This weeks edition of Goat of the Week is all about Anakin. This cutey pie has a different story in some ways. I like to refer to Anakin as one of my "dirty little secrets" in the sense that his purpose in being a part of my herd is very personal to me and my work, which I will elaborate on in more detail shortly.
Ani's story began on my birthday in 2015. It was a typical beautiful sunny day in August and his mom Cassi decided that me sitting with her, waiting for her to give birth to her babies was how I would spend my birthday - which was OK by me! What a gift to be able to receive!. Cassi gave birth to two beautiful babies that day - Padme and Anakin. These two beauties were complete polar opposites of each other. She was black with white markings and blue eyes, he was white with black markings and brown eyes. She was reserved, quiet and shy, while he was very boisterous, mischievous, playful and so very sweet - to me anyways.
Anakin is what is called a wether. That is the term for a fixed male goat. The Sky River therapy herd actually has eighteen wethers within it. These males have a couple of very specific job functions within the herd. Fixed males are often herd protectors and they let me know when the females are receptive to being bred. The most important job they have though is to be the great connectors with people. Due to being fixed, they become less interested in sex drive and more interested in connecting. They are generally more affectionate, loving, playful and personable.
The reason I refer to Anakin as one of my "dirty little secrets" (and I have more than one) is that his place in the herd was earned due to my love for him and my need to have him in my life. As an adult wether he is not very friendly to most people, rarely comes forward to interact or connect with anyone, and he really just prefers to eat while the others work. He is not one of the herd protectors - even though I suspect our Queen, Bonnie has been trying to get him to step into that role for some time now. He continues to refuse. He is often the first goat to spook over any little sound. He is very sensitive and still very attached to his mother Cassi. He is rarely far from her and he gets very jealous of his younger siblings. I like to describe Anakin as a dreamer - much as myself. He often appears to me to be daydreaming and I have been able to amuse myself for hours just watching him go about living his life in such a carefree way. Due to his love for munching all day long, and not a ton of ambition for activity, he is also now rather chubby. Perhaps it is due to the fact that he knows he is very special and important to me, and also that he is quite spoiled, but it always seems to me that Anakin is smiling. His presence gives me strength and stability. Knowing he is there helps me stay connected to myself and grounded. Anakin, and a few others who share this role, very well may have the most important job in the entire herd - and that is to hold space for me, making it possible for me to do the work that I do. These special souls, my "dirty little secrets", help me to stay present, focused and connected. In some ways I feel that these special ones are an extension of myself, allowing me to deepen my connections with all things. Many of my personal support animals also bond, connect and develop relationships with other people. Anakin it seems, is quite content to spend his time only deeply connecting to me and no one else. His arrival on my birthday was a gift, just as each and everyday that I have shared with him has been. I am so grateful to him for the love and support that he gives to me so freely. He ensures that each and everyday I feel loved, needed and so supported. What a blessing, and a special gift indeed. <3
This week I am pleased to tell everyone the story of Mystique. She is lovingly known by a few nicknames here, but most will know her as Mysti. She is often one of the first goats noticed due to her very unique, and dramatic colouring and extra long shaggy hair. It is safe to say that every colour a goat can have in their coat, Mysti has it in hers in spades. Nigerian Dwarf Goats are known for having many different colourings and patterns to their coats. Mystique's cool spots are a genetic trait that was passed to her called "moonspots". What I personally notice first about Mysti more than any other of her physical characteristics, is her crystal clear, sky blue eyes. I've lost many hours staring into their depths. For anyone who has shared space and made a connection to Mysti you will know what I speak of when I say that she has an "old soul" about her. Not everyone in life has an extraordinary "out there" kind of story. For Mystique, parts of her story are inexplicably intertwined with that of her twin sister Pipsqueak. Those parts of her story most of you may already know. I am happy to talk about the Mysti that everyone does know, but to also tell you all about the Mysti that most people don't get to know.
