You are currently browsing the OkcPetsOnline category.

Lost Pet Found

posted March 30th, 2016 by
  • Share
Coconut Oil

Lost Pet Found

By LaWanna Smith

An action plan for dealing with every pet owner’s worst nightmare

It was a warm afternoon when the faint sound of thunder rumbled in the distance. I had just arrived home after running a quick errand, and my dogs greeted me at the back gate as I pulled in the driveway. Well, all but one furry face; Baxter, my 10-year-old Shepherd mix, was missing.
An unsettling feeling passed through my stomach as I recalled hearing the thunder. Baxter had always been afraid of storms and other loud noises, but the approaching storm was still too far away for my husband to hear it from inside the house. I did a quick search of the property and found no sign of Baxter. Previously, when a storm had panicked him, he jumped the fence, but he was still nearby and came running right back when I called. But not this time.
Trying to stay calm, I got into my car and began driving our walking path in the neighborhood with no luck. After about 30 minutes of searching, I was officially scared.
This lost dog story does have a happy ending. After 48 hours of canvassing the area, posting 100-plus signs, listing Baxter on numerous websites, placing an ad in the paper and putting more than 250 miles on each of our two cars, we brought Baxter home—tired, full of fleas and pretty scared, but otherwise fine.
Over the course of two days, he had traveled about 10 miles that we could track, though likely more. We were able to follow his route by the calls we received in response to our signs. Ultimately, a very kind person responding to one 8” x 10” sign led us straight to our boy for a happy reunion.
Unfortunately, not all lost pet stories have a happy ending. Statistics show that one in every three dogs will become lost in its lifetime with only a small percentage recovered.
Your immediate actions upon discovering your pet is missing can be the difference between success and heartbreak. Following is a list of helpful tips for recovering a lost pet:
Act fast.
It is a fallacy that pets will find their way home on their own. By immediately beginning your recovery process, your odds of finding your pet increase greatly. Get out on foot; walk your neighborhood and knock on doors. Dogs tend to travel while cats tend to hide out, generally fairly close to home. The more people know to keep an eye out for your pet, the better.
Check the likely spots. Do you and your dog have a normal walk you take in the area? Is there a park or a house with other dogs your dog likes to visit? Are there neighborhood kids your dog enjoys? Check all the likely “fun spots” first. For lost cats, search the area around your home carefully and then expand your search to likely hiding places around neighboring homes (with permission, of course). Sometimes use of a humane cat trap with a little yummy food in it will do the trick. Check with your animal shelter to see if you can borrow or rent a trap.
Enlist help and post signs!
Have someone start making fliers and signs featuring a current photo of your pet while you do your initial search. Make sure your cell phone number is included on your signs, so you can be reached immediately at any time of the day or night. Keep your cell phone battery charged!
Keep your signs simple and the text large. Your signs must be very legible. Passing motorists must be able to read them quickly and easily. A good tip for keeping your signs fresh and waterproof is to put each flier in a clear, gallon-sized zip closure baggie.
Give fliers to all of your neighbors and post signs at all entrances/exits to your neighborhood. Ask permission to post signs in yards near intersections. Give fliers to your mail carrier and any delivery people who happen to frequent your neighborhood. Also, post signs at all major intersections in your search area.
Start working in a circle from the point where your pet was lost. With each 24-hour period that passes without recovery, expand your sign placement another mile in each direction. Never think your pet “won’t go that way” or “won’t go that far,” especially with dogs. You might be amazed how quickly four legs can travel.
Post notices at all local veterinary clinics, grocery stores, community centers and any other public business that will accept a flier. Be sure to hit all animal-based business such as pet supply stores, training schools, dog daycares, boarding kennels, etc. People who love their own pets are more likely to notice and offer assistance to a stray animal. Place an ad in the lost and found section of the newspaper immediately. People who find a stray pet often look there first.
Take your search online.
Modern technology is a great thing, and now your computer or smart phone can provide the key to locating your lost pet. A quick post to Facebook, on your general feed and on specific lost and found pages, can yield great results or leads. Twitter can work similarly. Websites such as findtoto.com offer phone services (fees specified on the site) to contact people in your area to notify them of your missing pet. This can be a fast, effective way to spread the word. Local rescue groups also offer pet lost and found listings.
Check with local shelters and organizations.
Visit local animal shelters and notify all animal rescue organizations. File a lost pet report with every shelter in your vicinity and visit the nearest shelters daily if possible. Many shelters are only required to hold animals for a 72-hour period before they can put them up for adoption or authorize euthanasia. You cannot rely on calling to ask if your pet is at the shelter. The OKC Animal Shelter alone houses hundreds of animals, and it is virtually impossible for the person answering the phone to know for sure whether your pet has been checked in that day or not. Plus, only you can truly identify your pet.
Do provide all animal control agencies and rescue groups with an accurate description and a clear photo of your pet, along with all of your contact information. To locate contact information for other area shelters and rescue groups, refer to the Directory portion of www.okcpetsmagazine.com.
Use Caution.
If someone claims to have your pet, meet in a public place. Do not give out your home address and do not agree to go to the home of an unknown person. Ask them to meet you at a local veterinarian office, pet supply or other public place to return your pet. Be wary of pet recovery scams. When talking with someone who claims to have found your pet, ask him to describe the pet thoroughly. If the caller does not include specific identifying marks or characteristics, he may not actually have your pet. Be particularly wary of people who ask you to give or wire them money for the return of your pet. It’s OK to offer a reward, but it can attract people with less than honest intentions.
Don’t give up your search! Animals that have been lost for weeks and even months have been reunited with their owners. Keep the word out there.
And once you find your pet, collect all of the signs you have posted. Leaving up signs once a pet has been found is not only pollution but also unfair clutter for those people who still have missing pets.
Proper ID
Of course, keeping proper identification on your pet at all times is pertinent to a speedy reunion in a lost and found situation. A collar with vet tags, city license and a personalized tag will help keep your pet safe. However, collars can be lost, so it is recommended to talk to your veterinarian about permanent identification such as a microchip. A chip about the size of a piece of rice is injected under your pet’s skin in the shoulder region. When a scanner is passed over the site of the chip, it pulls up an identification number that leads to all necessary information for locating that animal’s rightful owners.
Even under the most protected circumstances, pets can slip through open doors, sturdy fences can be jumped or crawled under, and gates can be left open by workmen or kids. If the unthinkable does happen to you, remember that a good plan and quick action can lead to a safe and happy recovery.

