Goats: A Different 12 Step Program.

Arthur1 (359x640)It just hasn’t been the same since Sumo died. He was my last old-goat-standing and a card-carrying anarchist. He’d been un-fencable here for fourteen years. I miss coming into the barn in the morning to find the feed cabinet pried open and supplement containers flung into the runs. Because goats are generous to horses that way. I miss those tell-tale turdettes sprinkled around the tack room after he executed search and seizure drills looking for any hidden illicit horse treats. I miss his witty and urban conversation. Blah. Blah. Bla-aa-aah.

Having a goat is like a twelve-step program for Type-A perfectionists who have allegro-phobia. (That’s a fear of being late; disorders love company.) Goats are not burdened with polite social conventions and certainly have no inclination to please people. It’s why they’re so attractive.

I heard about this wether goat (neutered male) in a friend-of-a-friend sort of way. A herd needed downsizing to help a health condition. I spoke to the owner and was on my way. The wether was in a pasture with a milking herd and hadn’t been hand-tamed. He’d probably only been caught once and that was when the vet came for the banding. Use your imagination; he wasn’t about to surrender peacefully.

Note to self: My next get rich quick plan is a pay-per-view event pitting goat kids against pairs of post-60-year women competing as a team. The bout ends when the kid gets caught and the team with the fewest falls wins. Think about it–lots of bizarre action and a good match of wits.

It took both of us to wrestle a leash on the 4-month-old kid and it’s dawning on him that something is very wrong. He’s caught but he frantically flings his body upside down and backward to the herd. He doesn’t stop throwing his little body on the ground, bracing all four legs. His now-previous owner goes to get me some organic goat feed to take home, and I hoist him up in my arms, as his screams double. I wonder why I don’t just put my helmet on in the morning after my shower and leave it there.

By the time I settle him in my extended cab he has gone silent and still–except for kicking his feed and spraying it evenly through the truck. Driving away, I adjust my rear-view mirror and he’s staring at me with his spooky, rectangular pupils. He hates me.

Is this wether a rescue? Well, yes and no. He had a home with pretty much the same option every other young wether has. Milking herds, faced with the prospect of feeding them all winter when they will not breed or give milk in the spring… Well, you know what happens. And around this age. So he’s a different kind of rescue, I guess, not that he cares. He hates me.

We arrive home and his little jaw is still clenched so hard it looks like he’s pursing his lips. He hides behind a barrel in his pen and starts a hunger strike. Goats are ruminants and a crash diet will kill him. In the morning, he still hasn’t eaten and he’s thin. His hay and water was left untouched; even his grain ignored. Maybe without his herd, he’s dead anyway.

Arthur3 (640x475)I dosed him with some probiotics and practically needed a tire iron to get it on his tongue–and then moved him out to a grassy place. I had to tie him; he’s too little for the fences to hold. He ran hard on the rope, hit the end at breakneck speed, and flipped in the air. The panic repeated several times, with so much anxiety that it was heartbreaking to watch. It got worse if I came closer.

But Edgar Rice Burro was in the adjoining turn-out. He sauntered over and pretended to eat. He befriended this newcomer, because that’s his way. The little goat’s jaw loosened for the first time. In a few moments, he was grazing along with Edgar, who spent the rest of the day right there.

Hello, my name is Anna. I’m Type-A and powerless over my need to tidy. I sometimes get worried; I can think silly things are important. It blinds me to the beauty of life when I focus–and compulsively worry–about the dark ways of the world. In those moments, the barn elders look frail and mortal. Even a howling tenor bray from Edgar Rice Burro isn’t enough to remind me to lighten up; I’m nothing special. I cannot control the universe, or even my heart. And no one elected me Boss Mare of the country.

I could post a huge sign in the barn with the Serenity Prayer on it…

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Arthur 2 (508x640)…or just get a goat and name him Arthur. Here he is doing his first trick. It doesn’t look like much; walking up and taking some grain from my hand. It’s a tiny truce; a start.

Arthur says it’s life and death out there every single day but you don’t have to be a sheep about it. Now let’s wreak some havoc.

Because in the end, it’s always that quality of life question. Mine, as well as his.

Oops, gotta go. The black tarp that was hanging on a fence panel is now bleating, making its way west across a pen, and scaring the bejebbers out of the horses.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

Stable Relation 3D CoverP.S. My memoir about moving to this farm is available at Amazon(here). Check out Stable Relation, in paperback and ebook.

Anna Blake

0 thoughts on “Goats: A Different 12 Step Program.”

  1. Goats really are their own kind of 12-step program! We once had 2 bottle-fed Nubian orphans. Adorable, until they grew up and became tag-team trouble. We kept them a few years before letting them go live with a decidedly more goat-worthy person than us. Goats tickle my funny-bone …. when they live somewhere else!

  2. Can’t stop laughing over the “witty and urban conversation.” And I would most definitely watch the goat-vs-ladies show. I always thought chicken races would be an endlessly entertaining competition as well. Looking forward to more Arthur adventure posts in the future!

  3. So true Anna. Look what making friends can do, sometime we just need someone to stand beside us ☺ Just a quick question: is Edgar a mule?

