By Cam Mather
Babysitting animals has not always gone
well for me. When I was a kid I used to babysit for a family who owned a
dog that had particularly bad flatulence. Unfortunately for me the dog
insisted on hanging around me the whole time that I was babysitting. A
few years ago we offered to look after our neighbour Agnes’ horse and
donkey. Our paddock was empty but we weren’t ready to purchase our own
“big pets” yet. The horse was elderly and suffering from COPD (Chronic
Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder) when she got here and she died suddenly
about a month after she arrived. I’m still traumatized by the memory of
Agnes’ son dragging the horse out of the barn with a tractor and
loading it on a trailer. But really, what else can you do with a 2,000
pound animal? Agnes was very gracious though and took it all in stride.
when our neighbor Alyce recently asked us to look after her baby goat
“Parker” while she was away, I was kind of torn. My record to date
hadn’t been great. But I try to be a good neighbour and I have
successfully looked after Alyce’s horses in the past. My tasks then
included turning the horses out into the paddock for the day, and then
getting them back into the barn at night. But Alyce is never one to do
anything the easy way and her paddock is across a driveway from the
barn, which means herding the horses through an open area before you get
them into the confines of a fence. And if a horse were to bolt it could
disappear into the woods and never been seen again. No pressure there
Here’s what I know about horses. Horses will respect you
if they know you’re not afraid of them. They’ll still pound you and kick
you and try and throw you, but at least they’ll usually do what they’re
told. But if horses know you’re afraid of them, they’ll treat you like
crap. They will abuse you and not do anything that you ask them to do.
And I am terrified of horses. I have never been thrown or kicked by a
horse, but my selective memory reinforces my fear every time I meet
someone who has. Plus at my weight of 150 pounds I figure a 1500 pound
horse has a weight advantage of 10 times over me. My odds would be
better as the 98-pound weakling on the beach versus a “UFC” (mixed
martial arts fight to the death) fighter.
Eventually the only way I
could get the horses back into the barn, across the very open and free
range driveway, was to bribe them with grain. Alyce doesn’t believe in
this method of parenting or horse management. Funny, it was only that
once she asked me to look after the horses.
But since she knew Michelle would probably be the go to person with goat sitting, she decided to give us another shot.
is about 6 weeks old and is a “dairy” goat. But since Parker is a male,
he’s not much use to anyone in a goat milk operation. Alyce bought him
at an auction for about $6, and then spent $40 on goat formula to feed
Parker is incredibly cute. All babies are cute, but Parker is
particularly adorable. When you walk Parker follows you around and he
doesn’t walk, he prances, and bucks and jumps. Sooo cute. Such boundless
enthusiasm and joy.
arrived Friday night along with hurried instructions about feeding him
which involved getting him to suck on your knuckle first, and then
moving the nipple of the bottle into place, blah blah blah which well,
really didn’t register with me until we had to do it. I decided to try
and get him to have a bottle before bed and he wanted nothing to do with
it. I coaxed and cajoled and pleaded and bargained and threatened and
he would have none of it. Eventually we let him into the house and I had
him basically pinned so he couldn’t move and there was no way he was
drinking from that thing. It was like those prisoner movies where they
try and get the spy to talk. He was immovable. I assumed he’d be dead by
the morning without eating.
We got up early the next morning
assuming he’d be desperate to eat by then. But I still didn’t have any
luck convincing him to drink from the bottle. I figured he’d be lucky
to make it until noon. Then of course Michelle stepped in and reminded
me that it’s not often you hear of infants starving themselves to death.
Sooner or later, when they’re hungry, they’ll eat.
Parker began butting Michelle and she was able to get him to gnaw on her
finger and managed to slip the nipple in and he was off to the races.
love to climb. And jump on things. I had discovered this a week earlier
at Ken and Alyce’s place. I was putting the blades back on Ken’s
lawnmower with his impact drill after he had sharpened them. I’m not
used to using tools which are air driven. You’ve probably heard this
kind of tool at the shop when they take your tires off that make the
high-speed “bizzztttt” whining noise. So Ken had the lawn mover pulled
up in the air, I was on my back with the nut hand tightened on the bolt
and just as I pulled the trigger on the drill, expecting it to rip my
arm off, from out of nowhere some “THING” jumped on my head, and
straddled my face completely covering it. As I tell this story, I was
unaffected by this terrifying incident and said nothing and didn’t even
flinch but Ken insists that I swore and screamed like a girl. Either
way, Ken had to drop the lawnmower and visit the chiropractor because he
threw his back out laughing at me. Thank you Parker the Wonder Goat.
Another story for Ken to mock me with in front of his hunting buddies.
the weekend that we were “goat-sitting” I was reminded of his love of
climbing as he jumped from one wicker chair on the porch to the other. I
decided to provide him with some things to climb. He particularly liked
the wooden plank that I placed between two big round bales. He
scampered up on to the hay bales and across the plank with death defying
Parker was here, a friend of mine arrived with his children. The kids
loved Parker and he seemed pretty fond of them. They quickly learned to
fall down in front of him so that he would jump on them and lick their
face. I haven’t heard such squeals of joy in years. While we were in the
house with our guests having juice and cookies, Parker lay down for a
nap. All of that activity had worn the poor little guy out!
had major attitude though. Once he discovered Michelle’s flower gardens
it became necessary to distract him any time he got that glint in his
eye that said “marigold lunchtime.”
the gardens survived, as did Parker and he probably gained a few pounds
judging by how well he was polishing off bottles for Michelle. So in
our new “Anything for a Buck” business mode, if you know anyone with
goats looking for a great “goat care” facility, we are experienced here
at Sunflower Farm and have a whole series of stimulating and engaging
activities to keep your goats entertained. Baby goats preferred. Bad
For more information about Cam Mather or his books please visit www.cammather.com or www.aztext.com