Sunday, November 16th, 2008
Just yesterday, while talking about his mother’s keen interest in sheep, a friend’s new boyfriend commented to me “every sheep has a distinctly different personality, doesn’t it?” If I hadn’t already approved of my friend’s choice, that clinched it for me. “Marry him!”, I wanted to shout, “seal the deal!”. You see, very few people understand (or choose to understand) the character of sheep, or any farm animal, for that matter; I think those that do are tuned into the universe in a unique way.
Now, the fact that each animal has his or her own personality should not be too surprising, at least to those who have cats or dogs. I suppose a lot of people select their adoption or purchase choices based on color, breed, coat, or something else largely visual. Some might be more tempted by puppies or kittens (not realizing the months of hell and mess ahead of them!). Then again some of us get suckered into taking animals we’ve no idea about (like my Heinz 57 wild street dog from Haiti who was in the right place at the right time, and now, 5 years later, makes me want to pull my hair out only about once a week …. as opposed to every hour on the hour).
In fact, I seem to get suckered a lot. Yep, I should make it easier for everyone and just get a nice big sticker for my forehead, “EASY MARK”.
Part of the problem is running this thing called an “Animal Sanctuary”.
Taking my cue from the larger and more experienced Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary down the road, I don’t publish our physical address on our flyers or web site: perhaps the first step in the 12 Step Program to Sucker-Free-Living. Why? Because in the past those good folks at Poplar Spring have actually had animals dropped at their gate; people have shown up with boxes of chicks, saying “here”, as they shove the box forward, “we thought you’d want these”; folks have climbed their locked gates and walked the mile to the main barns, late in the evening, to try to hand off animals they didn’t know what to do with. It’s a problem we generally don’t have the facilities or resources to handle at Star Gazing Farm. While the numbers of unwanted dogs and cats far exceed that of farm animals, you’d be surprised at the number of calls and emails we get asking for help. Oddly, November was the month for unwanted and stray peacocks.
But more often it’s goats. You chuckle; you’re not surprised. In fact, you know where this is going. Because before we gained awareness into the problem of our deep-seated soft-heartedness, we agreed to take in Mr. Newman Goat. His story is well known, and his reputation of course precedes him by miles (he has girlfriends as far away as Australia). There are no regrets – oh no, Mr. Newman is well loved here, despite his proclivity for destruction of property (he’s working on opening up a window in the barn wall right now, and a few weeks back he ate a roll of 100 stamps – fortunately he left the other four rolls, as apparently stamps are not as tasty as he thought). He has personality. He has charm. He has good looks. He has no apparent sense of self-consciousness and makes no apologies for anything, including events that are distinctly his fault. This is in contrast to the sheep, who are sensitive to the feelings of others, and take care of both each other and the humans around them. But I digress. The thing about Newman is that he’s got to be in your face, especially if you are a newcomer to the farm.
Last week we had a visit from a lady and her two grandchildren – small children, little tender chickadees with little to no goat experience under their belts. Shortly after their arrival I momentarily had to step inside the house and when I emerged, the little ones were crying their eyes out, weeping relentlessly. And there was Newman. I beheld the scene of the grandmother holding the smaller child, the larger child cowering on the porch, with Mr. Newman Goat staring at them, and I burst into loud laughter.
To their horror, I howled and guffawed as I grabbed onto the railing for support. Yes, I realize this was a tremendous social faux pas and even the candy canes I offered to the children later did not, apparently, put salve on the wounds of their traumatic goat experience which will probably scar their psyches for some time to come (the little girl later claimed that she would not forget this farm visit for “at least 100 years”).
This is not the first time Newman has made children cry – in fact, aside from his little buddy Sebastian (about 5 years old when he and Newman first became fast friends), Newman shows little sensitivity to the pre-school crowd. He means no harm – but he has no patience for the faint of heart, the shy, the retiring, or for those with delicate constitutions. He is who he is, and if he is in the mood to give you a kiss, he expects you to accept it. Tears are not in his vocabulary. Most people love him, if from a distance. We have a new farm sitter who helps feed on evenings I have to work late – my primary worry when she started was “how will she deal with Newman”. I learned last week that she is so crazy about him that he appears on her Facebook page. Whew.
I’m glad for the animals who have landed in my life without my really having chosen them – my little Haitian dog Ti-gba keeps me snuggly warm at night, and Mr. Newman keeps me warm inside from the laughter. I hope some day all the little girls he’s made cry will be able to laugh along with me.
Till next time,
Star Gazing Farm 501(c)3
A haven for retired farm animals and wayward goats http://www.stargazingfarm.org