No kid­ding. Goats are hot

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - LAURA M. HOL­SON NEW YORK —

Scout Raskin owns three dogs, a cat, tur­tles and a pair of her­mit crabs. Still, she longed for a coun­try pet to round out the menagerie at her home in a semiru­ral neigh­bour­hood in Los Angeles County. A horse was too big for the back­yard, a chicken im­pos­si­ble to cud­dle. That is why in March she found her­self at a Jack in the Box fast food res­tau­rant in Lan­caster, Calif., a desert town on the west­ern edge of the Mo­jave Desert, where she met a goat breeder with two Nige­rian dwarf kids in the back of his Honda Odyssey.

Raskin had picked out Spanky and Pip­pin on­line weeks ear­lier and was tak­ing them home. She was in­spired, in part, by the goat yoga craze pop­u­lar among Lu­l­ule­mon-wear­ing Hol­ly­wood women and ac­tresses like Re­becca Romijn. “Goats are hot th­ese days,” said Raskin, a for­mer child ac­tress. “Adults mostly want to get down on all fours and let the goats jump on them.”

Goats have long been a pop­u­lar sub­ject of videos. There are faint­ing goats, scream­ing goats, goats in py­ja­mas and goats with anger is­sues. There is a vir­tual game where the sole pur­pose of a goat is to wreck stuff and even a Tony Award-win­ning play by Ed­ward Al­bee, “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?,” in which the lead char­ac­ter has an af­fair with the pet in ques­tion. But in the past few years, a swell of fun-lov­ing billys has moved off-line and into peo­ple’s back­yards, liv­ing rooms and hastily-built barns. In­deed the num­ber of reg­is­tered Nige­rian dwarf goats, beloved for their size and frisky good na­ture, has in­creased 7.5 per cent in three years, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Goat So­ci­ety.

In­sta­gram has be­come a pop­u­lar place for own­ers to share their goat tales. They are spot­ted on walks, tak­ing dips in the pool and snug­gling. Goats of An­ar­chy, a New Jer­sey res­cue for goats with special needs, is a mecca for soft-hearted goat lovers, with 499,000 fol­low­ers and a line of books, socks and cal­en­dars.

“I know there are stereo­types: They eat cans and smell bad,” said Wil­liam Kowa­lik, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Amer­i­can Goat So­ci­ety. “That’s not true. They are very much like dogs. They are great pets. The goats know what kind of mood you are in. They can get a per­son to open up.”

An­gela Bai­ley lives a 20-minute drive from St. Paul, Minn. A friend sug­gested she get a goat, say­ing their milk was easy to di­gest. In May, Bai­ley’s hus­band gave her two kids for her birth­day. “They wag their tails when they are happy,” she said. “They like to be scratched and pet­ted, and they love to be around all of us.” Equally ap­peal­ing, she said, “their poop does not stink.”

Bai­ley’s city friends weren’t as thrilled. “It felt like they were rolling their eyes a lit­tle,” she said. Her six chil­dren, though, have warmed up to the goats, es­pe­cially her girls. “There’s a lot of hug­ging go­ing on,” she said.

Goats have a de­fined so­cial caste, de­spite their laid back goofi­ness. “Ev­ery­one has their own spot,” said Kowa­lik, who has goats and lives in San An­to­nio. “They learn the or­der, and if you don’t follow it, they will pout.” If a goat sniffs another goat’s food, “they’ll walk off and refuse to eat,” he said. “If a piece of wa­ter­melon touches the ground, they won’t eat it. They also get into: ‘That’s not my bowl. I am not go­ing to drink from it.’”

Per­haps the most dif­fi­cult part of own­ing a goat is find­ing a neigh­bour­hood zoned for farm an­i­mals. Leanne Lau­ri­cella started the Goats of An­ar­chy an­i­mal res­cue in 2015. She had left her job as an event plan­ner in Man­hat­tan and moved to ru­ral New Jer­sey, where she adopted two res­cue goats. The herd has grown to 52, a haven for an­i­mals that have lost feet be­cause of frost­bite, are miss­ing limbs, were abused or have con­gen­i­tal dis­or­ders.

She funds the res­cue mostly through do­na­tions, in part, be­cause of a clever In­sta­gram ac­count where she posts videos and pho­to­graphs doc­u­ment­ing the tra­vails of car­ing for her brood, in­clud­ing Polly, a blind goat with anx­i­ety; Grace, who was abused by teenagers; and Pocket, who lost the bot­toms of both back legs and wears pros­thet­ics.

A re­cent favourite was Law­son, who came to Lau­ri­cella ear­lier this year with a heart con­di­tion and shriv­elled back legs. She kept him in the house dressed in a one­sie where he slept in a playpen. Later, Lau­ri­cella fit­ted him with a cart to go out­side. She found a doc­tor will­ing to per­form open-heart surgery, and on June 17, told her In­sta­gram fol­low­ers it was a suc­cess. Law­son came home on June 29. “I had Law­son in my lap for a few snug­gles and he started to scream out of nowhere,” she later wrote on In­sta­gram. “He in­stantly turned blue.” Law­son died in her arms the day af­ter he came home.

The re­sponse from her fol­low­ers was over­whelm­ing. Within an hour, more than 3,000 peo­ple of­fered con­do­lences. That num­ber rose to 23,445 by the week’s end. One of those who com­mented was Pa­tri­cia Hunt from Con­cord, Calif., who said she cried when Law­son died. She does not own a goat, but she felt a kin­ship with Lau­ri­cella and her herd. “I was so pulling for him,” she said of Law­son.

Raskin, the Cal­i­for­nian who picked up her goats at the Jack in the Box, quickly learned how pop­u­lar her goats would be­come. She now rents out Spanky and Pip­pin for $75 an hour. They were fea­tured on the Hall­mark Chan­nel. They are a hit on the Los Angeles goat yoga cir­cuit. Pip­pin re­cently wore a white wed­ding dress to wel­come a groom to his bach­e­lor party. But by far the most elab­o­rate setup was a 30th birth­day soiree. More than 30 peo­ple showed up to play goat Twister.

AMY LOM­BARD, NYT

A pair of goats dig in to some chow at Goats of An­ar­chy, where, like the sign says, “goats just wanna have fun,” in An­nan­dale, N.J.

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