Losing Oscar

*warning – expletive ahead*

Oscar took his last anxious, labored breath on Thursday, October 20th.

Not at first, but technically my goat, he was born and raised his entire life at Broken Shovels. He and his sister Lucy were the result of a breeding pair I helped to select when we were a dairy that now seems ages ago. Oscar’s fate at Broken Shovels was somewhat uncertain; dairies have no use for boys and at that time we were always searching to find good pet homes for the boys we couldn’t keep. Several months later, no suitable pet homes presented themselves and so we kept him. I was secretly happy but never really expressed the sheer relief that he was staying. 

Oscar, in his youth, was fairly ambivalent goat. Mostly content, he was never needy for attention but eventually learned how to jump fences. I don’t quite remember how the conversation with Andrea went, but I became attached to his floppy-eared, goofy adolescence and asked Andrea if he could be “my” goat. 

As the dairy landscape changed into that of sanctuary, so did the literal fence lines. Once all boys had been safely neutered, they were introduced to the main herd. Uncommon, but not unheard of, Oscar made friends with one of my other goats, Monster Truck, who was born the year after Oscar. They became inseparable. After Monster went through some serious medical issues, he needed to be moved to a separate pen to limit his diet and Oscar, of course, had to go with him. They were my boys. 

Fast forward to October 2021. I noticed a lump on his neck which could’ve been a handful of things so I kept an eye on it for a while and when it didn’t resolve on it’s own, we made an appointment for him at CSU to figure out what it was. Diagnostics discovered a small mass in his chest; it was lymphoma. Devastation. 

Devastation because not only did I not want my boy to have cancer, but because there is literally no treatment that exists beyond steroids for goats with lymphoma – or really any systemic cancer. In my constant anxious, fearful mind, the first few weeks after diagnosis felt like I was waiting to wake up and find that he had passed but he did so well with supplemental nutrition for several months. During that time I decided I needed to enjoy him for as long as I could and not catastrophize every time I spent time with him. But in the stillness of my evening walk-around, I would sit with Oscar – who was always near Monster Truck – and sometimes just bawl my eyes out. This cancer thing was just not fucking fair. 

In the five days before I said goodbye, I noticed he was laying down more in the shelter and figured it might’ve been from colder nights but wanted to get him up to CSU in a week or so for a re-check just to see how he was doing. Wednesday afternoon, he didn’t eat his grain. He was apprehensive and anxious. His entire chest was swollen. I rushed him to CSU. Time had run out and cancer had won. 

I’ve struggled to write something for him for the last several weeks because we are always so busy and the little time I did have to myself has been spent disassociating. I can’t say I’ve completely accepted that Oscar is gone – I worry about Monster’s loneliness without him. 

But in losing his mother, Tinkerbell, this very morning to heart failure of old age, it was the kick in the teeth I needed to realize that writing Oscar’s eulogy was important. It’s important for people to know that farm animals are complex, sweet, funny, special beings that form strong, loving friendships. It’s important we humans to extend empathy to farmed animals and understand their suffering, learn that their life matters to them and to choose compassion and leave animals off our plate. It’s important for people to know that despite many advances in medical care for goats like Oscar, there isn’t enough and that Broken Shovels will continue to advocate for better medical treatment for farm animals instead of just “putting them down.” Remembering Oscar and Tink and everyone we have lost before them is important. 

As the the malignant tumor continued to squeeze the life out of his heart, I was fortunate to be with Oscar during his last moments at CSU. I am grateful his suffering was so minimal in his particular case. I am so thankful he was a part of our lives. I miss you, best boy.  – Amber

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