For this weeks edition of GotW, I have chosen a really interesting and amusing character. He is a very distinct and unique looking goat in my herd and is not hard to spot. His name is Tuco and he is one of our wethers (fixed male). Tuco was born on a friends farm in 2016. Tuco is a bigger goat than most in my herd because he is only half Nigerian Dwarf Goat. His father is one of my breeding bucks (Sky River Meadows Cosmos), and his mother is a big alpine goat named Julia, owned by the Parliaments. Tuco joined my herd in 2018, and it was a happy day for me indeed! I had always had a soft spot for Tuco when I would visit the Parliaments, so I was thrilled to be able to offer him a place here. In my opinion, Tuco is a very special boy with a gift for connecting with people. I always felt that he would do well in my therapeutic herd, and he sure has not disappointed. Tuco also seems to have a sense of adventure that I really love about him. He is always willing to go for a walk - even without the herd, which I think is really cool and makes him super unique. Goats are herd animals and they do not like to be separated from their herd. Tuco is a goat that is so self aware and confident in himself though, that is seems he is perfectly content to just go with the flow each and every day. Oh Tuco, how I wish I could live more at ease like you.
Each and every goat in our herd here is a very unique and distinct character. Tuco is no exception to that. His striking coat colours are just as flashy as his personality. He is FABULOUS!! If there was a fashionista in my herd it is Tuco. His spots change from a soft brown to black as they progress down his back. He has striking yellow eyes, and he is ALWAYS smiling! Tuco loves to meet new people and because he is one of the biggest goats in the herd, he usually gets his way by pushing the smaller goats out of his way. If you want Goat Selfies - this is your boy! I have more selfies with Tuco than any other goat in my herd I swear. OK, so maybe he is a bit vain too. But with good looks like his, I don't blame him. Besides, who doesn't want a cool goat selfie? When you have a fun and willing friend to take hilarious pictures with, why wouldn't you? When it comes to having a sense of humour, he's got that covered too. Tuco can be a prankster and even recently once body checked me right into a ditch - on purpose. I did share that video to my personal Instagram account.
In a therapeutic setting, Tuco seems incredibly gifted at connecting with those who are perhaps struggling with self-image or self-concepts. Our society is really good at making many of us feel inadequate at times. From advertising to social media, we are all under immense pressure to fit into some sort of mold. For some it is these feelings that can really stop us from being truly authentic, and living our best lives. For me, spending time with Tuco is like spending time with myself. I can be free to just be who I am without the fear of being judged. Tuco isn't afraid to wave his flag and be himself and nor should we! Each one of us is unique and we should all be proud to be ourselves. I think that is what I love the most about spending time with the herd. There is never any judgement. When sharing space with the herd, everyone becomes unencumbered and free to be themselves. Can you imagine if the rest of the world worked in such simple and easy ways?
A frosty -26C greeting today! It seems mother nature decided that it WAS winter after all and gifted everyone with a good amount of snow this past weekend. We were blessed with a foot of snow here which took us all day to dig out from. You may all appreciate that the photos today are all of greener days, and hopefully they can bring you some warmth today. This week I decided to feature another one of my very special ladies. She is aptly named "My Precious" as she most certainly is a very precious gift. A heart of gold, and shining bright spirit of love, My Precious was born in 2017. For those of you who don't know, I am the only one who picks the names, and each year I choose a naming theme, as a way to help me narrow down the potential name choices for our babies. In 2017, the theme was Lord of the Rings. I like to say that my nerd comes out when I name my herd. I take naming each of our babies very seriously as I want to ensure that the name is a good fit to the personality. Sometimes it has taken me weeks to make a choice, and on occasion the name changes a time or two before it sticks and they become registered. With Precious, she was one of the hard ones to name. Nothing fit. I even researched names, scouring through Tolkien's works, looking for the ONE name that fit her personality. In the end, her name was chosen based on her heart. The ONE name, for the sweetest goat. MY PRECIOUS! She is just too sweet for words! From the moment of her birth, she has just always had a way of drawing people to her. She stares deep into your eyes, and I swear a warm loving feeling will overcome you. Spend some time in her presence and it will start to envelop you in a cocoon of love. It sounds weird, I know. There is something about these goats though that really does need to be experienced first hand. There are some things in this world that there just are no words for.
