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Remembering Violet, A Spitfire Of A Goat

Violet was one of eight goats born at the end of January, 2015 in the craziest 30 hours in our history.

Her mother, Vanna, was one of over 100 animals rescued from a backyard slaughter operation in Orange County, NY late in the fall of 2015. CAS stepped up to accept 27 goats; other sanctuaries came forward to welcome the rest. The goats arrived with all the signs of prolonged neglect: they were riddled with lice; they had overgrown, infected hooves; many had “orf,” a herpes-like virus highly contagious to humans;. and several of the females were pregnant.

And so it was that beginning in the darkest hours of January 23 in the cozy comfort of birthing stalls set up for them, Jackie, Leah, Edith, and Vanna began giving birth. Jackie welcomed her girls Lonnie, Loretta and Lulu (Lulu, sadly, didn’t survive). Leah gave birth to Libby, and Edith to Lillian. “Girl power!” the staff whispered. And then, when caregiver Cerri tiptoed into the “hospital” on the morning of January 25, what a sight she saw: another set of triplets. Vanna, a young, solid white goat, had given birth to three more girls: two were of healthy weight. But the third, tiny Violet, was pushed to the side of the stall and a fraction of the size of her sisters. Vanna had already rejected this diminutive little being, whose body was the size of a small potato. And while the vets didn’t give her much chance of survival, little Violet had other plans.

For the first months of her life, Violet commuted home with our caretakers Kellie Myers and Cerri McQuillan, with Kellie serving as Violet’s surrogate mother on weekdays and Cerri stepping in on weekends to provide “Myers,” as we called her, some much-needed relief from the every-two-hour feedings, and from the constancy of monitoring an infant whose biological mother wasn’t there to teach her and keep her safe.

From the beginning, tiny Violet was a larger-than-life character who learned early on how to manipulate her “moms” to get her way. She also learned from Cerri and Kellie’s companion animals, playing, for instance, with Cerri’s dog Riley who allowed Violet to climb on top of him. “She was more like a dog, really, than like a goat,” Cerri mused.

Once overnight feedings were no longer needed and Violet was able to stay in the barn, she used the cat door, no more than 8” high, to come and go into the barn kitchen. “She just nattered around with us while we set up feed for the other animals,” Cerri explained.

Over the next months, the CAS family watched–often in amusement but sometimes in horror–as Violet came into her own. She was fiercely independent, often seeming to prefer her own company than the company of the Underfoots, our free-roaming goat crew. She, like most goat kids and plenty of goat grownups, was a troublemaker, raiding the feed trucks, sneaking into the kitchen, trying to eat more “off limits” items than I have time to name. But it was Violet’s penchant for headbutting us quickly and without warning (unless you knew how to read her)— that was her trademark.

“Oh, what a cute little goat!!” an unsuspecting visitor would exclaim. Despite our abundantly clear warnings to give the girl a wide berth, many couldn’t resist reaching down to pet her. And many paid the price: with torn dresses, with bruised calves and egos. It was even a source of wry pride for us that Lt. Governor Antonio Delgado was among her victims. Eventually, on weekends only, Violet went to “time out,” a spacious, hilly pasture, with her friend Alice.

In the final months of her life, Violet was evolving. Her headbutts were less frequent. She allowed us–sometimes–to pet her. She even, on occasion, sought out affection. Camryn, one of our Humane Educators, recalls “I was sitting on the benches with a family of four when Miss Vio herself trots right up to the family’s feet. I say ‘So, this is Violet, she is what I call a ‘look-but-don’t-touch-friend,’ as she’s known to be a bit sassy’ but before I can even finish my thought, she starts rubbing her adorable little butt and legs against each of the guests’ laps, practically begging for their attention. Confused, I think, what game is she trying to play?! But I know the team has been working on having her accept butt scratches, so I say, ‘Alright, it seems like she’s really taken a liking to you all, so see if Violet will accept a butt scratch!’ And so each of them takes a turn giving her butt scratches, and she is LIVING for the attention! Violet even followed us around for the first 15 minutes of the tour. I was amazed at her that day.”

There were other glimpses into Violet’s evolution. One day during a huge thunderstorm, for example, little Violet was caught in the parking lot alone, the rest of the goats having high-tailed it back to the barn. A few of our staff members were taking shelter inside a large room at the front of the barn. Violet trotted right up to the door and let out a sassy “maaaaaahhh,” as if to say, “Uhh, hello?! WHO TURNED ON THE RAIN?!” She was MAD! So Andrea said, “Come on, Violet. Let’s go to the barn.” Violet responded, “mahhh,” and the two went off, Violet walking gratefully behind Andrea, scurrying someplace dry and warm.

For six and a half years, this is how Violet lived: Free. Independent. Sassy as hell. We learned from her. We laughed with her. We loved her fiercely, and it breaks our hearts that she’ll never quite get to finish becoming the goat she was learning to be over the last few months of her life.

And now she is gone, and we grieve her absence. We miss her in ways large and small: we turn a corner…she’s not there. We put Bartleby up for the night. His roommate is missing. We walk into the barn, there’s no Violet standing in the aisle, sizing us up and figuring out whether to let us pass. The Underfoots make their daily rounds…the tawny brown one–our feisty girl, our sassy pants, is missing.

Violet died in a freak accident. A feed truck was rounding the corner by the pond, and Violet bolted out. The driver wasn’t negligent: she wasn’t going too fast. She wasn’t texting. Violet darted into the side of the vehicle. Our only guess is that she was attacked by hornets: Nothing else makes sense.

Dr. Moyer, our wonderful vet from Bentley Veterinary Hospital, raced in from another emergency to help Violet, but trying to save her, he explained to us after multiple x-rays and after consulting with other vets from Cornell, would have been too much for her. And so we made the gut-wrenching decision to euthanize our little spitfire in her stall, where she was surrounded by a small army of her human friends, all of whom had proudly worn bruises from our little one who ALWAYS let us know who was boss.

I do not know what happens when any of us pass on. But just for now, just because I need to, I’m imagining that there is a heaven for animals. And I’m picturing Violet there, sizing up each new resident, stealing hay at every moment, and giving God a run for his money.



Herd Around The Barn, Saying Goodbye


2 replies on “Remembering Violet, A Spitfire Of A Goat”

  1. Oh Violet – I loved meeting you and didn’t mind the head butts. You certainly made us laugh ! You will be missed. I’m so happy you got to experience such a loving home.

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