Star’s story is certainly unusual, and telling Star’s story creates some writing challenges! Star is a breed of goat who is normally raised for meat, but in this case the farmer wanted to get rid of Star. If you noticed, we’ve been avoiding the use of pronouns, it’s because Star is neither a “she” or a “he.” Star is a hermaphrodite*, which means s/he has both male and female parts, although, to answer your next question, Star pees like a girl and all the male bits are inside the body.
Of all people, esteemed actor Judd Hirsch got wind of Star’s situation and agreed to let this handsome/pretty goat join the two he already had living at his Upstate N.Y. residence. All was well for a while — the three goats were really part of the family — but after a few years Star’s buddies passed away, the kids were leaving for college and Star became very lonely and depressed.
Judd visited our place and was impressed with the quality of care. While we don’t normally take animals who already have a good home, this was a case where Star’s mental quality of life was being affected and we agreed to take him/her.
Judd told us that when Star was younger be seemed feminine to the untrained eye, but as s/he was growing older the testosterone seemed to be overtaking the hormones. When s/he arrived he proved to be very friendly with people but the presence of new goats made Star very confused and frustrated. Goats normally have ways of working our dominance, similar to dogs, and it was clearly distressing for Star not to be able to find his place in the order. We tested his testosterone levels and they were, in the words of our local vet, “through the roof.” (Given all this, we started calling Star a “he” and we’ll start doing that here, too!)
After consulting with experts at Cornell’s Large Animal Hospital, Judd, and other friends of Star, it was decided he should have his testes removed to help the hormonal balance (this is our policy with all male goats anyway, to control reproduction). When he was under, the vets checked him out further and ultrasounds showed suspicious-looking fluid around his underdeveloped uterus, which could be pre-cancerous, and so that was removed too.
Star came back in mid-December, 2011. He needed to be kept in his own private pen for a few weeks to let his stitches heal properly, but his whole demeanor was much more relaxed! He is now part of our welcoming committee of free roamers and is our resident photobomber.
**UPDATE – Winter, 2014**
Did you know that Star is one of the first goats ever to receive radiation for cancer? We discovered that Star had two tumors last winter– one was removed but the other was deep in his chest and inoperable. Just as you would do for your dog or cat, we wanted to do all we could for him. He is a someone and not a something, after all.
After a series of radiation treatments, the tumor in his chest shrunk. Subsequent x-rays show that it has stopped growing. As you can tell by this video, Star is loving life and feeling wonderful (and VERY social!)
* It’s been pointed out that the term “hermaphrodite” is offensive to people who have this condition — the preferred term is “intersex.” We fully support this idea but think it’s OK to use it in the context of discussing a goat.