a common joint and lung disease in goats), had been coughing at night and wasn't usual perky self. Dr. Miller, who also treats goats, was summoned. On Monday, he examined Andy, noting a muffled-sounding heart.

Still, Andy seemed happy and energetic enough to drag me around the stall as I attempted to restrain him. Half Pint the Percheron stood nearby during the exam, looking mildly amused.

Treatment and drugs were discussed. We talked about lungworm and pneumonia and heart problems in goats. A plan was made, drugs dispensed, and Tuesday evening I bid goodnight to Andy, happily munching his late evening treat with Odie at his side.

It was to be our last time together.

Sometime around 9:00 am on Wednesday, between the early morning feed and my mid-morning appearance to clean stalls and school horses, Andy was called home. I found him at 10:30, lying on his side in the stall, still very warm, so shortly gone from his body that it took my stethoscope to convince me that Andy was truly dead.

Alone in the barn, save for the frightened mule who had just witnessed his friend's death, I allowed my shock and sadness to overtake me, shedding loud tears over Andy's lifeless body, saying over and over "Oh Andy, I'm so sorry!"

The mule watched me from the paddock, his huge brown eyes wide with questions. Was he grieving? Shocked? Sad? Confused? Had he sensed this coming in the days prior, as I had? Odie had refused daytime turnout, instead staying in the paddock with Andy on Monday and Tuesday.

I took Odie out of the paddock, and brought Half Pint in. He approached the goat carefully, almost in disbelief. Using his big meaty nose, Half Pint lifted Andy's triangular head off the ground, over and over and over. He seemed to be trying to wake him up. Half Pint is known for these antics when he's been taken to say goodbye to horse friend's body. He once climbed on top of our old mare's body and half lay down on her.

Half Pint really did love Andy. He put up with him like no other horse here ever has, strange considering that Half Pint is not particularly gentle. He stood for a long time with Andy's body, nudging him and breathing into his nose. Then, he took a big deep sigh and walked away. "I'm really sorry you've lost your buddy," I offered. He regarded me with a pained expression as he retreated to the farthest corner of the paddock to sun himself.

I'm long past wondering if animals grieve. I've seen it too many times to doubt that they have relationships and connections that transcend our limited understanding. Watching Half Pint and Odie cope with the loss of Andy this week, I have no doubt that they miss him tremendously.

Late that afternoon, Dr. Miller reappeared, this time wielding gloves, two hunting knives, and a serious pair of tree pruners which would, under different circumstances, have had me green with a gardener's envy. I'd asked him to do a necropsy on Andy, the first time I've ever had a necropsy done on one of my animals. I'd decided I could not bear, this time around, to cope with the haunting mystery of death. I wanted to know why.

"Are you sure you're OK? I rarely do this with a client present," said the vet as he prepared for the necropsy. I was strangely OK about being present for it, feeling as though I was honoring Andy by bearing witness to this last chapter of his existence.

I had carefully laid Andy's body out on a sheet of plywood, next to a large grave half filled with water due to recent rains and high groundwater. The vet eyed the watery grave dubiously, then began his job. Inside Andy, a universe of life unfolded, stunning me with its unforgettable landscape: The bold crimson liver; the delicate, winding intestines; the sea anemone bladder. A bright green river of liquified stomach contents spilled across the plywood and into the grass, unable to resist the strong pull back to earth.

Dr. Miller removed the bladder, inverted it, and held it on the tip of his finger, pronouncing it "very healthy. No stones or sediment!" I felt a surge of pride. I'd always been careful not to feed Andy anything that could lead to bladder stones --- a common cause of problems in male goats.

Next came one lung, a healthy and delicate shell pink, surprising us both. I'd expected it to be diseased, or full of lungworm, but it was beautiful. I held it in my hand, surprised by how light it was, like a marshmallow. The vet finished examining it, then tossed it into the grave, where it floated on the murky water.

So far, a healthy goat, save for some impressive stores of fat for which the vet shamelessly chastised me. Though I'd not realized it, Andy was fatter than he should have been. Ruminants also store fat around their organs.

