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If you want something knocked over, get a goat! More....

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- by E. A. Zimmerman

One of my favorite little “bon-bon” books is What It Feels Like.  The book is filled with short, true accounts of what it’s like to be 105 years old, shot in the head, win the lottery, etc.  Here is my take on what it’s like to have a goat as a pet.  

Butter.  bet Zimmerman photo

All dressed up and no place to go.  Butter apparently pulled Doug’s shirt off the laundry line and somehow got her head through the neck hole.  Photo by Bet Zimmerman.

Goats are quirky critters.  In the past two decades we have had four. We got our first one used.  Doug adopted Marguerite after she was abandoned at a nearby house when the occupants moved.  Marguerite was part Pygmy goat and part 55-gallon drum.  Her passion was eating.  She adored neighborhood children who brought her sugary maple leaves.  We festooned her with silk flowers for our wedding.  Immediately after the ceremony, she ate all of the faux florals.

I became concerned about her solo status after reading a goat manual.  It indicated that “A lonely goat is a difficult goat.”  So we added a duck named Puzzles to our menagerie.  Marguerite developed a strange relationship with Puzzles.  She would pull his feathers out, shovel him around with her horns, and occasionally pick him up by the neck and carry him.  If Puzzles was outside her pen, she was inconsolable.  Tragically, Puzzles was eaten by a passing predator.  Marguerite got cranky and started attempting to flatten us every time we entered her domain. 

Next we procured a little bovid buddy for her – a baby white goat we called Peanut.  Marguerite seemed to enjoy the company, but her affection had limits.  It ended whenever Peanut approached food, at which point the elder goat would smash the kid into the nearest solid object.   Unfortunately Marguerite went to meet her maker when Peanut was four months old.  (Appropriately, the last thing Marguerite did before keeling over was to finish off an apple.) 

Now we were back to Lonely & Difficult Goat Mode.  As Peanut grew up, she developed a voracious appetite.  I was concerned that she was going to end up with Marguerite’s less than svelte figure, so I cut back on her rations.  She complained vociferously.  Shortly thereafter, I made my morning trip to the barn to feed her.  Much to my surprise, our goat inventory had doubled overnight!  Her girth had been due to pregnancy versus overeating.   Little did we know that goats can get knocked up when they are only seven or eight weeks old.  Ours apparently had not been separated from male goats in a timely manner.

The son of Peanut was named Macadamia, in keeping with the nut theme.  He was not the brightest bulb in the light fixture.  Unfortunately both Mac and Peanut only lived about 4 years. Despite numerous visits, the vets could not figure out what was wrong.  It is possible that while free-ranging, they got into something toxic.  A friend lost her goat when it ate Deadly Nightshade.  Goats are not very discriminating consumers.  Although I've never seen them eat a tin can, I had read in the goat manual that they like to eat invasives like multiflora rose and poison ivy.  Our experience is that they prefer Nabisco Wheat Thins and ornamental flowers.  On occasion they have also eaten our mail, a map a visitor was in the process of perusing, and a ten dollar bill yanked from my coat pocket. 

Now we have Butter (the sequel to Peanut).  She is part Pygmy goat, part Alpine.  Because she was hand raised by other (human) kids, she is quite sociable.  Her eating habits are similar to those of her predecessors.   Mine is the only garden in the neighborhood with clumps of flowerless black-eyed Susan’s.  Butter chops their heads off on a daily basis.   She also tried to eat my girlfriend’s hair.
Although Butter is a solo goat, she has adopted our flock of ducks as her herd.  (Goats also make good companion animals for horses.)  She does pester the ducks occasionally.  One day I looked out my office window to see her madly chasing them around the yard, apparently just for the fun of watching them scatter.   

There is a saying that any fence that holds water will keep a goat in.  Like all goats, Butter does get out.  She also gets into things on occasion.  Doug has noted that “If you want something knocked over, get a goat.”  Last week he called me outside and asked “What’s wrong with this picture?”  Butter had one of Doug’s T-shirts on.  The fun never ends when you have a goat for a friend.


Originally published in the Villager newspapers on August 21, 2009


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