My first house/petsitting job came about last year when my friends, Jean and Kevin, wanted to take an extended trip out west and needed someone to take care of their two cats, a giant horse and a donkey. I must have done a fairly good job because earlier this year, Jean said that Kevin wanted to take another trip out west and would I be available to watch over the same cats, a different, smaller horse and the same donkey.
A few weeks after agreeing to this arrangement, Jean told me that Kevin had bought a few goats. Goats are foragers and would help keep the property from getting too overgrown. So now I would be responsible for two cats, a horse, a donkey and a herd of goats. I told Jean that I would start practicing the Goat Herd song from The Sound of Music.
Another couple of weeks passed, and Jean said that Kevin had acquired a llama. They had lost a couple of the smaller goats to coyotes. They had been told that the llama would bond with the goats and act as a protector against the coyotes. So now I would be responsible for two cats, a horse, a donkey, ten goats and a llama.
Two weeks before Jean and Kevin were to leave on their trip, I went over to their house for dinner and to review the ins and outs of goat herding. Apparently, the goat-llama bonding had not taken hold, so it would be necessary to get the goats into the barn before dark every day. Jean made it look easy.
As she was showing me the finer points of goat herding, she said, “Oh, we think a couple of the goats may be pregnant.”
“I don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout birthin’ no goat babies,” I replied.
Over dinner, Kevin said that I shouldn’t worry too much if one of the goats gave birth during my watch. He added that his only concern would be the placenta because that would attract coyotes. I was thinking “Yuck! Placentas must fall under hazardous duty pay.”
My first day on the job and all but one of the goats went into the barn. I tried and tried to get Agent 99 into the barn to no avail. The goats don’t have names, but some of them have numbers, or more precisely, tags in their ears with numbers on them. There is a number 426, a 57, a 99 which makes me think of Agent 99 though I haven’t decided which goat should be Maxwell Smart and my favorite goat, number 20. He’s the smallest and since I’m small perhaps that explains my affection for him.
On my second day on the job, two goats wouldn’t go into the barn. Agent 99 and his accomplice. At this rate, by day 10, none of the goats would be in the barn. I sucked at goat herding.
I even tried singing the Goat Herd song. I’m not normally a fan of public singing especially if I’m the one doing the public singing. I only reluctantly join in the aural assault that is Happy Birthday, but I figured goats wouldn’t be overly critical of my singing. In fact, they aren’t critical, but they also don’t come when you sing to them.
Fortunately, since goats are herd animals, they stay close to the barn even when I can’t get them into the barn. So I’m now three weeks into the goat herding gig and I still have ten goats. I count them every night and every morning, and as long as I count ten goats I figure I’m doing just fine. I’m not sure if a couple of goats are pregnant. A couple of them are fatter than the others but they don’t seem to be fatter than when I started. I could Google goat gestation (try saying that fast five times) but I prefer to be surprised,
Actually, I prefer that Jean tell me about a new goat baby after she returns from her trip. Because I don’t want to deal with a goat placenta and we never did discuss hazard pay.