Sunday, January 11, 2015

'WAGS'... AND THE WINTER THAT GOT OUR GOAT...

by Rose Moore, columnist
Published in Gazette Newspapers of Ohio
Jan. 9, 2015


THE LOVABLE FACE OF A NUBIAN GOAT
His name was Wags. He entered our conversation last week as Bob and I talked about the recent invasion of winter cold. 
Wags was our pet in the early 1970s when our three boys were youngsters. He was bigger than Mick, the over-sized Doberman that now inhabits a place in our home. While Mick weighs more than 100 pounds and is so long-legged-tall I can scratch his big back without bending or leaning, Wags was even taller than Mick, and he weighed at least 150. His weight and height were the proper standard for his breed, and unlike Mick, he didn't live in the house. He was a Nubian goat! 
He looked a bit like a deer, even his coloration, but his soulful-eyed face---framed as it was with its long floppy ears hanging down---looked more like a basset hound. Try as I might over time to photograph that wackily beautiful face for posterity, he would spoil each effort by lovingly licking the lens of my camera. 
Unlike Mick, Wags did not arrive on the scene by pre-planning. While Mick had been my husband's grand surprise for me in early 2012, just after we traded our dog-friendly club-cab truck for a tiny red car, Wags had been a complete surprise for both of us.
He arrived one summer day in the back of a big green truck driven by my friend and flight instructor Everett Knapp. To the delight of the little Moore boys and the shock of their parents, Knapp formally introduced this creature to them, telling them Wags would now be their pet.
"I know you have a problem with the poison ivy," Knapp told us. "Wags as a goat can solve that." For us, such a deal!  As the story evolved, we learned that Wags was being "evicted" from a children's rural petting zoo. "He would be put down if the owner could not find a home," Knapp explained. "Wags needs property, and you have the property. Wags needs and loves kids, and you have the kids. Wags needs affection, and your boys love animals."
The facts as presented did make good sense. Wags now had a home and three boys, and the boys had a pet that could run around the property with them. And yes! bit by bit, Wags did do away with all that poison ivy, and it never came back.
Once a week, we picked up a bag of goat feed at the mill, and the boys always insisted on going along. They would carry the feed bag; they would feed their pet; they would see that he had plenty of water; and at night they would see that he was well secured in his comfortable shelter at the rear of the property.
Oh! How often I glanced out the window to see the shenanigans of three boys and their goat. I would watch as the boys tied their goat to a wagon and suspended a carrot in front of his nose at the end of a long stick and a string. In his efforts to reach for that carrot, Wags would pull his boys and their wagon all over the yard. When the carrot was finally caught, Wags would plunk himself backward on top of the boys while happily eating the carrot... 
The boys kept a good eye on this pet they were proud of; who else had a goat from a petting zoo? One hot afternoon, Wags wandered too close to the road. The boys, working as a team, tackled him down and made him lie flat beneath an old tree until they gave him permission to get up again. Together the boys and the goat sat in the cooling shade of that tree and had a good rest. (And Wags had quickly learned he was not to get close to the road.)
It was not an altogether bad life for a goat whose pre-Moore days had been spent being petted by children. People who knew the breed told me they attached quite readily to humans and loved to interact with them, and that was quickly proved to us. I was also told that Nubian goats would learn to call for their favorite owner. I soon discovered, as much as he enjoyed the boys, his favorite owner was ME! And he DID begin to call for me. Early every morning, I would hear that resounding call for "Maaaa!" It wouldn't stop until I went out to say hello and visit with him for a bit, and then Wags was fine for the day.
Like my human boys, the joy of this Nubian could be accompanied with a pesky problem or two. One I remember quite vividly. I had dressed for an early-morning meeting when I heard the Nubian greeting from Wags, and I knew he'd wake the entire neighborhood if I didn't go out and say hi. 
Before school, the kids had secured him on a long chain and stake, and Wags was so excited to see me, he surprised me by wrapping that chain around my ankles. Down I went into a patch of mud! 
Gleefully he snuggled against me, licking my face, and it was not an easy job to get away from all that mud and sloppy affection. Needless to say, I didn't make it in time for my meeting, and I'm not sure my excuse was accepted. Or believed.
Wags had been with us for more than two years when he was attacked by a small pack of roaming dogs. Hearing the excitement, I hurried out with broom sticks. My mother-in-law who lived next door was already there, and together we two women shooed the dogs away from that poor goat. A rural veterinarian who specialized in large animals came to treat him, with follow-up visits from time to time. Wags healed slowly, but he did finally heal.
"I believe you're the human this animal loves the most," the vet observed during that first visit. "You are therefore the one who should administer his medicine and tend him. Spend extra time with him, talking tenderly to him. It will make all the difference in his recovery, believe it or not, especially considering this animal was raised to be around people."
When winter approached, Wags was doing well and I called the vet in for a pre-winter check. Under ordinary circumstances, he told me, the goat's winter shelter was more than adequate. But considering the injury and infection from which he had recovered, he might be prone to pneumonia. He should probably live in a heated barn.
We had no way of safely heating the shelter, so reluctantly we advertised a "Free Nubian goat; large but great with children; and loves to be with humans." Wags was adopted very quickly by a family with children and a heated barn. We said goodbye with sadness; we were doing what was best for him.
Bob and I have not forgotten Wags, our first pet as a married couple with children. Unconventional, over-sized and unexpected, Wags still turned out to be a good pet. 
Maybe our experience with him prepared me for the big dogs that would later enter my life, including Mick. At our age, we know that Mick is apt to be our LAST dog as a married couple. Like Wags, he's larger than expected; and a pet I didn't ask for and didn't know I wanted. But a good pet indeed!
 
 
(This column was printed 1-09-2015 in Gazette Newspapers of Ohio. You can contact Rose at randrmoore@gmail.com