Astio, a playful, inquisitive baby goat on the Greek island of Kefalonia Photo: Katerina Lorenzatos Makris/AIR

Astio, a playful, inquisitive baby goat on the Greek island of Kefalonia
Photo: Katerina Lorenzatos Makris/AIR

by Katerina Lorenzatos Makris ~

In a rural village on the island of Kefalonia in Greece, church bells rang, calling the faithful to the Sacrament of Holy Unction, during which priests anoint parishioners with oil “for the healing of soul and body and for forgiveness of sins,” as described by a Greek Orthodox Church website.

In need of healing and forgiveness, I had planned to attend the service, but instead felt drawn to hike on the gravel paths running from the fields and olive orchards behind the church down to the sea.

If I hadn’t changed my plan, I would never have gotten to see Astio again.

It was four days before Greek Orthodox Easter, a day of nationwide feasting, and a time when millions of young animals would draw their last breaths.

On the following morning, my neighbor Astio, a baby goat, would be one of them.

Idyllic life

I first saw Astio and his sibling Aspro a couple of months before while walking the paths with my foster dog Kali. The two goat infants were only about half the size they were now. With wide eyes and wobbly legs, they stayed close to their mother.

The babies, their parents, and a few aunts belonged to an elderly neighbor, and lived next to his house in a half-acre fenced pasture of lush grass, colorful wildflowers, olive tree shade, ocean breezes, and spectacular views of the island’s most prominent feature, Mt. Aenos.

Sometimes, Kali and I would stand to watch the little goat family. They were as curious about us as we were about them, ambling up to the fence to check us out.

The females usually put themselves discreetly between us and the babies, just for good measure, but none of them seemed the least bit frightened of either me or the dog.

As the youngsters grew, they started to play. Astio and Aspro, as I named them—Astio being Greek for “joke” and Aspro meaning “white”—pretended to butt each other, and chased madly around the pasture, often springing straight up in the air only to land meters away in that marvelously athletic maneuver that is an ungulate trademark.

Astio earned his name as the more clownish of the two youngsters, sometimes dashing up to his mom or aunts and bleating at them in what sounded to me like a five-year-old telling a silly knock-knock joke.

Humane handling?

Every day, when it wasn’t too cold or wet, our neighbor sat for a while on a stone wall near his herd, often bringing them treats like fruit, tender leafy branches, or handfuls of corn.

He seemed to enjoy the animals, and I never saw him handle them roughly or even speak to them unkindly.

Still, I wondered what the future held for the goats, especially the babies, and especially at Easter time.

I was soon to found out.

Read the next article in this series:

A baby goat’s last day (Part 2): Of sex, milk, and babies

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Katerina Lorenzatos Makris is a career journalist, author, and editor. Credits include hundreds of articles for regional wire services and for  outlets such as National Geographic TravelerThe San Francisco ChronicleTravelers’ Tales, NBC’s, and (Animal Policy Examiner), a teleplay for CBS-TV, a short story for The Bark magazine, and 17 novels for Avon, E.P. Dutton, Simon and Schuster, and other major publishers.

Together with coauthor Shelley Frost, Katerina wrote a step-by-step guide for hands-on, in-the-trenches dog rescue, Your Adopted Dog: Everything You Need to Know About Rescuing and Caring for a Best Friend in Need (The Lyons Press).

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