If you’ve ever visited Farm Sanctuary’s New York Shelter or tuned in to our Explore.org live cams, chances are you encountered the amazing Skye goat, a beloved longtime resident whose outsized impact will be felt for many years to come. With his tall, dark, and handsome good looks and his even-larger-than-life personality, Skye was a fan favorite among visitors and viewers alike, and a powerful and inspiring ambassador for farm animals everywhere.
If you were fortunate enough to meet Skye, it was likely in our Watkins Glen sheep barn, which is also home to a small group of goats in addition to the sheep. Towering above the other goats in both stature and confidence, Skye was the unmistakable leader of the goat contingent until illness forced him to step down from this role last year. Skye next enjoyed his well-earned “retirement” nearby in another area of the sanctuary grounds, accompanied by his goat pal Jordan. In spite of his health issues, Skye maintained his vibrant spirit and attitude and enjoyed every day, up until his recent passing as a result of inoperable cancer.
Skye first came to us, along with his sister Summer, in 2007, when they were just babies. Found neglected, cramped together in a dirty Rubbermaid container in a backyard in Staten Island, NY, Skye and Summer were terrified, ill, and starving. Thankfully, humane officers removed the siblings from the situation, brought them to safety, and called Farm Sanctuary to see if we could take them in. We immediately fell in love with this dynamic duo and gladly welcomed them to their new home at Farm Sanctuary.
Unfortunately, however, this was not the end of their troubles. Shortly after their rescue, both goats were diagnosed with caprine arthritis encephalitis (CAE) — an incurable condition, common among rescued goats, that can cause the body to deteriorate in a variety of ways. Summer, for example, developed painful arthritis early on. Thankfully, the disease never hit Skye’s joints, but it did prevent him from gaining the proper weight for his tall frame.
Some CAE-positive goats like Skye can live with this disease for years, with minimal symptoms, based on their body’s response to their individualized treatment plans. We immediately set to work stabilizing Skye and Summer’s conditions to the extent possible, while also treating the more immediate health issues that they arrived with. Thankfully, they gradually overcame their initial illnesses and grew healthy enough to begin the next stage of their lives: as happy members of their new family through our Farm Animal Adoption Network (FAAN).
In order to save as many farm animals as possible, Farm Sanctuary relies on support from loving adoptive families, who welcome rescued animals into their homes and hearts — allowing us to help more animals in need. These carefully screened, vegan and vegetarian homes are hugely important assets to the Farm Sanctuary family, and we are incredibly thankful for these compassionate people. While FAAN members live across the nation, we don’t always have to look very far to find the perfect fit; for Skye and Summer, their new home was just a short drive away. Former Farm Sanctuary staff members Jen & Chuck, who had fallen in love with the pair, lived in the country and had a perfect home for these two goats. The “kids” loved their new parents in return, and the family lived happily together for nearly two years.
Sadly, however, misfortune struck when Chuck was diagnosed with brain cancer, and he and Jen had to move away for treatment. Through tears, they asked if Skye and Summer could return to Farm Sanctuary to receive the love and care they deserved. With our love and best wishes for Chuck’s treatment, we readily welcomed back our beloved goat friends — a commitment we make to every animal adopted through FAAN.
The move was particularly hard on Skye, who was especially attached to Jen and clearly felt his parents’ absence deeply. We immediately set out to help our friends feel at home, trying them out with different animal groups to find the perfect fit.
Everything changed when we tried Skye and Summer in the sheep barn. Skye immediately owned this space and became the king of the barn, beloved by all. Though tall and powerful, he was very gentle and sweet with everyone he met, and the other goats especially looked up to him as their new leader.
Unfortunately, though, heartbreak struck the Farm Sanctuary family twofold when first Chuck passed away, and then Summer, within two years of the goats’ return. Tragically, Summer’s CAE broke through the blood-brain barrier, causing a stroke — the first time we’ve ever seen that happen with this disease. As we rushed her to the Nemo Farm Animal Hospital at Cornell University for emergency treatment, she sadly passed away. Skye grieved his sister’s loss deeply but found comfort in his new goat pals, whose companionship made this difficult time much more bearable. He formed deep friendships with several goats over the years — particularly Clarabell and Jordan — and his affectionate yet mischievous personality made him especially beloved by Farm Sanctuary staff, volunteers, visitors, and live-cam viewers alike.
For years, Skye lived happily and healthily with very little incident, which is pretty good for a CAE-positive senior goat. Last year, however, he developed a case of increasingly resistant parasites, in addition to some weight loss and a significant cough that was beginning to wear him down. Since CAE can weaken the immune system and affect the lungs as well, we wondered whether the disease was beginning to take its toll.
During an examination at Cornell, however, doctors found a large, malignant mass behind Skye’s chest. Sadly, the cancer was inoperable — located in a part of his body that was inaccessible to doctors and would have caused more harm than good to remove. The best thing for Skye was to keep him as happy and comfortable as possible, as long as possible — a strategy that allowed him to continue living his life to the fullest.
As a result of Skye’s cancer, his immune system hit an all-time low, making him vulnerable to issues with parasites and exacerbating the virus he arrived with. But a move to a different part of the sanctuary — along with his friend and “roommate” Jordan, who arrived with and still battles very resistant parasites — proved very beneficial. The pair moved to a pasture made up mostly of browse plants and brush, which significantly reduced Skye’s parasite load and improved his anemia. We still, however, conducted routine pack cell volume (PCV) bloodwork to ensure that he had enough red blood cells and did FAMACHA scoring in between, also to check for anemia that is a sign of the parasite he had issues with. Because of his CAE, he was never able to keep weight on, even with supplemental, high-caloric feeds. During this time, he was free to enjoy his life surrounded by goat and human friends he deeply loved.
Skye and Jordan’s move brought them to a pasture with three other residents: Kagen, a goat who also has issues with resistant parasites, and The Doctor and Sleepy pigs, who are not susceptible to the same parasites and can actually help reduce them as they root through the soil. These five coexisted peacefully, and could often be found grazing and rooting side by side in their pasture. They even shared a favorite treat: tasty apples from the trees overhead! At the end of the day, Skye and his friends enjoyed snuggling in the fluffy straw beds we make for the pigs. He seemed quite happy in his new home and through it all, he remained the happy, friendly prankster we’ve known for all these years. He reveled in all the love and attention he received every day from shelter staffers, and also enjoyed a special visit from his person, Jen (who spent a few days visiting her beloved boy after receiving news of his diagnosis — it was as if no time had passed).
We knew that the day might come when the mass behind Skye’s lungs would grow large enough to obstruct his breathing, and recently, this unfortunately came to pass. Seeing that he was struggling, we rushed him to Cornell, where diagnostic testing showed that the mass was interfering with his heart and trachea. Heartbroken, we nonetheless knew what needed to be done to prevent suffering for our dear friend, and Skye passed peacefully through euthanasia with one of his closest human friends by his side. Skye’s passing is deeply felt by all of us at Farm Sanctuary, but we are incredibly grateful for the many happy years we shared. He was a beloved herdmate, leader, and friend, and a powerful ambassador for farm animals everywhere — showing that farm animals are every bit as intelligent and full of personality as the dogs and cats that most of us know better. We will miss him, and draw inspiration from his memory as we work to help other goats in need.
Thank you for being a friend for Skye and cheering him on throughout his long and happy journey. If there’s one thing this remarkable goat taught us over the years, it’s that the “Skye” is truly the limit when we choose to put compassion first!