by Henry Lane Hull
Twelve years ago our friend, the late Carole Murphey, and I were speaking when the topic of goats arose. She mentioned that she had two Nubian kids, two months old, born of her pet nanny and was looking for a home for them. I told her that our two ancient goats had died recently and that I should be happy to have her two kids.
Carole was a lady who liked to achieve her goals and the following day she arrived with the two kids in her horse trailer. One was named Floppy, due to her long ears flopping around whenever she moved, and the other the B.E.s named Cuddles, which name turned out to be a bit of a misnomer in that she was not at all affectionate. To celebrate their arrival we built a new home for them, a structure my Good Wife termed a “goatel.”
Two years later we decided to breed the pair and five months later again they produced: Floppy with four kids and Cuddles with three. Floppy was an excellent mother, nurturing her offspring with care and love. She welcomed us petting them and was grateful for any assistance we rendered. Cuddles gave birth, then considered the rearing of the kids to be someone else’s responsibility. My Good Wife and I bottle-fed Cuddles’ kids for six weeks. The two mothers were quite different.
Of the seven kids, only two were female and one of them died in infancy. We found a home for the young bucks and kept the lone female, Floppy’s daughter, whom we named Abigail. A couple of years later Floppy, who despite her loving personality was a glutton, broke into the feed bin and overate. She developed goat bloat and died the following day.
Cuddles was not a nice aunt and, once Floppy was gone, literally ruled over Abigail in a most dictatorial fashion, gulping down her own food, then pushing Abigail aside to devour hers. We had to feed them separately in order for Abigail to get her portion. Abigail developed a frightened personality, perhaps thinking that everyone would treat her as Cuddles did. Then, unexpectedly, Cuddles died. The resulting transformation in Abigail’s personality was extraordinary. In spite of goats being herding animals, Abigail found new happiness and joy in being a singleton.
She initially started coming to be petted and would stay with me in the pen when I would be attending to the other animals or simply cleaning up the area. She would nudge me for more attention and I began feeding her by hand. By accident one day on the way to the compost area I dropped a banana peel. Abigail lapped it up, obviously delighted by the experience. That episode began a daily ritual of my feeding her the peel each morning after I had eaten the banana. On special occasions I would give her a whole banana of her own.
The Elder B.E. noted that she had come to expect the same personalized attention from others that she received from me. She always wanted to eat from my hands and never once bit me or was aggressive. On mornings when I was rushed and put her food in her dish, she looked dispirited, knowing that she would not be getting handfed.
A week ago she seemed somewhat listless and showed no interest in eating, even her banana peel. She drank water, but was content to sit by herself most of the day. She also ceased being conversational; when I spoke to her, she did not seem to be listening, looking into the distance with a fixed stare.
The following day, she stopped drinking, even when I placed her water directly in front of her and last Saturday she died at the age of 10 years and six months, less than 30 feet from where she had been born. She had left the farm only once, as a kid when my Good Wife took her to the middle school for the children to be able to pet her.
Abigail was truly a nice animal, capable of affection and devotion. She enjoyed life, but knowing when her time was coming, she tried not to be a burden. We buried her down the hill from where she had lived her entire life and I miss her very much.