I've got to say, there are some amazing knowledgeable people out there in the blogsphere and I feel very privileged to have connected with them.
I wrote this post about Oscar mostly to get the feelings I was experiencing out of my head and on to paper (the process helps me work stuff out.)
As I said before, I was quite nervous about writing because I didn't want to come off sounding foolish or weak. Or worse -- like this was "my fault" due to ignorance or inexperience.
There was quite a good response in the comment section on both the GRIT blog and here -- and it was some of the best advice, both practical and philosophical, I could have expected.
One reader wrote: "Believe it or not it's harder if you name the animals. Something about giving a name more than “brown kid” or “leghorn rooster” makes it easier to get attached to the animal. I’m an animal lover and have a bad tendency to name even the stray cats we find sharing our own cat’s food bowl on random occasions so this was a hard thing for me too. By not naming the animals like the pigs and chickens we aren’t going to keep its easier to be reminded not to get too attached."
A friend of mine wrote: "My old farm gran said "goats can kill a child; they can be mean as hell; and they are sure not going to change if you got a bad one" and she has been around a farm for a long time- 76 years on hers and 93 in total! You hardly want top live in fear of a freakin' goat and have the kids and you wearing helmets in the barn... So don't feel bad- get on with it, it won't be the first or last. Even if you were in the petting zoo business- that goat would have to go!"
Mama Pea wrote: "I believe that animals don't spend one second thinking about when they will die. They are creatures programmed for living in the moment. Although I can hardly stand to think of any animal suffering, I do feel killing animals for food is a necessity that must be done but as humanely as possible. If you and/or your husband aren't able to come to terms with this, you may want to reconsider having animals. But also remember that as long as you have an animal on your farm, it will have the best life it possibly could."
And finally, Barbara wrote: "It really does get easier and even the best farmers have to learn where to weed out the unproductive or hard to get along with animals. It's not a matter of failure or success. Every animal has it's own personality and it's idiosyncrasies. Some are just naturally flawed and even the most dyed in the wool farmer can do nothing with them. It's just part of nature. So don't feel guilty over something that you can't control. Instead feel good about the smart decisions you make to better everyone else's lives on the farm be they people or animals."
I often feel like we're working and living in something of a vacuum here. We haven't yet connected with any local, small-scale farmers (though I'm working on that.) So while books are all very informative and first-hand experience is imperative, I really appreciate hearing from the been-there-done-there, "I know what you're going through but get on with it" set.
So thank you for being firm, yet gracious, with your advice. I appreciate it. And I've decided to keep raising goats, at least for a while. We'll continue to give them the best life that we can and not feel guilty when it's time to say goodbye.
P.S. After I wrote the post, I knew what I had to do with Oscar. He's going, one way or another -- and pronto. Lucas is going to call around on Monday to see if someone will butcher him for us (eventually, I would like to do that ourselves -- that's what self-sufficiency and reliance is about, right? -- but not with one that I'm so emotionally entangled with.) Failing that, he's off to the sales barn on Tuesday. I'll keep you posted.