The rural life: Get my goat. Please.

By From page A4 | January 21, 2013


If you listen carefully on any given morning, you might hear me yelling at our goat, around breakfast time. Buddy is a 9-year-old white Saanan wether (Swiss dairy breed; neutered male), and he’s been in our family since he was a kid. An adorably cute kid, I might add — and you might recall if you’ve been reading this column awhile.

He has aged, however, from sweet kid into old goat — in the fullest sense of the term.

He’s cranky. Ill-behaved. A bit like a third-world dictator — set in his ways, a little loony, impossible to reason with. A tyrant.

To be honest, it’s not really his fault. We’ve had him since he was an impressionable youngster, yet he’s never received a lick of training. Despite this, he still leads (reluctantly) by his collar, and stands (defiantly) to have his hooves trimmed.

So I suppose I shouldn’t complain. But I’m going to, anyway.

Buddy is a bully.

Over the holidays, for example, he terrorized my sister and brother-in-law when they came to gather greenery on our property. Sherry and Gene host a magnificent prime-rib dinner every Christmas, and this year Sherry wanted to use clippings from our pyracantha bushes and grey pine trees. (The pyracantha berries can pass for holly berries; pair them with pine boughs and you have a splendid table arrangement.)

So here they were, on our property, clippers in hand, when they were set upon by Dear Leader in a goatee. (I should explain that I open a goat-sized pasture gate every morning to allow Buddy out so he can nibble the brush outside the pasture. I forgot this detail when I told Gene and Sherry, “Sure — c’mon over any time.”)

Gene was trying to put some clippings into the opened tailgate of his SUV when Buddy marched up and grabbed a branch with his weird little goat teeth. A pulling match ensued; Gene, a strong fellow, was able to wrest the clippings away, then he tried to keep the goat backed off by pushing on Buddy’s knobby but hornless head.

This wounded Buddy’s dignity. He drew himself up to his full height, adding an inch by erecting a ridge of wiry hair down his topline. Then he reared and hopped a few time on his hind legs — goatspeak for, “Put up your dukes, punk.”

That did it for Gene and Sher. They grabbed what cuttings they could, threw them on the tailgate, and dove into the car.

“I couldn’t get the door open fast enough,” Sherry told me, later. “That goat was right there.”

As Gene fired the ignition, Buddy kept snatching clippings from the tailgate of the SUV.

“Hey! This is MY FOOD!” seemed to be his general message, not exactly in keeping with the spirit of the holidays. But that’s Buddy. The original Scrooge.

He’s been misbehaving with the horses, too. We adopted Buddy in the first place to be a companion animal to our pony at the time, Diamond. Since then he’s also been pals with Brego, my daughter’s larger “move-up” pony, now retired.

Most recently, he’s been hanging with Brego and Redford, a gelding I was keeping temporarily for a friend. Redford recently returned home, so it’s now back to Brego and Buddy only.

“Just the two of you,” I told them. “Friends and amigos. Buddies!”

Well — not exactly. By the morning after Redford’s departure, Buddy, normally the horses’ best friend, had turned into a despot. I came out to feed and Brego wasn’t waiting patiently in his favorite stall. Instead, he was running from one stall to the other.

At first I thought he was just feeling his oats (in advance), but then I noticed that each time he entered a stall, Buddy darted in and booted him out, deploying the same tactics he’d used on Sherry and Gene.

“Buddy, quit!” I called, to no effect. I put Brego’s grain in the goat-proof manger, and the pony finally bulled his way into the stall (he’s at least four times as large as the goat), put his head down and began eating.

As I watched through the stall’s window, I couldn’t see Buddy, but every two or three seconds I saw evidence of him: Brego’s body shuddering with the impact of the goat’s head slamming into his shoulder.

Not a nice way to eat your breakfast. I’ve made allowances for Buddy before, hoping his behavior would smooth out over time. I probably will do so again.

But every once in a while I can’t help but wish someone would get my goat — permanently.

Jennifer Forsberg Meyer is a biweekly columnist with the Mountain Democrat. Share your thoughts with her at [email protected]

Jennifer Forsberg Meyer

Jennifer Forsberg Meyer is an award-winning journalist and author with three published books to her credit. Currently she is a senior editor with Horse & Rider magazine. Jennifer lives in rural Latrobe with her husband, Hank; their daughter, Sophie Elene; and the family’s assorted animals.
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