We name our goats. I want them to know who I’m yelling at when they misbehave. The ones who didn’t have names when we bought them, well, they had to learn their names. So we’d walk through the barnyard, petting each goat as we passed, saying her name.
And they spoiled me. I call them by name, and they come. Usually. The other night, Phil called Meg, and she looked up, but stood where she was. “Meg.” She looked thoughtful. “Meg!” Nothing. “Meg, come here!” She was thinking about it. She understood that he wanted her to come to him, she just wasn’t sure if SHE wanted to. After a little thought, she decided, what the heck, she’d humor the human.
That’s what it means to call a goat by name. It’s not like a dog, where they’re all slobbery-goo-goo to please you. Most of the time, they come when we call. Sometimes, they’ve staked out a nice spot at the hay feeder and don’t want to give it up. A lot of times, they’re lazy. “But you’re all the way over there! Can’t you come here?”
But when we call them to the milk stand, we get pretty good response. Actually, I have to guard the door, because 5 other goats try to slip through.
The other day, I trimmed Maggie’s hooves (it’s like cutting their toenails), and she flipped out. Hoof trimming is kind of weird for them, but it’s not bad, it’s not painful, it’s simply a strange experience for a goat. But Maggie flipped out. Screaming and thrashing and acting like I was killing her. So I stopped and sent her on her way. I thought I had ruined her. I had given her such a terrible experience on the milk stand, I would NEVER get her onto the milk stand voluntarily again.
Naw. By evening chores, she was trying to sneak through while I held the door for Abbey. There is some magical pull to the milk stand. Even if they have the same food in the barn, they want to come to the milk stand. I think it’s kind of like backstage for goats. It’s the place the special goats get to hang out. And I play right into that belief. I fawn over the goats on my milk stand. “Oh, you’re such a Milking Queen!” “I love you!” Or the goat will do some totally minimal thing, but, hey, she’s a goat and they don’t HAVE to do anything for me, so I thank her profusely. I hug them and pet them and try to make things pleasant. And the other goats watch and think “Someday, when I grow up, I’m going to be a star, too.”
But Meg has – an identity disorder, or maybe just a milk stand addiction. Every time I call a goat to the milk stand, if she doesn’t come, Meg runs to the gate. “I’m here!” “But, Meg, I wasn’t calling you.” And she stares at me like “I’m not Meg, I’m Hannah, and I’m here, so let me in.” Meg is an imposter. She needs to live on one of those farms that doesn’t name their goats. That would be a luxury lifestyle for her. Getting 3 turns because no one recognizes her. But here, she just always hears “You’re NOT Cinnamon!” And she replies by leaning on the gate so I can’t open it to go get Cinnamon.
It’s not just the milk stand, either. If we’re out on a pasture walk, and I call another goat, if she doesn’t trot right over, Meg does. Or Meg will “Mah” in reply when I call someone. It’s like she needs as much attention as 3 goats, but she’s not going to fawn over me like the sycophant goats do. Let Sweetie and Abbey and Butters and Maggie follow me around like puppy dogs. Meg has a better plan.
And then Meg kind of got her wish. Kit grew up with almost the same coloring as Meg. Phil is always yelling at Meg “Kit, cut that out!” or telling Kit “Good girl, Meg!” And I’ll whisper to Phil “that’s actually Kit.” He looks confused for a moment, and then he brightens and repeats his memory technique “Oh, right, Meg has the white spot on the left, and Kit has it on the right.” They don’t look that much alike, aside from coloring, but they both always have their heads stuffed in a feeder, so we identify them by white spots or hair length. But poor Meg. Kit almost never gets a backstage pass. And Kit caught on – if I’m playing doorman, she stands by the door, ready to sidle through the velvet rope with a mild sneer at the common goats left outside. I open the gate, and Kit looks up, hopeful and excited. “Cinnamon! Cinnamon!” And Kit looks crestfallen, while Meg strides up to the gate like an A-lister. “I’m here!”