The Goat Whisperer
The first time my parents took me to a petting zoo, the goats tried to eat my hair. I don't remember anything about the outing, but my mother wrote about it in my baby book and I've seen pictures. (The benefit of being the first child - everything is so carefully documented.)
Some sort of bond was forged that day, between a little curly-haired blonde girl and the goat world. Or so I like to think. I do love goats - not in a hang-pictures-of-them-in-my-room sort of way. More in an appreciative and understanding sort of way. Goats are smart and silly and fun.
They're a domesticated animal, but their purpose is a bit in question. Sure, you can milk them and then drink that milk or use it to make cheese, but goat milk and its by-products are something of an acquired taste in the western world. Not quite loyal or housebroken enough to fulfill the duties of a dog. Not tasty enough to be traditional livestock. Not big enough to be ridden or pull things. As far as I can see, the purpose of goats is to have fun. Visit any petting zoo or farm and it is going to have a pile of goats.
On Sunday, Peter and I went to Airfield, a country house estate in Dublin. Only it doesn't really have the big country house. At least I didn't see it. What it does have are some nice gardens, some barnyard animals, and a small car museum. I'd always heard of the place - a little piece of the country right near Dundrum Shopping Centre. I'd been told it was a petting farm. It wasn't - it was a place that happened to have a few animals.
Maybe I was just viewing the place through the lenses of a resident of the Middle of Nowhere, but Airfield was a big disappointment. The only thing that saved the day and the outing was a goat. We were just about ready to leave but I remembered the place was supposed to have goats. So we sought out the goats, who were in a little pen next to the sheep barn. One goat, a weird looking breed who had long permed hair and odd flattened down shells of horns, stood on top of a table. The other goat, a more traditional-looking type, stood near the fence, just about in reach.
I made a few encouraging noises and the regular goat tenatively came a little closer. I started to scratch behind his years and around his horns. For some reason, goats love this. I think because it's a spot that they can never quite reach themselves, especially if they have long horns because the horns get in the way. I'd scratch and then stop and the goat would move closer. I'd take a step and the goat would keep up with me. Eventually, he was practically climbing out of the pen and when I stopped, he'd bang his horns against the fence. (That did freak me out a little.)
I've been a bit undecided about what I want to do for my birthday. Now, though, I think I have no choice but to take a goat husbandry class on Cape Clear Island.