The final conversation I had with the woman who sold us the goats went something like this…Woman: “You’ll have to work at taming them.” Me: “Taming them?” Woman: “Yes. You just catch them and play with them everyday so that they get used to you.” Me: “Oh, okay!” I don’t know if it was ignorance, naivetee, or both (probably both) but the job of, just catching these girls and playing with them (like anyone can do it) has turned out to be quite a task!
Our first attempt to catch one of the goats (Ginger) happened right off the bat, as soon as we arrived home. The darlings had ridden (fairly) peacefully in the back of our Suburban – all the way from Clovis, nearly an hour away. Our plan was to put leashes on them and gently walk them back to their pen where they’d find fresh grass water, grains, a place to run, jump, and play, and a nice, warm shelter filled with mounds of straw hay to lay in.
Matt opened the back door of the Suburban and got a hold on Maryann while I worked to put the leash around her neck. Ginger remained, calmly, behind the second closed door as we took Maryann out of the vehicle and put her on the ground outside. In a split second, as Matt turned to bring Ginger out, she jumped out on her own and began to run away. Matt gave chase, but could not catch her — we had no idea goats were so agile and fast!!! In the meantime Maryann, no doubt terrified at the sight of her sister being chased by a complete stranger, was strangling herself with the leash as I struggled to keep a hold on her. I yelled at Matt to give up on Ginger and come and get Maryann before I choked her to death. He did so and was, thankfully, able to gain control of her. We removed the leash, then he picked her up and carried her all the way back to the pen where he quickly locked her up and headed back out to help me capture Ginger, who wanted nothing to do with this kidnapping (pun intended).
If it weren’t for the neighbor’s giant, but sweet, German Shepherd, I think Ginger would’ve been a gonner. She was headed, fast, down our driveway in the direction of a very busy street. The more I chased after her, the faster she ran. Miraculously, Max came darting out of nowhere and headed her off at the pass. He got her to change direction, chased her down into the creekbed, then up the embankment where he stood her down, barking at her face to face. She froze for just enough time so that I was able to grab a hold of her, pick her up, and carry her over to Matt where I handed her off . He walked her the rest of the way back to the pen to join her sister in lockdown. Whew! That was a close one!!!
The kids got a good laugh out of it, but Matt and I quickly explained to them that we were going to have to engage in that same activity with them everyday, until they got accustomed to us, weren’t afraid of us, and would even come up to us to let us feed them, pet them, and, eventually, milk them.
In the days following, we took to working on catching and playing with them. At first, they made it somewhat easy, as they’d run into their shelter and lay down in the corner. Once there, it was easy for us to slowly approach them, grab them, and pet them. But, as they became more and more familiar with their surroundings, they found another place to run to and hide — under a pile of tree limbs. No matter what we did to pursue and capture them, they were too fast and better adept and manuevering through the terrain. Once they made their way under the branches, they were safe, and there was nothing more that we could do. It looked as if we’d never be able to approach them without sending them running in every direction to get away from us.
Then, one morning, as I entered their pen to bring them their daily grain ration, I wondered, “Would they come if I had food?” It was worth a try. I slowly walked over to where they both were grazing, holding out the small container of mixed grains. Ginger was curious. She held out her neck, trying to get a sniff of what I was holding. Maryann was much more cautious, and turned around, ready to run away. Ginger took a step towards me. I came a little closer toward her, and they both ran away. “I’ll try it again”, I thought. “Maybe Ginger will come to me.”
My second attempt was more successful than the first. Again, they allowed me to approach, and come within about three feet. I held out the container, at arm’s length. Ginger cautiously approached and began eating. When Maryann noticed that Ginger was chewing on something, she came, too, and butted Ginger out of the way so that she, herself, could get some. When I attempted to take some of the grain out to feed her with my hand, however, she became frightened and quickly bolted away. Likewise, when I reached my hand out to pet Ginger while she was eating, she spooked and darted over to take cover with Maryann. At least I knew, though, that food was the key to taming them. I shared my results with my son, who was eager to give it a try. After a short attempt he, too, was able to get them to eat from the plastic container. But, neither could he get them to let him pet them, and they ran away from his trying…that part of the taming would have to wait.
We’re making progress, though! As you can see from the picture, both of the sisters now eat from my hand. In fact, they both approach me, knowing that I have a yummy treat. Ginger is always the first to come. Maryann still waits, making sure that all is safe before making her way to me. They still don’t want me to pet them. But, I get a strong hold on them and do it anyway. Hopefully, this, too will become easier and easier as they get to know me and trust me. I’m looking forward to the day when I can enter their pen, and they’ll come up to me and let me pet them. Ultimately, the goal is to get them to let me milk them. We’ve got about a year to get to that point, and I’m really hoping that by then the sisters will have been tamed and, I expect, we’ll all be just the best of buddies!