Beloved Vermont Camel Oliver, a Familiar Route 7 Sight, Has Died | 802 Much | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Beloved Vermont Camel Oliver, a Familiar Route 7 Sight, Has Died

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Oliver the camel - FILE PHOTO
  • File Photo
  • Oliver the camel

A beloved pet camel and frequent photo subject of passing motorists along Route 7 has died. 

Oliver was 17. 

Born in Wisconsin in 2002, Ollie — as he was affectionately known — ultimately landed in Vermont, at Judith Giusto's Round Barn Merinos farm in Ferrisburgh. There, the two-humped ungulate shared a field with the sheep Giusto keeps for wool.

Giusto used Ollie's hair and down, too, for her business. The camel would molt "like a bird losing its feathers" in early spring, leaving behind a fiber that was similar in texture to cashmere wool, Giusto told the Middlebury Campus in 2010. 

"I look back at the decision about having a camel and sometimes I think I was delusional," she told another outlet, the Addison County Independent, in 2017. "But at the time it felt like it would be easier to integrate a camel into our life than a cat or dog would have been." 

The animal stopped traffic. Over the years, hundreds, if not thousands, of people posed for pictures with the camel. What, after all, was an animal associated with the desert doing in Vermont, a place known for cows? In fact, Oliver was a two-humped Bactrian camel, native to the steppes of Central Asia, as opposed to the more familiar single-humped dromedary variety.

In an email response to Seven Days, Giusto asked for privacy as her family copes with "intense sorrow."

"I didn't realize Oliver was of such interest to so many strangers AND his place in our lives was that of treasured pet," she wrote. "In today's culture, that combination can lead to some very complex issues."

She did speak with the Associated Press about the eye-catching seven-foot-tall, 1,200-pound animal.

"He was lovely. It was like owning a giant dog," Giusto said. 

Giusto's son, Montana, ran a Facebook page from Oliver's point of view. He posted a final message on February 28.

"As my last wish, I ask all of you to celebrate my life with joyful memories which I'll take into the afterlife," he wrote. "My next adventure is ahead and I am ready to take it on — to go where no camel has gone before!!"

The original print version of this article was headlined "Ode to Ollie"