Each and every kidding season there is at least one baby born that captures my heart right away. In 2017 I actually had MANY born that ended up becoming an important part of what my herd is today. Precious has always been very special goat to me for several reasons, but the main fact is that she is the last daughter of our dear Delilah (Geordon's favourite goat, now retired), and she inherited her mother's sweet, loving nature. I think in any great breeding program, it is always the goal to try to improve on the next generation by breeding wisely. As the main focus of my breeding program is for temperament, I am VERY proud of how both Precious, and her twin brother Gimli turned out. I actually kept Gimli as well and he is one of my herdsires - also with the sweetest temperament. I could easily say that these two are pretty close to the perfect example of what we try to breed for here. Precious is calm, sweet natured, easy mannered, and this year she freshened (had babies) for the first time and was a fantastic and calm milker! It may seem odd to many to have a dairy goat breeding program focused on temperament, however in my line of work it makes perfect sense. How do you find the perfect animal partners to work with you to help people feel better? Well, if you can't buy them - I tried this for years, it was very expensive and there was no guarantee of temperament - then you attempt to breed them! By selectively breeding for the desired physical and emotional qualities, we actually better our chances of raising well balanced animals. The way we raise our animals here also makes a big difference. We begin conditioning them from the moment they are born. We work diligently to socialize each and every one of them. We nurture their unique personalities so that they can shine true and authentic for who they each are. We honour each animal here for their choice to take part in any work or activities we do here. It allows us to work with animals that have been raised from birth knowing no fear or distrust of humans. It allows us to raise them to have a voice, have a choice, and an opinion. This creates a very unique animal to make a connection with. Again - something that must be experienced to understand. Now don't get me wrong, I adore all goats. I think they are hysterical on all levels. In my line of work though, it takes a very special kind of goat to go into some of the places we do. I wouldn't ever even imagine taking some of my "non therapy" goats to work with me. That's a nope. ;)
So getting back to Precious, and that amazing heart she has. I think we all know someone who just LOVES everyone they meet. Do you know the kind of person I mean? The one who as they walk down the street they offer hugs and smiles to everyone they pass. Precious is that kind of goat. As she goes about her day, when she encounters people, she takes the time to ensure they are noticed. I will try to be clearer here. Precious is direct - but in a very gentle way. She makes eye contact, but in the most innocent and unassuming way, that it always feels comfortable. She approaches timid people slowly, and as soon as she is close enough, she will begin to lick them. The impact this has on most people is quite incredible to witness. You'll see a softening occur and within no time she has won over yet another heart. You see, each goat in my herd has a "gift" of sorts. Almost like a special ability. Precious exudes love - that is her gift. She is pure love. My opinion is that Precious has the ability to help people to feel what true unconditional love feels like. For some, that may be something that they are experiencing for the very first time. It is very powerful and can be so transformative for some individuals. For me, it is incredible to watch as Precious cracks the hardest of people. Those soft, sweet, blue eyes of hers just seem to melt away any hesitation or reservations someone may have had about hanging out with a goat for a bit.
This past summer, Precious gave birth to a beautiful set of twins. Both her son and daughter were strikingly beautiful, but they both also possessed her rock solid, sweet and loving temperament! To see the qualities I so strongly admired in Precious's own mother Delilah, pass on again to another generation fills me with so much pride for the breeding program that I have put together. Precious, like her mother before her, and her daughter after her, will continue to work with people in different and often extraordinary ways. Now that the Sky River herd is 8 generations into this work, it just continues to grow and evolve more and more.
In the coming weeks, we will be launching a brand new pilot program at Huntsville High School where we will be bringing the goats to the students to assist in anxiety and stress relief during exams. We are thrilled and excited to have the ability to bring our herd to some pretty exciting places. It allows us to reach many more people that may normally miss out due to mobility or health restrictions. Now that we will be cracking into some new territory in offering supports to those in need at schools, I am sure we will discover even more magic in how the human/animal connection can heal and rejuvenate us, and continue to have a lot of fun along the way.
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And just for you Gemma, with love, THE END : )
I am delighted and excited to write today's Goat of the Week post. This week will feature one of the youngest herd members, and one with a bit of a different story and upbringing. For anyone who has met her, they can all see how much she loves her "mommy", and it is also very apparent that she is loved and spoiled rotten by that "mommy". For anyone who works or volunteers here, she is very much thought of as a spoiled brat who listens to no one. Today's GotW is a goat that I candidly call my "daughter", my bottle baby Yara. She has big attitude, thinks no rules apply to her and instead makes up her own rules as she goes. Oh, and in case you didn't know before, Yara is the CENTER of the universe, and we are all here to serve her. You've all been informed...lol ;-) At only seven months of age, Yara is already beginning the training steps into becoming a full working member of our "house goat" gang that work with me during the winter months as part of my mobile therapeutic practice.
