The goats spent the week in the trailer in our garage. Rob wasn’t available until Friday and I wasn’t about to risk a repeat of Bonnie’s escape. Every day the goats got fresh fodder and corn. The fodder I cut from the overgrown areas of the backyard and the corn was left over from Bonnie’s brief stay.
On Friday Rob came over and we trained the goats on the collars and the invisible fence. We then released them to the back yard and allowed them to forage. Sophie was much less responsive than the other two but seemed to have a good appetite. I remained optimistic.
While the goats got adjusted to their new lives in our backyard we let our dogs, Olive, a two year old German Shepard, and Trixie, a seven year old poodle-terrier mix, explore their new boundaries in the front yard. Still shy from Bonnie’s escape I wanted to make sure these goats wouldn’t make a break for it. To be honest I just couldn’t face admitting to more runaway goats at the gym.
Over the weekend, Sophie began to appear more and more lethargic. She still ate but would frequently lie down. In my experience, goats don’t normally lie down during the day. If they do the certainly jump to their feet at the first hint of your approach. I began to worry.
Staring Saturday afternoon we began treating her with an antibiotic.
That Monday I got hurt in jiujitsu practice. An over zealous training partner sprained the medial collateral ligament in my left knee. Tuesday I opted to stay home from work. Only able to stay in bed so long I got up and hobbled around the house as the girls got ready for school.
Bronwyn was helping out by giving Sophie her antibiotic. She came in with a look of worry. Sophie was not very responsive at all. I had Bronwyn carry her down to me at the back door. She was looking pretty bad.
“Put her near the water and I’ll see if I can’t take her to Dr. Martin.”
Dr. Martin is our vet. He’s a wonderfully curmudgeonly old man with a gruff exterior and an apparent impatience with sentimentality. I suspect like most tough exteriors he’s all soft on the inside, but is loathe to admit it. I think for the first few years we used him he thought me an idiot. When Lucy, our first Shepard mix was hit by a car, I think I finally won him over.
Lucy was a stray who adopted us. As such she had many of the nutritional deficiencies common to an early life on the streets. When I brought her in after the car hit her Dr. Martin told me she probably wouldn’t make it. She stayed with him for two weeks. I visited her every day and hand fed her. She did make it and continued to live with us for several more years.
I called his office and made sure he would see a goat. I sent Bronwyn off to school with her sisters and the promise that I would take Sophie to the vet.
I then set about hobbling around to get ready myself. Once ready I went out to get Sophie. She lay still and unblinking.
Now what was I going to do?
I spent several minutes making sure she was really dead. This was not shaping up to be a good day.
I went back inside and called Samantha. Digging a grave myself was going to be difficult. I began to explore my options.
I called my good friend Ned who was handling both the 7 and 9 am workouts at the gym. He graciously agreed to come over.
Together we held a simple service and returned Sophie to the earth in a corner of the Back Forty that is quickly becoming the pet cemetery. At present the residents of the pet cemetery include, a robin, a rabbit, a neighbor’s cat, Lucy and Sophie. At least they’ll keep each other company.
I used the rest of the week to keep an eye on the other two goats. Hopefully whatever Sophie had had not been communicated. I really began to regret having kept them so close the week before.
Goats, I have learned, are remarkably intelligent. Honey, the three legged one,, quickly presented her self as the alpha. During their stay n the backyard she could be seem frequently “checking us out” through various windows and the back door. She refused to be approached but was often seen spying on us.
On Sunday I felt secure enough that they wouldn’t make a break for it and set them to their intended task. I was still hobbled a bit but could manage well enough to get around. I stopped at our local Home Depot and bought a few pressure treated 2x4s. Using these and some scrap plywood siding I built a cozy little shelter the goats could use to escape the elements. Once finished with this it was time to move them.
Herding animals is easier said than done. It requires a coordinated team capable of convincing whatever it is your trying to convince that they way you want them to go is the way they want to go. My team consisted of Samantha, Bronwyn and her friend, Ella. We were not very convincing. Every time we’d get close to running them through the gate they’d find a hole and shoot through.
Finally I got frustrated. Taking advantage of their running into the tool shed I cornered them one by one. Starting with Honey I bodily escorted them both to the back and let them go. Indignant at first over my coarse handling they quickly realized the bounty of their new situation and set to feasting on briars, privet and wisteria.
Every evening at dusk I now have Bronwyn deliver a bedtime snack of dried corn. Someday I may need to catch them again and convincing them that at least some humans are good will go along way toward making that easier. Nonetheless, I should probably purchase tranquilizer darts as a back up plan.
At present I am thrilled with my genius. Both Honey and Harriet are growing fat off the land and I’m beginning to see gaps in the foliage. Progress is being made. Eager for more, I’ll see what rejects Grandpa has when we go back up for Christmas. I’m salivating for my Spring garden now and all the possibilities this new land will offer. More goats equals more space faster. Besides they’re kinda cool to have around.