  4. Good timing once again… I wonder if we could get John to get a goat…. maybe by watching that the gigantic wind turbines that surround my house would fade away a bit… but there are some things we can’t control 🙁

  5. Anna-this was just hilarious. I have had some funny goat life experiences and despite their being a giant pain in the behind I miss having one. I just finished your book and thank you for sharing your life with all of us. You are an inspiration to us 50 plus ladies trying to ride better and keep our heads above water in this crazy life.

  6. Wonderful goat story! Having had goats, Angoras and cashmere, for 27 years, I can relate! My last one died at age 17 1/2 last fall and I do miss them. My first Angora, Angus, could read my mind. I didn’t dare think about the new pretty flower blooming on my side of his fence or he would find a way out and immediately eat it. It was either goats or flowers, never both…..;-)

    • In my book I write about happy hour with my goats, but it was more like a game of beer keep-away. It’s not too late you know…(great comment, thanks.)

  7. At the moment my horse is the lone equine on the farmette. Periodically I worry about the effect of solitude on his state of mind, and run through the companionship options.

    Another horse. Too expensive – I need a house, before another horse.

    Donkey. A donkey / mule virgin trying to simultaneously build a house sounds overly ambitious, even to one with pollyanna tendencies.

    Goat. It’s been suggested many times. Lots of horses “have” goats. Baby goats are supremely cute. The mowing duties could potentially lighten. Goat cheese!

    I’m afraid they would need a Fort Knox-like enclosure. My jack russell terrorist regularly escapes, throwing me into a panic spiral as we have no recall. So even though others might enjoy watching a fifty-something woman maniacally goat wrestling… um – no.

  8. goodness totally love goats and their unsinkable outlook on life. may i share my story. Tina arrived into my life a cull so you know what was going to happen to her. her new purpose to be a companion to my horse, who had been alone for some years and was very naggy to me for my undivided attention. Money to tight to afford another horse so goat arrives, the weekend of a million Blahs! fortunately ended, and Tina decided crying wasn’t going to change her circumstance. My lovely horse discovered many new ways to make ugly faces at a goat who was scared and lonely. Tina in her goat ways adopted Kaycee the horse despite the ugly faces and imposed herself, really she had no choice as the pen was goat tight, well yeah she had the no horses allowed portion of the communal pen but chose Kaycee’s company. While it appears Kaycee has no interest in Tina i have caught her playing gently with the tiny horse stand in, and Tina has no doubts at all of Kaycee’s gentleness, as she vigorously plays goat games with a horse several times larger than her Tina loves attention and will accept clicker training even tho she has no care for the treats, the attention is enough. we have found some treats she cares for, but you must never assume she works for the treats, all her tricks and delightfulness comes form her sweet goat heart.

    • Well of course, I love her. Thanks for the story. (I tried to clicker train the llamas, but the goats were so much faster than it all came apart.)

  9. Hi, my name is Jane, and I’m a goat addict. I accept I am powerless to change this. If only I had the wisdom to know the difference between a the right goat, and a good psychotherapist. From a certain angle, they look an awful lot alike!

  10. I foresee a Stable Relation sequel in our future…starring Arthur. When I was young (in the ’50s) our family goat Julie, of the magnificent horns and attitude to match, taught me that I really didn’t need any animal smarter than me.

    • I met my first goat in the 1950’s too; he liked butting as I recall. Speaking just for me, I think in some way or other, most animals are smarter than me. On some days my ducks look like utter geniuses. Thanks for sharing Julie with us all these years later. She certainly made an impression. 🙂

  11. Oh, you perfectly captured life with goats! I’ve had them almost as long as I’ve had horses – and I don’t think I’ll ever be without them! Thanks for starting my day with a laugh … now out to my own little mixed herd!

  12. Or like us you can adopt a terrier; same attitude except they are in your home. Guard your sox and shoes, for starters…

  13. I really feel like there has been a large (goat-sized) hole in my entire life! Sadly, I’ve never known a goat – horses, calves, rabbits, ducks (LOTS of ducks) & chickens, but no goats. I can see that I’ve missed a very great deal!

  14. I am very impressed you are already feeding Arthur by hand! You may just be a goat whisperer! We recently lost our two angoras and one llama to old age (sigh…we are all getting pretty old!). That left me with one llama – who seemed to be coping OK, but I still worried. So I thought “let’s get those cashmere goats I’ve always wanted”. Long story short – we got two wethers – and my llama seemed ecstatic. Two was not enough for us though – so we just got four little cashmere girls. They were all in with the chickens right next to our horse paddock. Made life quite a bit more electric actually :-). So this weekend we moved them to a bigger pasture – the llama and goats. The other barn is now quiet and peaceful again, and the chickens in particular are happier. The llama is their leader in this brave new world – and it is so funny to see him walk around with his royal court following. Only problem now is that it may take me a long time to get them to eat out of my hand. Maybe it’s easier with one??? And moving them was quite a learning experience….but that’s another story!

    • Nice job, that is one happy llama. Hand training is slow and with a pack… well, good luck. Have really spectacular grain, a book, and a bucket to sit on. Maybe a webcam? And keep me posted! (I’m proud of you!)


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