No goat at Animal Place is more familiar, more recognizable than Willy. With his wing-tip horns and tiny elf ears, Willy easily wedged himself into people's hearts. He was the first to greet visitors, the first to escort newly arrived interns around the goat pasture. He was the first to hay feeds, the first to get bossy with the other goats. There was no other goat who could surpass Willy's confidence...even when he was no longer at the top of the herd, he never hesitated to position himself for a good back scratch in front of a nearby human being, shoving other goats out of the way.
He aged as gracefully as one can, his creaky bones and weak appetite never deterring him from seeking out a sunbath or time with his human friends. It is a rare gift to see a farmed animal age into their golden years, yet it is still hard to watching them become shadows of their former youthful glory, to decline in physical health, and then to make the decision for them of when it is the kindest time to die. Willy's physical existence ended the same it began at Animal Place - surrounded by people who loved him fiercely and with hearts wide open. He could finally relax.
The heartache we feel for Willy - his absence, that is - is what we feel for the billions of others whose only solace is in a violent death, in the ceasing of a heart-beat to escape the unassailable cruelty of humankind. Their sorrow is ours. Willy touched many people (sometimes literally with a head-butt) and his legacy hopefully will be one of inspiration to make kinder, more just food choices.
Some of the staff and interns wrote in his honor and their words are below. If you met Willy, we'd love to hear any story you have of him in the comments below.
-Marji Beach, Education Director
Willy and Kim
August 19, 2003 Willy came to live at Animal Place. Neighbors found him four months previously -- his legs covered with bloody wounds. Not knowing what to do with Willy, they chained him to a tree. From there he made another escape and found his way to Animal Place. He was finally safe. He knew he had found “home.” Always a sweet guy. I remember when he first approached me. I was laying out in pasture, enjoying the sun . . . pigs would come up and nudge me with their snouts seeing if I had treats. And, then Willy came up. He stood over me – blocking the sun’s rays - and repeatedly “pawed me” with his front hoof until I stopped what I was doing to give him attention. He communicated his needs quite clearly. From then on, we were buddies.
Always engaging. Always coming to the fence line when I called his name.
He would watch me as a I walked up the road, because he knew I would pull
off leaves off trees so he could enjoy a mid day snack. Of course, he could
do so himself, but he always appreciated the effort I made to fetch him some
leaves from the highest limbs.
Deeply miss him.
Kim Sturla, Executive Director
Willy will always hold a special place in my heart. I was lucky enough to spend a little over 3 years with him. I will never forget the days of walking up the road on my way home, and Willy coming to the fence line and just standing there, staring at me. As if he wanted me to come to him, and I always did. He was kind of like a giant cat, who only liked to be scratched in certain places, but he loved and kind of treat whether it was grass, or herbs, or grain. I loved him, and his strong but yet gentle soul.
Strong and brave, wild but tame
you became sick, tired, and we all knew,
that soon you would leave us
you fought hard, and for so long
but through the pain you always stayed strong
There is nothing easy
about saying goodbye
but its now even harder not to cry
you were loved by thousands,
it would be selfish to ask you to stay
But if we look to the sky,
your love will be there
it makes it now easier to say good bye.
you touched the lives of many,
so be free, be wild, just like Willy.
From Jacie Volek, Rescue Ranch Adoption Coordinator
On tours, Willy was the goat visitors were first drawn to. With his sizable face, soft eyes, and impressive spiraling horns, he possessed a spiritual quality that drew people in. Guests were always commenting "look at this guy!" No further explanation need. When feeling well, he'd butt other goats out of his way, ensuring that he, as head of the herd, monopolized all of the pets. He loved attention and it was readily given to him.
When his end came, he was given so much love, constantly with people who cared about him leading up to his final moments. He was a special goat and the herd looks incomplete without him.
From Rocky Schwartz, Advocacy Intern
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