Finally, Dr. Miller arrived at Andy's heart, his tell-tale deep sigh making me instantly privy to the cause of death. "It's huge," he said. "It's what you'd call an enlarged heart." A normal heart should be the size of a softball. Andy's was at least three times its normal size and was the size of his head. It was pitifully abnormal in every way. Even to my layman's eye, the heart looked gray and sick and incompetent. It was surrounded by fluid; the sack that cradled the heart was in turn surrounded by a thick layer of fat. I was astonished that Andy's heart had worked at all.

Andy died of congestive heart failure. Dr. Miller assured me his death had been quick, but it pained me that I had not been there with Andy to comfort him as he exited this life.

My dear goat, once so tiny that he fit into the palm of my hand, had held my heart for eight wonderful years. In the end, I held his heart, so fragile and diseased it literally crumbled into pieces in my hands. I am honored to have known Andy, who joined us suddenly and left us just as suddenly, making me all the more aware of my own mortality and the incredible force of life that lies within us all.

Orphan Andy, 2001 to 2009




Netherfieldmom said...

So sorry for you. Great pictures--goats are unique and amazing in that uniqueness. I enjoyed your post, although sad for your loss.

CTG Ponies said...

So sorry to hear about Andy but he had the best life in your care.

Holly said...

another eloquent testimony to a life well loved.

God speed Andy...

Unfiltered Meghan said...

I'm very sorry for your loss. For me, losing a pet is the same as losing a human family member.

You always write the loveliest eulogies. I'm sure he knows.

cdncowgirl said...

I'm so sorry for your loss Katie.

Amy said...

sorry. that was really really tough. it is so nice to read your blog and your love of the animals, big and small. so often i read these people who raise goats, breeding and then killing. how can that be? and then i read your post and know that goats too are loved for life.

Michelle said...

Awww geeez, I'm so sorry :-( Give Half Pint a hug for me, please.

Anonymous said...

ohhh Katie, I'm sorry. Your last blog was so full of hope and happiness that Argus was finally getting better - and now, how sad...

It sounds like Orphan Andy had a great life - a little bit fat, but very, very happy. A little bit deluded (in believing himself a horse), but very, very loved.

It's natural for animals to want to die 'alone', so don't feel too bad for not being with him, Andy probably needed it that way. And what a great decision to find out exactly what was ended his life; it sounds like his poor heart was all spent.

Katie, you're writing is extraordinary; it's easy to see why that little girl in a previous post felt like she knew you - you write from your heart and so show us your amazing kindness, generosity and compassion - I hope I can live even half way up to the standard you set. Thank you.

Mom said...

You were blessed to have each other for such a long time. Andy had an excellent life. While you and his horse and mule friends are grieving, Andy is already in another beautiful pasture. I have been through this process a number of times but I have never read such an eloquent description. I am humbled by your ability to view a necropsy in such a beautiful manner. May God ease your pain, all of you.

Anonymous said...

Dear Katie--my heart aches for you and your herd, and for Andy, who is at peace now. Loss is not easy for two-leggeds, nor for four. But how great that you both had the opportunity to love each other---and that you can remember the "good times".


excaliber813 said...

Oh Katie,
I am so very sorry for your loss of Andy.

It is through your amazing gift of writing that we are able to see what you see, feel what you feel. You give us the ability to take each of these residents of Watermark Farm into our hearts with ease. You gave Andy the gift of a wonderful, peaceful life.

You are articulate and dignified in conveying, to the smallest of details, the true essence of each and every one of your charges, and how special,in their own individual way, that they touch your heart and soul.

My thoughts and prayers are with you all, extra hugs for Half-pint & Odie.


Anonymous said...

My condolences on your loss. It really doesn't matter what kind of critter they are, they all seem to get inside our hearts. Andy had a great life with you and your ability to describe it and make it real to all of us is a true testament to the love you give to the animals in your care. RIP, Andy.


Claire said...

Just found your blog today via Isobelle Golightly, the Beautiful Goat. I was so sad to hear about Andy and wish you peace in this time of loss. We lost an angora this week who was roughly 6 to 8 months old. She was a rescue from the shelter and they are doing a necropsy for us, but we don't have results yet. I hope her cause of death is as disoverable as Andy's - at least that gives you the knowledge that you could not have done anything differently. Blessings. Claire

Sydney said...

Aww so sorry!!

I love animals that have personality like this. I know of a sheep that thinks it's a horse. Cute thing.

PaintedPromise said...

Farewell Andy... remember it's not goodbye! once again you have brought us right into his life... it's like we knew him too!