In 2014, I received word that there was a group of goats in Quebec that were in need of rescuing from a bad situation. A couple friends and I launched a rescue mission and headed to Quebec in a minivan to bring these goats back home. What a fun adventure! :) One of the goats that joined my herd was Taylorside's Coconut, the sweetest little goat I have ever met, and who will always remain so special to me. It turns out that little Coconut was pregnant, and late that summer, she gave birth to Mystique and Pipsqueak. There was little I could do to prepare for their birth as I was unsure of their due date. When that magical day did arrive though, I was grateful to be home and to be there to assist Coconut in delivering them into the world. Mystique was born at a healthy "normal" weight for a Nigerian Dwarf Goat at just over 2 pounds. Her little sister Pipsqueak however, weighed in at only 10.2 ounces and seemed too tiny to even be able to survive. She had other physical malformations in her front legs as well that appeared at birth would impede her ability to walk normally. If this story was about Pip, I would go into further detail, but for now I will leave Pip's story for her own time. This is Mysti's tale :)
Summer of 2014 was a big one for us as far as kidding seasons go. We had 32 babies born to us that summer, which is the highest number of births to date on our farm. Imagine for a moment - 32 baby goats! Socializing them was a daunting task that required numerous volunteers to be on hand just to let them out of their pen and into the yard to play. Although Mysti and Pip were the last babies born that season, Mysti didn't waste anytime in letting the older babies know that she wouldn't tolerate ANY bullying of her little sister. What a fighter Mysti was! I swear she spent the first few months of her life fighting every battle of hers and then fighting all of Pips battles for her afterwards. Not that Pip wasn't capable of fighting her own battles - believe me! Mysti has just always been there, taking core of things so she has never had to.
Like most of my herd back in those days, Mysti was also paraded around to goat shows as a way for us to try to promote the breed and raise awareness as to what we were trying to create here at the farm. Let's just say that Mysti was not a fan of goat shows. She went, she placed, she had a miserable time, and I decided she didn't need to do that anymore. Trying to show a goat that does not want to be shown is not fun, and I can think of MANY other things I'd rather do with my time than to wrangle a screaming Mystique around the show ring to make her look good to the judges. Besides, I had plenty of goats in my herd that WANTED to be at shows, so 2015 was her last time in the ring.
As a way of trying to give her another focus besides fighting all the time, I decided to breed her. Perhaps if she had babies she would find a new focus, and settle down into being a Mom. Well, that didn't work either. I have tried to breed Mystique unsuccessfully for 3 complete breeding seasons now. I have exhausted everything in my arsenal beyond putting her up for an entire month with a smelly buck companion - not a good option for a therapy goat! Another breeding season is right around the corner and I'm not counting her out yet. Mysti possesses a few qualities that I would like to add into my breeding program if she were ever willing to cooperate. Fingers crossed that next spring we may see babies out of her yet :)
So what do the goats that don't have jobs in the show ring or having babies do here at Sky River Meadows? Well, that's where the main therapeutic herd comes in. We currently have 49 goats in our therapeutic herd. The majority of them have no other job but to connect to people, make friends and give unconditional love and support. Mystique is one of these amazing souls. She is often observed as the quiet watcher of people. She is well known for a certain expression that she often wears, which also happens to be one of her nicknames of Resting *****face - which is meant in the most loving of ways. Mysti is anything but the hard expression she often wears. She is soft, sweet and very affectionate. However, make no mistake - Mystique is PICKY about who she spends time with. You may get to share space with her for a few moments or she may lie down and invite you to lie with her for a snooze, or even more than likely not - she will ask you to scratch her butt. Mystique definitely wins the award for the itchiest butt in the herd. I do think that is due to the crazy hair she insists on growing each season though. No matter what connection you get to make with Mysti, it is a gift, pure and simple to just share space with her.
It is interesting preparing to write these Goat of the week posts. It gives me an opportunity to really reflect back on the life of our dear herd members, and to truly put to words what their lives each mean to me. While passing through countless photographs looking for just the right ones, I get to reminisce and smile. The thing that stood out for me the most about Mysti's photos - in almost every single one of them you'll see Pip is never more than a few feet away from her. I can't tell you how much that touches my heart. The dedication in which Mystique has lived her life in service to her sister has inspired me many times. It reminds me that we don't all have the same purpose or goals in life. That sometimes, we choose our own path, even if others may not agree. Above all we have to be true to ourselves, always striving for our own authenticity. Mysti reminds me to always be proud of who I am no matter what. Thanks Mysti :)