I was in one of the guest bedrooms, putting clean sheets on the bed, when I heard a distinct bleat from somewhere nearby. I stopped and looked at my constant shadow, my little dog Joe, and asked, “Is Henry in the house?” Of course Joe didn’t answer, not in a way I could understand anyway and at at least 12 years of age, his hearing is likely worse than mine.
Henry is our nearly year old Nigerian Dwarf wether (neutered) goat, who thinks he is a dog.
After I finished what I was doing, I opened the door and Joe and I headed for the living room, where standing in middle of the room was Henry, clearly looking for me. He gave an excited bleat when he saw me.
Granted, Henry has proved himself an escape artist of the first order, but I still could not believe he had not only gotten out of his paddock again, but had learned how to open the storm door so he could let himself in at will. At this point, I have to admit it’s not the first time he has been in my house – he was just so darn cute when he was little, it was hard to resist bringing him inside for a minute or two to get a treat.
I patted Henry on his knobby little head and reminded him, once again, that he is a goat and not a dog, and took him back to his companion, Sampson, who is long-suffering when it comes to Henry and his antics.
Back inside I found Charles, who was washing one of our other dogs, Pepper Anne, who had gotten herself as muddy as possible and reeked of some too-awful-to-think-about smell. Pepper is our prettiest dog with a gentle ladylike demeanor, but do not be deceived. She adores filth of any kind, and can’t be trusted whenever there is a possibility of getting dirty or of rolling on something horrid to “perfume” herself with.
Charles was surprised to hear that Henry had been inside, but surmised he had slipped in when he opened the door to carry the dog (who was too dirty to walk on the floor) to the utility room for her much-needed bath in the laundry sink.
It was good to know that Henry had not learned to work the door handle – at least not yet.
Despite their challenges as pets (we are novice goat owners), Sampson and Henry have added a lot of uniqueness to our animal menagerie.
First of all, who knew that they need as much attention as the dogs, and more than most of the cats do? Sampson is a gentle giant, big for a Nigerian Dwarf, who was bottle-raised from a newborn. We got him from a man in Cornelia and he wants nothing more than to follow you around, try to eat your clothing and desperately try to see what you have in your glass. He’ll also take a sip if you turn your back.
Henry came to us as a 7-week old baby who had not been weaned quite yet. I tried to bottle feed him, but my feeble offerings were no comparison to his mother, so he opted to go straight to hay and foraging. I held him in my lap (he was less than 20 pounds) and today at about 50 pounds, he still thinks he should be held. That has presented some problems and more than a few bruises.
Recently, Charles and I were sitting out on the back deck drinking our morning coffee when Henry scaled the five-foot fence of his next door paddock and came to join us.
He nuzzled each of us, bleated his complete joy at being with us, and promptly climbed up on the swing beside Charles, where he settled his head next to his leg. Charles scratched him behind the ears and every time he stopped, Henry would put his hoof (I almost wrote paw) up on his arm to encourage him to keep scratching.
I posted that picture on Instagram and if you don’t examine it too closely, he looks for all the world like a brown dog, enjoying some time with one of his humans.
They are so much smarter than I thought. They are fun-loving, playful and sometimes quite loud (especially when they are in distress, or just plain mad).
They are also good at clearing up underbrush, eating the poison ivy along with the weeds and brambles.
It is also true, that if left on their own, they do prefer the rose bushes and other decorative bushes and trees, or anything else that’s forbidden (important papers, wood decking, the trim off your shoes) to foraging for the “wild stuff.”
When we are outside, we often let them out into the front yard to hang out with us, but unfortunately those times also provide ample opportunity for mischief.
Our secret weapon to discourage them from bad behavior is water. They hate water. They won’t come out in the rain, staying holed up in their goat house until it stops. So to make them stop doing something we just spray them with a water hose, a spray bottle or super soaker water gun I bought just for that purpose and they scatter, at least until your back is turned.
Sampson must have been given sips of coffee by his previous human, because he goes crazy when he sees a coffee cup. I must also confess that he has gotten the occasional small amount of wine (he prefers chardonnay).
He loves a good brushing and will go into a trance, half-closing his amber eyes in contentment.
Henry prefers to swing or see how high he can jump without breaking his legs (which has nearly happened a couple of times when he got his hooves caught in the fence). They both also love to jump on their trampoline (a much-appreciated donation from a friend).
Charles has recently added an extra two feet to their paddock and installed a (so far) goat proof gate that Henry can’t jimmy open or manipulate until he can squeeze through the gap between the gate latch and fence. With Henry, it’s apparently about staying one step ahead of his wily little brain.
It’s hard not laugh and forget your non-goat related problems when you are around them and for me, it’s impossible not to love them, even when they eat my very important notes or my favorite pair of shoes.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for The Madison County Journal.