Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Goat Whisperer

After Claudette's death, I felt like I needed to spend some time with Elvis and Ann-Margaret. So this morning, while they were up by the fence, I went out with a small scoop of goat chow and the goal of establishing trust.

I approached gently and slowly, heading for an area a few feet away from them so that they wouldn't feel attacked. Clever idea, but no luck because as soon as I was withinn a few feet Elvis bolted to my right. This left a terrified Ann-Margaret by herself in the corner.

The 2 engaged in some furious bleating and I finally backed up from the fence to let little Ann-Margaret pass. She went straight for her boyfriend and the 2 of them stood their ground, watching my every move.

Still determined, I put some goat chow in my hand and held it out. I spent several minutes crouched, my hand stuck through the fence, trying to coax them to come to the Chow. The fact that they didn't bolt for the barn seemed to me to be a sign of progress.

So I sprinkled some chow on the ground and pulled my hand in.

They approached - warily at first because I was still near. But hunger won out and they began to lap up the little pellets on the ground.

For 10 or so minutes I would hold out my hand with feed, they would ignore it but as soon as I sprinkled it on the ground, they'd come eat. After about 20, they wouldn't mind my hand (still full of chow) sticking out through the fence, but they would only eat what few bits they could get off the ground and not from the pile in my palm.

I made one final effort with the last little bit of feed. I palmed it and gently reached my arm through the fence. Sure enough - tired of picking at scraps on the ground, Elvis came to me and lapped every last bit out of my palm. I was so happy, I cried. We were finally communicating. Just call me the Goat Whisperer.

Of course, I immediately got a big scoop of chow and went back to the fence where I let Elvis continue to eat from my hand. Ann-Margaret wasn't having any of it, but she did let me gently touch her head while she was eating - another milestone.

Why today and why not some other day? Was it because I had the patience today? The determination? Or did Elvis and Ann-Margaret - sensing my grief over the loss of Claudette - realize that I needed a little goat lovin' to get me through the day.

If that ain't country, I'll kiss your...