Saving Pygmy Charlie                       The Goat Kids brought to you by Lotus Pond Media

Charlie is lucky that pygmy goats have such strong and distinct personalities. Without a strong "selfish" streak, Charlie would be dead.

Charlie is part Alpine, part pygmy, so he's about twice the size of our other three pygmies. His childhood was quite sad for a bit; his sister fell ill and died. He missed her terribly and withdrew into himself and his shed. He refused to go out to pasture and would barely eat the food in his shed. He nibbled on some hay, but left the grain alone. We could see him wasting away. Through all of this he was quite skittish. With great reluctance would he allow himself to be petted or scratched; preferring to sit on some straw in the corner and stare out at the world.

Goats are herd animals and a solitary goat is a lonely figure indeed. Charlie was the saddest goat on the planet and seemed destined to quickly follow his sister to the burial plot beneath the big pine trees at the end of the house.

Then we brought home Ella, Jack and Sally. These three pygmies were insanely energetic and outgoing. About two weeks younger than Charlie, they would not sit, stand or walk--everything had to be done running at full speed. We penned them near Charlie for two weeks, so he could start getting used to the new herd mates, but kept their food, water and sleeping quarters separate so they wouldn't pass any diseases back and forth. At this point we were still expecting Charlie to succumb. He perked up a little when he saw the newcomers, but still seemed sad and ate very little. Ella, Jack and Sally to the contrary ate like little pigs; as fast as they could and as much as we gave them. We had to limit the amount of food to which they had access; overeating can be as deadly as Charlie's anorexia.

Once the quarantine period was up and we could put them all in the same pen, Charlie's personality saved his life. Charlie, sick as he was, was always very concerned about justice. Justice, in his mind, meant he always got more, got it first, and got it longer. We put the four of them in the pen together and tossed a cup of grain in their communal bowl. Charlie just stared for a few seconds as Ella, Jack and Sally dove in and started pigging out. You could see the goat wheels turning in his goat brain as he watched the three of them consume the same Purina goat chow he had been completely ignoring for the past few weeks.

About six seconds in, Charlie leaped into the middle of the pack, shoved his face in the grain and started gobbling it down as fast as he could. It didn't matter if he liked it or hated it, he just could not stand to see the three of them eating something he was not eating. After a few bites he started shoving the other three out of the way--now he wanted to be the only goat eating the grain. Since he was twice their size this was not hard to accomplish. He'd charge at Ella and Jack would swoop in for a mouthful, furious Charlie would turn on Jack and Sally would snap up a quick bite.

Finally we gave up and split their food. One bowl for Charlie to protect with his life, and another bowl, much farther away, for the other three. Charlie was clearly going to live; now we just had to follow his rules. Charlie always got the silver bowl, he always got his food first, and he always got enough food so that all four would finish eating at the same time.

This quirk in Charlie's personality saved his life and carries over into almost all of his interactions. He always wants to be brushed first, wants his toenails clipped first, wants to be at the head of the line when we're taking a walk in the woods, and wants his ears scratched the longest.

He also wants to be the best behaved. When we're kicking goats out of the house he's always the first to leave; and he never doubles back like Ella, running through our legs while we're throwing another goat out. When we're going for a ride he wants to jump in the van ahead of everyone else. When it's bedtime he's the first in the pen. But, he's not completely stuck in this routine.

When we're meeting a strange dog for the first time, particularly a barking snapping big dog, he's happy to let Ella stand in front of him.

Charlie's personality demands that he act tough, and sometimes it looks lonely on top, but maybe he knows inside that this intense desire to be first in line also saved his life.

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