A Jewel Among Goats
I BROUGHT Jewel, our black, white, brown, and tan Saanen-Nubian cross goat into the milking shed toward evening. Laura, my wife, was the usual milker, but a town trip had put her behind schedule, and I filled in. Jewel jumped up on the milking stand, but she wouldn't put her head into the stanchion, to be locked in, until I filled her feed box with grain. That was part of our agreement about milking.Skip to next paragraph
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It was also our agreement that I would try to finish milking as soon as she finished eating her grain, so she wouldn't have to stand with nothing to do. I never did finish that quickly, but she was patient as long as I made the effort. We had our agreements about how things were done, and we got along together very well, which meant that our relationship had improved since we first met.
We bought her from people who were moving and couldn't keep her. The man delivered her to us on his way by with a truckload of possessions. As he unloaded her, she reared into the air and struck at him with her front hooves. By the rope attached to her collar, he pulled her down, and she butted at him. She didn't have horns, but a hornless goat can still deliver a powerful blow. He got her out of the truck and down the ramp without getting hit. He panted and puffed with the exertion and said, "This goat doesn't like men."
That seemed true at first. Laura handled her without problems. But Jewel didn't want me close to her. She would rear up on her hind feet and strike at me with her front feet, but more than a foot short of hitting me.
I didn't know much about goats, but I knew enough about beings in general to know that, if she intended to hit me, she wouldn't be striking short. I'd go on with the work I was doing. "You know you want this good hay and clean water, and you like your area here to be clean, so you'll have to quit trying to run me out of here." If she seemed particularly aggressive, I stood still and talked to her until she settled down.
Her dislike of men continued, even after she and I began to make our agreements and get along well. I thought she had met a man or some men who believed force was efficient in dealing with animals, and humans must rule. Jewel was an intelligent, cooperative goat, but she would not tolerate force. If we showed her what we wanted her to do, and if it was a goatly sensible thing to do, she would do it. But if there was even a suggestion of force in an attempt to bend goat's will to human will, all cooperati on disappeared, and about 150 pounds of ready-to-fight goat appeared in its place.
Hoof-trimming time was the only time I violated our agreements, and then I got Laura and our daughters, Juniper and Amanda, to help me reassure Jewel that I meant no harm, and that this process must be done and was for her good. Then I pulled her feet from under her, put her down on her side, and trimmed hooves, a painless process if it's done right. Laura, Juniper, and Amanda held Jewel down, petted, talked, brushed, and sang to her through the process. When we let her up, she threatened me with hooves and ducked head, but the use of force had been so mixed up with kindness and reassurance that she soon believed in my gentleness again.
She was strong. We tethered her in the yard to eat fresh, green grass. Each day, when we took her from where she had been tethered back to the goat house and pen, she was willing to go for the alfalfa hay and the grain that waited there.