Anonymous said...

Katie I am so sorry for the loss of Andy.

Denise- LessIsMore17 said...

I saw this title on another's blogroll and had to come pay respects to your Andy. Such a lucky goat to have been so loved and understood...I had to laugh at your "other" name for him, I think all goats have an "other" name like that.

Hugs to you.

Sarah said...

Katie, I'm so very sorry. He was a very special goat. Big hugs and condolences to you and to Half Pint.

Elliott Elijah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elliott Elijah said...

I'm so sorry you lost your sweet goat.

For me, for some reason, there's a mistery around the enlarged heart - I know it's a medical condition, but I lost a very very dear (human) friend, who happened to be my boyfriend at the time, to an enlarged heart. He was only 22. In humans, its a condition that you have since birth pretty much - I don't know if it's the same in the rest of the animal kingdom.

I just think, in a lot of ways, it's both strange, and strangely fitting, to be able to say you lost someone close to you, because their heart was just too big...

...And I'm not one to try to say that a human relationship is harder to let go than the bond one shares with an animal. I think in many ways they can be equal and in many ways they are different to the point that you cannot compare. I am with you on all accounts; no scientst will be able to make be believe that animals do not form friendships, bonds, or have no regard for death. I have seen it too many times as well, death is not just a fear instinct in animals. Animals understand lonliness and loss.

Anonymous said...

Rest in peace little goat!

Sport's Mom said...

I am so sad for you. This time of year is usually a time of new life with our goats. We breed registered American Saanen dairy goats ( and this time of year is when the kids are born (as a matter of fact I am on baby watch with my goat Milky Way right now). I know how much a goat means to a loving owner and I know how you feel as we lost our best doe, Snow White, last Christmas at the age of 11.

My Prayers and Thoughts are with You and Your Beautiful Family


Anonymous said...

Katie, so sorry for your loss of Andy.

Magpie said...

Just wow. I'm sorry about Andy.

Heidi said...

Thank you for sharing this, and communicating it in such a beautiful manner. What a gift Andy was in your life!

Dusty Devoe said...

I am so sorry for our loss. We had a goat when Pony Girl and Paint Girl were growing up. I loved him! I love your story about Andy and his friends! Hugs to you.

Nez said...

RIP Orphan Andy.

pchoofinit said...

Hi Katie, seems like your herd is getting smaller, but after enjoying your blog for about a year now, I realize, you'll be saving another soul and make them part of your family, too. I am sending wishes that the rest of 2009, will be quiet and boring for Watermark Farm!
Hugs to you all, Patti

The Equus Ink said...

Rest in Peace Andy. What a great little goat. Sorry for your loss.

Schnitzie said...

Ahhhh ((((Katie))))))

My condolences to you, Odie, Halfpint, and all in your family who loved Andy the Goat.

My kitties Pansy and Dee Doo were born in 2001, and I am so not ready to lose them. It must be so hard to say farewell to Andy when had been such an integral member of your herd.

Anyone who claims that animals don't grieve just hasn't been paying attention -- or has been judging them by anthropomorphic standards. I've heard too many stories of bereaved horses lingering over a companion's body, of pack order among dogs needing months and extra human leadership to resettle, of a cat wandering as of lost in her own house, yowling as she searched for her departed canine companion (one whom her owners thought she had hated....).

Sending prayers of love and comfort. Thank you for all your loving care of Andy. Godspeed, little horse-friend.

Anonymous said...

Hey Katie,

We're missing you.... I hope you are just on a well earned vacation and everything is OK.

Scritches to all the four legged crew.

Rising Rainbow said...

I, too, have been witness to how horses grieve for their friends. It's hard for me to imagine that others are so callous they cannot fathom this is even possible.

What a lovely tribute to your friend.

Anonymous said...

So beautifully written! helps us prepare for the loss of our dear little Nigerian Dwarf doe, Buttercup, who is just 6 years old and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure on Thursday. She shares our barn with her brother Pepper, 7 years and a survivor of bladder surgery and Toffee, 15 years!,... as well as 3 Friesians and 2 Gypsy Vanners. Of course we never thought we'd lose her so soon. she did have a terrible pneumonia when she was a kid, so perhaps that damaged the heart. such are the always unpredictable vagaries of life with our beloved animals.
NH Hingham MA