As I wanted to get into Vet School, I needed more experience with different kinds of animals and situations. So I got myself a summer holiday job working at a kennels near my parents’ home.
I acquired important skills such as how to cope with sixty dogs all yelling for food at tea-time; how not to soak myself whilst pressure hosing a kennel; and how to make friends with even the most shy of visitors. But one skill I was not expecting to learn was goat-taming!
The kennel owners had three pet goats. They were in charge of keeping the areas around the kennels freshly mown, but thought they were in charge of all they surveyed.
It was a surprise to be asked to bring the goats in one evening. I wasn’t that keen. In fact, I was honestly a little bit afraid of them. They seemed very large, and their horns looked wicked. I thought they were easily capable to pushing me off my feet. It seemed unlikely that they would do anything I wanted them to: they had a very independent manner about them.
I had been keeping my distance, barely acknowledging their presence on the edge of things. One was smaller than the others, and I discovered this was a half-grown kid of one of the adult nannies. They were all a dark brown colour, with lighter tan highlights towards the extremities.
But now I was precipitated into being a goatherd, and I tried to visualise the movie “Heidi”. How had she managed?
Well, it turns out that these goats were more good natured than I had given them credit for. Or perhaps as keen for their tea as their canine neighbours were.
As I approached with my arms outstretched, ‘cushing’ towards them, they set off gently in the direction of their overnight lodgings without fuss.
I got to know their individual personalities over the weeks, discovering where they enjoyed rubs and scratches, and which was the trouble-maker. I marvelled at their ability to climb the most unlikely spots and escape through the most apparently secure fencing. They gave me uncomplicated impassive inattention, as well as milk for my tea.