Yara was born as a quadruplet (set of 4 girls!) on June 8th, 2019 to Sky River Meadows B'elanna. At four days of age, B'elanna decided that 4 babies were too much for her to manage and she rejected Yara from her litter. As much as I tried to work with B'elanna, she would have nothing to do with Yara any longer. It was at this point that I made the decision to transition Yara to a bottle and move her into my home. If you think that this sounds like a fun idea - let me STRONGLY caution you! Having a goat living in your house is no joke. Goats are in fact incredibly intelligent and easy to house train. However, they have more energy than you can imagine - almost boundless. Pair that with their desire to climb, insatiable curiosity, and mischievous nature = potential recipe for disaster. Yara was only 4 days old when she first made it onto my kitchen table. Soon she could make it from there onto the counters.... you get the idea. Houses also have a lot of something goats love to eat: PAPER! All the tastiest kinds of paper! Newspaper, receipts, bills, lists, paper towels, etc., and Yara's personal favourite - toilet paper. She would bite holes in the roll so that you would roll out swiss cheese toilet paper, rendering it completely useless. Thanks Yara. Also, if you choose to have a goat live in your house, you had best be prepared to take it with you everywhere. Goats are herd animals and need to be with their herd - even if two legged. In order to raise Yara as balanced as possible, I had her spend 50% of her time during the day with the herd, and the other 50% (which included overnight) indoors with me. This was for her own safety, as without a mom to protect her in the herd she was vulnerable to bullying from herd mates and could become injured, or even killed. Yara often had to go to town with me if her feeding times coincided with something I had to do. As I am ALWAYS busy, Yara went with me pretty much everywhere for the first 4 weeks of her life. Raising a bottle baby goat is just like raising any other baby. Seriously - everything will be in their mouths! Goats explore the world with their mouths, and this is why popular belief is that goats eat everything. That is actually incorrect though. Goats do eat a great deal, and often things they shouldn't, BUT the majority of the time they are only trying to discover what something is and if it is edible.
Baby goats also do not like to sleep alone. Apparently my stuffed goat Hank that I gave Yara to sleep with was no substitute for me. It literally only took Yara two weeks to work her way into sleeping with me in my bed. Let's just say she has a way of manipulating me into giving her anything she wants lol. But, Oh my goodness! The sounds of her little snores! My heart, seriously melted each and every time she would nuzzle up to my ear to fall asleep. How could I refuse her? I was helpless against her. Those soft, warm, brown eyes. I am not ashamed to admit that Yara did sleep with me - in my bed - until she was 10 weeks old. Likely not a healthy practice, and not one I recommend either. I am happy to say that although a difficult separation for us both, Yara now lives full time in the barn with the herd and has consistently since she was 12 weeks old. She does still come indoors though. That is actually essential as she is in training to replace her great grandmother Maisie in a few years. Yara actually comes from an interesting line of house goats. Starting with Maisie, down to Yara's mother (Maisie's grand-daughter) was also a house goat with an interesting back story that I will save for her own GotW post in future weeks. So Yara is the third in her line to have been raised indoors and be housebroken, which is kind of cool in my opinion. The goats I have that work indoors are usually good indoors for an hour before needing a potty break. Accidents do happen, but they are rare and actually are surprisingly easy to clean up and deal with. Small risk for the amazing gain people get having the goats come visit them in their homes or elsewhere. Yara has been doing very well and in recent weeks has been going along with me to my visits to Community Living in Parry Sound. She seems to love the work we do as much as I do. Yara's future in therapeutic work looks very promising making her extra special.
Sky River Meadows is just finally opening it's doors to the public in a big way this year. We will be launching new and exciting animal programs and so much more. Yara will have a very special role through all of that. As she matures and grows her personality will continue to change for a while yet. Until a goat reaches full maturity, they change their mind a lot. Yara some days is rather obstinate to anyone but myself. I call it her "you're not my mommy" mood. She is terrible when she in this mode and makes it challenging for my team to get chores or other routine work done. She is often out of the pen and just roaming around. Why? Well because she wants to, so I let her lol. I know, it doesn't help, but I seriously can't help myself. I love this little goat so very much! She has a nickname that is pretty pathetic actually. It started out as just my "Fuzzybum". It has evolved into "Fuzzybumbumbum" Don't ask me why. Some things just can't be explained and that is also true for people who spend ALL of their time with goats. Some of my goats have some pretty funny nicknames. One thing is for certain. Yara has it GOOD. She gets everything she could ever want. She also gets regular pampering - including scratching between her toes and under her dewclaws daily - all of them! She also expects daily armpit and face scratches to go with them. *sigh* Can I come back as one of my goats in my next life? Better yet, I want to come back as Yara. She is the center of the Universe after all ;-) Yara is one of the best gifts 2019 blessed me with. I can't wait to see how far her and I can grow my dream into reality, this year and every year.
