My favorite animals on the farm are the cows. The cows are comforting, they are generally staid and non reactive. They beckon you in soft gentle moos, trying to entice you to come give them a treat that they take graciously and gently with soft lips and more drool than they realize. My cows are a source of solace and companionship. Not so the goats. Goats call to you like you are already late and they plan on docking your pay. They function like rude teenage boys, jockeying for position and shoving everyone else out of the way to be the first at the buffet line. They are never satiated, their goal in life is only and always to be eating on the other side of the fence from where you placed them. I know all of this from years of experience with both species, I would have to be crazy to think I could manage new goats without incident. If I wasn’t, I am now.
My son is getting married to a lovely girl. She is sweet and kind, we met her family, they are also sweet and kind. Her mother keeps goats, they are not sweet and kind. They are loud and stubborn, they do stupid things repeatedly. They act like goats. But the soon to be MIL broke her ribs, and I thought, she has goats, I have goats, I will keep her goats for the summer, I can help. It will be fine. All those thoughts were true except for the last one. I took her goats, I brought them up to my farm, and everything has been absolutely not fine.
The PR disaster could not be worse. Well..it could be slightly worse. These goats are this family's beloved pets. My goats are my lawn mower, brush hog, and weed trimmer. I put the new goats in the barn, my goats immediately tried to beat them to a pulp. No problem, goats are like that…MY goats are like that. Her goats were shocked by the attacks and cried and ran circles, they called for human intervention as they were pummeled over and over for the sheer pleasure of it by my goats. I separated them. They cried that now they were definitely not in the field the other goats were in and therefore not in the best field. I gave them food. They cried that I had not given them enough. That went on for two days. My goats finally decided that beating up on the weak is fun, but you can take a break occasionally to eat, so I let the two groups together. A tentative peace was established and everyone ate. Day ended and night fell, the third day. At 1 am the new goats started yelling, I went to the barn to discover three goats barfing copious amounts of green sludge all over the place. They were poisoned. They had gone into a field goats have lived in for 5 years and managed to find a toxic plant nobody else had ever eaten, apparently consuming it with zest. They were very, very sick. I took care of them, every two hours throughout the night wrestling green slimed goats to shove things they did not want but needed down their throats. They got sicker. I thought,” Is there anything worse I could have done to represent our family to this family my son is joining than to kill 3 of their pets in one night? I thought, “How can this woman ever trust me with future grandchildren when I can’t keep livestock alive for a week.” I thought, “What is the best way to tell someone you don't know that well but is really important to your future and the future of those you love, that you have completely failed them.” I thought, “I hate goats.” And then I called her. I told her about the dying goats and braced myself for a very angry and disappointed conversation. I didn’t get one. It turns out my son's soon to be mother in law is full of compassion. She was worried, she was stressed, but the one thing she was not, was angry. After talking to her I became even more determined to save these stupid animals and concocted a potion of goat healing antidotes to make the best middle ages Merlin proud. And somehow, it worked. The goats survived, because goats always do the opposite of what you expect, like survive without food or water for days on end. They recovered and went back to their daily beatings and grazing. Ten days later, one of them was sick again. Because goats always do the opposite of what you expect, like not learning a darn thing from their near death experience.
So the goats are going back where they came from. Their commitment to death far outweighs my commitment to saving them. They win…sort of. I suppose I earned the consolation prize, discovering that my son is entering a very compassionate family. Also, I am pretty sure he will never be asked to watch the goats.