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January 26, 2013: Peaches, Rest in Peace

Last night I went outside at about 8 p.m. and looked at the porch thermometer. It read -5°F. Seeing this, my heart sank, for I knew that this did not bode well for Peaches the Goat. I sensed that because she had so little meat on her bones that this might be a death knell for her. I put my boots, hat, and Refrigerware suit on, and went to check on her. She was lying flat out in the inner pen, and her head was bent at an angle. I couldn’t see her eyes. Ranger and Rover were in their outside shelter. I went inside and told Pete that she was dead and asked him what we should do with her. He suggested we bury her in the manure pile behind the garden.

I was shaken, but attempted to keep myself busy by going to tend to the horses. Minutes later Pete came running down to horse pen and yelled at me that she was still alive. I ran with him back up to goat pen and looked more closely at Peaches. I could see her rib cage moving up and down – she was still breathing. Pete had mounded up fresh hay next to her, moved her onto the pile, and covered with more hay, a wool army blanket and an old fleece horse cover. I knew her time was coming. I asked, and Pete agreed, to do the horse chores so that I might say good-bye to her.

I laid down next to Peaches and wished her well in her afterlife. I told her that it might very well be like the very best part of her life here. She’d never again be hungry. She’d be warm. And she’d spend her days and nights with her very best goat friends. I then told her not to stick around on my account. I would have spent the night with her, but I knew that I would prolong her death if I did. The same with bringing her into the kitchen addition. She would not be able to stay inside indefinitely, should the cold snap continue.

Pete once said, about a pig being slaughtered, that it had a good life and one bad day. I, in all honesty, have to say that Peaches had a good life, and probably, before her death, many bad days. She didn’t die suddenly, but instead wasted away slowly. I’d hoped that she’d just start putting weight back on. And I figured that if she made it to spring that she’d have one more good summer. I was wrong.

It was as I was saying goodbye to Peaches that Rover came into the shed. Ranger, for some odd reason, stayed outside. The chocolate covered goat went over to Peaches and began pawing at her covering, as would a horse. I looked into his eyes—like his gesture, the look in them radiated confusion.

Before going up to the house, I put Ranger and Rover in the inside front area of the shelter, so that Peaches would in her final hour have some company. Pete, who was done with chores, joined me. We went inside. I told him that I wished there was a way to keep her warm, and he suggested that I fill some Nalgene bottles with hot water. I did this – returned outside and placed them around her body.

We later went to bed. I didn’t sleep well. I kept thinking about Peaches and about some of our not so good moments. It pains me to write about this, but I must. I am not a patient person. I didn’t like it when any of the goats got into the grain in the horse tack room, and let it be known. And earlier that day, I went to move a bale of hay off the topmost shelf in the shed. Peaches was eating grain out of the nearby garbage can. It fell and pinned her in place. She seemed okay, but I ought to have been more careful.

This morning I got up, dressed, put on my outer gear and went to check on Peaches. No surprise, she was dead. After breakfast, Pete and I put her in the manure sled, covered her with the wool blanket, and took her to her final resting place, which was at the base of a tree. Her corpse was cold, smelled like urine. She was, I realized, really, really dead.

I was glad that I didn’t have to have her euthanized because the chemicals that are used are said to be bad for the environment. Now the bugs and critters will have access to her carcass. I say carcass because the outward manifestations of Peaches – bone, muscle, ligaments, tendons, -- little fat – is no longer Peaches. It was just the body that contained her spirit. The carcass is feeding that which remains here. It’s actually a pretty nifty system.

The spirit of Peaches remains. And what a spirit she had when she was with us. Peaches was a most amazing goat. We purchased her on my birthday, September 17, 2007, from Rhonda and Matt Shaul, who were getting out of the goat business. Their subsequent move to New York State was a move of desperation. They had far too many goats, and not enough profit.

Susie Cosby (who owns a prize-winning herd of Alpine milk goats, speculated that the Shauls sold us Peaches because they’d already sold off the better goats in their herd. And, this could have been partially so. I later learned that she was CAE positive. She also looked very thin and a bit on the old side. I wanted her herdmate, Snowball, but I’d been told that she’d already been spoken for. The Shauls might have sensed that $200.00 was a lot of money for an old milk goat, so they threw in a milk stand.

I would like to think that the real reason why the Shauls sold us Peaches was that because they loved her, and knew that we who were not goat farmers, would give her a good home. They knew that Peaches was a great goat, and that at our place that she’d have pet status. They were right on the mark with this one. We bred Peaches to Ranger and Rover, and she had three offspring, Teslin, Muncho, and Macho. I decided after this not to rebreed her because she was both CAE positive and had small teats. The latter, I suspected, caused her discomfort when being milked.

From Day 1, Peaches ran the show around here. She kept the dogs, horses, chickens, and other goats in line. She let them know that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time by lowering her head, trotting at them, and giving them a defiant look. But she was gentle and obedient. It never occurred to me to put a collar on her because she’d go where I asked her to go, sometimes with a guiding hand.

Peaches very much enjoyed going for walks with Ranger and Rover. She was usually out front, her udders swaying from side-to-side. One was larger than the other, giving her a lopsided look. I remember once, I took her for a walk and she stopped the plow truck. She stood in the road and refused to let it go by. The driver was irate. I had to grab her and pull her to the side of the road. I also once took her to vet tech class. She made many friends there.

Peaches and Rover were buddies. In fact, she was Rover’s one and only main squeeze. They usually slept together, in a heap in the inside pen. No one (after this) can ever tell me that animals don’t have feelings. Rover clearly misses her.

I must now move on and accept the fact that Peaches is no longer in the form she once was, that is a visible presence in my life such things aren’t easy to do, but they are necessary. Love and loss, they’re very much connected.

Next: 27. 1/27/13: Betrayal?