With a new year and a new decade upon us, I am filled with excitement for the endless possibilities that lay in front of us all. 2020 is sure to be a big year for us here as we launch our full programming and move full steam ahead. For that reason I have chosen one of my oldest goats for this weeks GotW post. She was the first Nigerian Dwarf Goat born at my farm, so she has been with us on this journey almost from the very beginning. Cassi has the distinction of being the very first registered Sky River Meadows baby. She is a daughter of our herd Queen Bonnie, and our herd King Gigalo. A "Princess Royal" in everything she does, including attitude. Do not let that beautiful baby face of hers fool you. Cassi is as fierce as they come in my herd. She has a mean streak and is easily the toughest fighter amongst my does. Those piercing blue eyes of hers stare straight into your soul. When Cassi works with people, she has a tendency to cut straight to the heart of the matter to draw attention to whatever issues need working with. Her direct nature, no BS attitude and stunning beauty all make Cassi a force to be reckoned with here at the farm. She also is seemingly fearless and delights in taking on any dogs that wander too close and are fool enough to turn their back. I once witnessed all 75 pounds of her hit a 120 pound dog so hard, the poor dog was sent somersaulting. Cassi is a force indeed!
Cassi was born in the Spring of 2012. At the time our herd was still quite small (about 10) and we were still uncertain of the direction the farm was headed. Cassi was one of twins that were the first Nigerian babies born under the farm name. She and her brother Orion were both quite flashy, with stunning blue eyes. Being born to our herd Queen Bonnie, I had my hands full trying to socialize these two babies. Bonnie would hide them from me or play keep away by not letting me catch them. In the end though, time and patience always win out. Cassi is very particular about how she gets touched and where. When being brushed, Cassi actually prefers it if you just firmly hold the brush tightly and she will brush herself. It would seem that us poor lowly humans just can't do it the right way to suit her. She does tend to be quite rough with herself though so I prefer she do it her own way as well. She does appreciate being clean and looking her best. She is also one of a few goats who I can say "ask" to have their hooves trimmed. When Cassi sees me making the rounds doing hooves, she always seems to "get in line" to be one of the first ones done. I guess there is something to be said for a good pedicure. She does seem to appreciate a good hoof trim though.
I often think that the trimming of their hooves must feel weird to goats, but perhaps it is also solidifying their connection to the earth. As my goats work for a living to earn their keep, ensuring they remain in good health is essential. We all need a good solid foundation on which to work with. Goats are no different. When we have a solid foundation and are grounded in our day to day lives, we feel better and perform better. For those who are unfamiliar, goats are cloven hooved, meaning they have two toes on each hoof. The hooves of goats in captivity need to be trimmed regularly in order to keep them balanced on a good foundation. For prey animals (animals that are food for other animals in the wild) having a good foundation with the earth is essential to survival. Prey animals ability to "flight or fight" at a moments notice is literally the difference between staying alive or not. Their very ability to read the energies around them in order to survive depend on it. For prey animals, the alternative to being ungrounded is to become food for another animal. That's a hefty price to pay for sure. What powerful teachers prey animals become when you observe the lessons they share. We can learn a lot about being grounded and living in the moment just by sharing space and spending time with them. For Cassi I certainly feel that is the case. I often think of her as one of my most "grounded" goats. Funny thing about Cassi though - she isn't that friendly. She has no interest in being a therapy goat most of the time and really only comes forward for people who have a deep need to get a direct message - usually about being grounded and present in their bodies. Cassi is blunt and to the point, very much the way a horse is in Equine Facilitated Learning. She seems to have no patience for BS, and wants people to be feeling their best authentic selves immediately. She gets her message across very directly as well. She will rub her head, butt, paw and sometimes even nip to get her point across. She is so direct in fact that I have needed to step in to intervene so that she didn't get out of hand in communicating. She is not afraid to step up her game to be sure her message is heard, and I am always there to try to interpret the best I can. She always moves on quickly after sharing with someone. She is a very important goat after all, and has other important things to be doing ;)
Now that Cassi has reached maturity, she doesn't have much to worry about. Retirement suits her. She is also dealing with a health issue that requires most of her focus and energy to get well. Cassi has a few daughters in our numbers that will take her place amongst the breeding females, and Cassi can just focus on spreading her wisdom to our clients and getting well. When visitors come to the farm, most of them will get to meet Cassi. She seems to want to meet everyone that comes to visit. Most will just be met with her icy stare, but a few may be lucky enough to brush her. Many will be met with her vigorous head rubbing against their knees and even a few others may get a playful nip from her. Be warned if you wear rubber boots to the farm! Cassi for some reason really detests certain kinds of rubber boots. I have had to leash her to stop her from head butting people right out of their offensive boots! LOL! Like I said, that baby face of hers is super deceiving and allows her to get close enough to people just to prove she's not just a pretty face. Beautiful blue eyed wee devil she is. A spitfire, just like her mamma.