Sunday, March 3, 2013

Stray Goat Shuffle

Saturday morning, the first thing I did was check to see if the stray goats were still in the pen.  They were, and they actually appeared quite content!

I went about getting them some food, and then set up the "kid pen" for my own goats, rather than try to move these goats again.  They are still quite timid, and though they'll come close, they will not allow me to touch them.  With their horns, I also felt they were safer in soft fencing rather than wire fencing, where they could get caught and injure themselves more seriously.

My goats were not happy at all about bypassing the new goats in the place they were accustomed to going, and crowded the gate every time I came by, wanting to get back out of the kid pen.  Eventually, everyone was settled in and I went about my morning business until leaving to pick Bex up from her sleepover.  Before we went home, we stopped by the Healdsburg Animal Shelter to report the found animals, and I was told we were in County jurisdiction.  She gave me their phone number and collected information on the goats we had found in case someone called.  I planned to call the County when I got home.

We talked about the goats on our way home, and when we got there she went in to see them.  She was able to touch one three times, but then they got playful.  We're used to playing with our goats in this pen.  They run and bounce around, playing tag and head butting each other.  What I did not recognize was that these goats are much leaner and more agile than my dairy goats.  Suddenly, the oldest one, who I think is the mom of the others, leaped over the four-foot fence, clearing it easily.  This sent the others into a panic.  The escapee came back immediately, and started circling the enclosure to find a way back in with her herd mates.  She simultaneously and vigorously avoided coming near me and Bex, who were actually trying to help her get back in!  Things went downhill from there.  One of the other goats leaped over the fence.  Then one of the smallest amazed us by running straight toward a large oak tree located on the other side of the fence, leaping up, landing five feet off the ground with all four feet planted on the side of the tree trunk, and then catapulting off the tree to the side, over the fence, and to freedom.  Acrobats!  The last remaining goat panicked and tried to push its way through the fencing, getting caught up, but then getting free with a little help from me, but moving too quickly for me to catch it.  It soon found the section of fence that had been pushed over a bit in the pandemonium and got loose, as well.

We looked at the goats back out on the driveway, stunned.  They were headed back toward the road, so I asked Bex to hurry down and close the gate while I grabbed leashes to see if we could either catch them again or drive them back into the pen.

I walked down the driveway, and my phone rang.  It was the Healdsburg shelter, asking if these goats were pygmies.  I told her no, that I thought they were a Boer/LaMancha cross, and she asked if I had called the County yet.  I explained that I hadn't because shortly after we got home, the goats had escaped and we were trying to catch them again.  She took my address and offered to call the County for me, which offer I gladly accepted, though I didn't think there'd be any goats to catch when they arrived.

As I walked down the  driveway, I was surprised to see that there was no one in sight.  No goats, no Bex.  I called her name, but heard no reply as I went down to the still open gate.  I hoped that she hadn't thought I meant the main gate, which is 1/2 mile down the drive.  She, of course, had left her cell phone at home.  I hurried back to the car and started driving down to find them.  She rounded the bend and climbed into the car, having followed them about 1/4 mile down the driveway before they took off onto a hill.  We tried to herd them back toward the house, but they slipped easily through barbed wire fencing and onto the retreat center property.  We figured they were long gone.

When we got back to the house, I contacted the folks at the retreat center to let them know they had goats. Then Bette stopped by and we talked about the escape and her efforts to find out who they belong to.  While we were talking, I received a phone call from Justin at Animal Control, who was at the main gate.  I told him how he could get in and that we didn't have the goats any longer.  I walked to the main driveway to meet him.  I stood on the driveway and looked down the hill.  Much to my surprise, in the exact same location they'd been discovered the night before, there were ... four stray goats in the pasture!

I called Bette, and we reviewed the situation with Justin, moving vehicles and cutting a small section of fencing to be able to herd them into a smaller secure area so Justin could catch them.  Nancy wasn't home, but her dog, Tim, was.  Though we didn't know all of his commands, Bette knew she could tell him to lie down and that he would do most of the work on his own.  Bette, Tim and I walked into the lower section of the field, and slowly started pressing the goats toward the opening in the fence.  Justin was off to the side, to make sure that they didn't bolt for the hill.  As we got closer to the goats and they began to look a little anxious, Tim kept looking at Bette, as if to say, "Hey, what do you want me to do?"  As the goats filed in through the gate opening, I wanted to shout and dance for joy, but contained myself so as not to amp up the level of their anxiety.  We all went through the opening and secured the gate, getting prepared to catch and put the goats into Justin's truck.

We learned that they tended to go toward the place they'd come into the enclosure, which put them into a nice, tight corner, making it easier to catch them.  The horns were a big problem, though, so after we got them to a place they could be caught, Justin ended up holding onto the horns while Bette got the lead around its neck.  Then, it was a matter of bringing the fighting goat out of the enclosure to the truck, up the ramp, into the truck, then removing the lead and starting over again.  Justin used the horns a lot to move them around, and while Becca and I had a hard time with this (Becca even more so), I knew that it was probably necessary and wasn't going to hurt them badly.  It was an extremely strenuous venture, and we'd take a break between each goat to catch breath a little bit.  Justin commented at one point, "I'm not doing enough cardio," and we laughed.  This was a real workout!

It took about an hour for all of the goats to be safely tucked away in to the truck so they could be transported to the farm section of the shelter.  They'll be cared for there and hopefully their owner will be able to find them.  Even though they were here for just a short time, I miss them already.  They are sweet little things that need a little taming.  It's probably a good thing they had horns, or I would have been seriously tempted to hold onto them if we couldn't find their owner! 

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