Toxic Food for Dogs

posted March 28th, 2016 by
  • Share
Toxic Food

Toxic Food for Dogs

It’s hard to resist tossing your dog a few scraps after dinner, but you might want to reconsider. Did you know that some human food is dangerous – or even fatal – for your pooch?

Toxic Foods for Dogs 2

 http://www.gapnsw.com.au

Boren Veterinary Hospital

posted March 21st, 2016 by
  • Share
What's in Your Dog Shampoo

Boren Veterinary Hospital – Preventative Care to Pacemaker Surgery

Boren Veterinary Hospital at Oklahoma State University Provides a Full Spectrum of Animal Healthcare

By Bria Bolton Moore

Photos by Gary Lawson, University Marketing

 

In the wake of a May 2013 tornado that whipped through the Sooner State, Evie was found wandering the streets of Shawnee, Okla. 

The 2-year-old black and tan Shepherd was one of 60 animals brought to Oklahoma State University’s Veterinary Medical Hospital in Stillwater following the tornado.

“We had several clients where, at the moment, they felt like they had lost their pet, but it was here, brought to OSU by a Good Samaritan,” said Dr. Mark Neer, DVM and director of the Boren Veterinary Medical Hospital at Oklahoma State University. “There’s no words you can say to describe that feeling where they thought everything was totally hopeless, and it turned out they had their pet back and also had it back healthy.”

Following the storms, the veterinary hospital treated 22 dogs, 15 cats, 11 horses, four woodpeckers, two guinea pigs, two birds, one donkey, one pot-bellied pig, one chicken and one turtle. Although many were reconnected to their owners, Evie was never claimed. After heartworm and tick treatment, Evie was adopted by University staff member

Lorinda Schrammel and went on to become a member of Pete’s Pet Posse, a group of trained therapy dogs at OSU. Evie is now schooled to provide comfort to people in nursing homes, schools or even those who have been through traumatic experiences like tornadoes.

Since its establishment in 1948, the hospital and College of Veterinary Medicine have worked toward outcomes like Evie’s: restored health and positive pet/owner relationships.

