A Goat’s Goodbye, Willie Remembered

A Goat With a Golden Heart

African Pygmy Goat - Willie

Willie, an animal ambassador and teacher at Helen Woodward Animal Center, passed away at the age of fourteen.

Last week, Helen Woodward Animal Center lost one of its dedicated animal staff members: Willie. Willie was a gentle and affectionate African Pygmy Goat, who worked in our Education Department. He and his brother, Billy, came to the Center when they were just three-years-old. What was Willie’s job? Simply speaking, Willie was a teacher; an animal ambassador who showed children how to humanely treat animals.

African Pygmy Goat - WillieWillie taught thousands of children (yes, we said thousands) how to compassionately view and treat animals. Many times, Willie was a child’s first experience with a goat, or large animal. He was always patient and gentle, even if a child would accidentally get a little overzealous in their affection for him. His gentle nature and goofy-goat-smile made him a favorite among our campers and visitors.

Billy (left) and Willie (right), brothers and lifelong companions.

Billy (left) and Willie (right), brothers and lifelong companions.

Willie lived and taught at the Center for eleven years and passed away last week at the ripe-goat-age of fourteen. During his tenure at the Center he touched countless lives and provided joy to everyone who met him.  He was always eager to meet children, dress up for a holiday, or give a nuzzle and an affectionate sneeze to a friend. His keepers and friends miss him terribly. He was a special little goat and we know that, Billy, his brother and lifelong companion, is undoubtedly suffering from this loss as well.

Children with Willie (3)

We would like to share some stories and memories of Willie. We hope you enjoy reading his stories as much as we like telling them…

Willie was a sweet little goofball…

Peg, our Education Program Coordinator, says this about Willie, “Willie was a sweet little goofball.  My favorite memories involve when he’d just lean against us, granting the occasional affectionate sneeze, as we patted him.  Never thought I’d be so pleased to have my shoe sneezed on.”

From Karen, Willie’s Barnkeeper, “He was always sneezing and stomping his feet – what a flirt! (When a goat sneezes on you, it’s a sign of affection.) He loved carrots and apples and looked like a baby bird when you fed him. Willie’s favorite part of his daily walk was stealing alfalfa from Noodles, the Therapeutic Riding horse.” (We don’t think Noodles really minded, though.)

Children with Willie (1)Lorna, an Education Instructor, remembers, “I always smile when I think about a time that I walked by his enclosure on a windy day. He was standing in the corner just gazing up at a tree and waiting for leaves to fall into his enclosure so he could eat them! Sweet boy!”

Susanna, our Animal Care Supervisor said, “Every time I would go to give Billy’s supplements, Willie would think that Billy was receiving treats. He would come up and look up at me with his big eyes and open his mouth and stick out his cute little pink tongue like a baby bird would do to its mother for feeding. I could not resist that look so I always brought a small cup with a drop of molasses in it and would put it on my index finger for him to lick off. Willie would get so excited that he was getting a special treat, too.”

And Heather, Education Assistant Manager, fondly remembers, “I believe Willie is the one that ate Mr. Jake’s shorts as he was giving a presentation about him during Critter Camp about how a goat digests his food. Mr. Jake didn’t think much of Willie nibbling on his shorts until it was time for the kids to pet Willie. Mr. Jake stepped away and noticed a good-sized-hole Willie had taken out of his shorts! The kids got a kick out of it!”

Thank you, Willie, for all your love, nuzzles and sneezes. We will never forget you.

Willie (3)


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