For more than 30 years, the teaching hospital and clinic were located in Oklahoma State’s McElroy Hall. Then, in 1981, the Boren Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital opened. Today, the hospital is just one of a collection of buildings and facilities that make up the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences. Dr. Neer said the hospital’s veterinarians   see about 15,000 cases a year in the 145,000-square-foot facility. About 12,000 are small- animal cases tending to dogs, cats, birds   and others.

“We see everything from birds to pocket pets to reptiles,” Dr. Neer said.

About 3,000 of the cases are focused on caring for large-animal patients like horses, cows, sheep, goats and swine.

Dr. Neer said the staff continues to see more and more animals each year. In fact, in the last three years, the caseload has grown almost 30 percent per year.

Dr. Neer said a common misconception is that veterinary students are the ones providing all the pet care. However, an entire team cares for each patient with the over-sight of a faculty member who is a veterinary specialist.

“An important thing for people to under-stand is that when they bring their pet here, especially when it’s in the hospital, we have a team of caregivers, which include a faculty member (a specialist), an intern, a resident, a registered veterinary technician and a veterinary student,” Dr. Neer said. “So, you have a team of four to five people that are involved daily in the care of the pet, so they get a tremendous amount of one-on-one TLC from that whole group. It’s not one person; it’s a whole team providing that pet care.”

Although the hospital has an active community clinic providing primary care for pets in and around Stillwater, most of the   animals seen at the hospital are there to be examined by a veterinary specialist such as a cardiologist, ophthalmologist, radiologist or oncologist. Most of these clients and their pets are referred to OSU by their home-  town veterinarian and travel from Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, northern Texas and across Oklahoma to seek the expertise of specialists like Dr. Ryan Baumwart, DVM, a veterinary cardiologist.

On a typical weekday, Dr. Baumwart begins his morning by checking to see if there were any emergency transfers to the cardiology department overnight. Then, he begins rounds, checking on the patients currently under his care. After that, around 8 a.m., there’s usually a training, lecture or presentation focused on equipping fourth-year veterinary students. About 9 a.m., Dr. Baumwart begins seeing cases with students. For the most part, he’s seeing scheduled clients “where their dog or cat might have a heart murmur or have passed out, and they thought it might be due to a heart condition,” Dr. Baumwart said. “We end up looking at their pet and doing some additional testing. The majority of testing that I do diagnostically is ultrasounding the heart or echocardiograms. That’s the bulk of my day—trying to figure out what’s wrong with the heart.”

Dr. Baumwart said the majority of the patients he sees are dogs and cats, and   while most of the cardiac treatments are medical, some are surgical, like pacemaker implantation surgery.

“We just put a pacemaker in a cat yesterday, which is pretty uncommon to put pacemakers in cats, and we’ve put two in [cats] in the past couple of months,” he said.

Dr. Baumwart said most veterinarians don’t have a board-certified specialty, but he wants pet owners to know that specialty care is available if they should ever need it.

“I have two responses when I tell people what I do,” Dr. Baumwart said. “One is, ‘Oh my god, that’s amazing. I can’t believe you get to do that. That’s awesome for the owners and clients.’ Then, the other response is, ‘Who would take their dog to a cardiologist?’ We’re here for that first group of people—if they ever get into a situation where they want to take it further to get some more information or get some treatment options or pursue a surgical option, that’s what we’re here for.”

Although Dr. Baumwart has worked at other clinics and hospitals, he said the caring nature of everyone, from the receptionist to the technical staff to the doctors, makes OSU a special place.

“I think there’s that true caring about people and their animals, and people want that,” he said. “A lot of the animals we see are people’s kids. For the most part, people really care about their animals, and they want to see that from us. And I think that’s probably a big thing that Oklahoma State has that I love and the reason I came back.”

Shawn Kinser fell in love with veterinary care in high school while working for a clinic cleaning cages in his hometown of Boswell, Okla. Fast forward about a decade, and Kinser is now a fourth-year veterinary student, learning about different disciplines through three-week rotations in the hospital.

Kinser has cared for numerous animals that remind him why he loves his work. However, a 4-week-old kitten holds a special place in his training memories. While away on a clinical rotation in Amarillo, Texas, Kinser was part of a team that cared for a stray kitten with a broken leg.

“I was able to participate in the surgery to remove a front leg from the kitten,” Kinser said. “The surgery went very well, and the kitten is currently with one of the staff members who adopted the kitten. We were able to give the animal a fighting chance for a good life.”

Kinser also recently helped care for a Doberman Pinscher with cardiac disease. He said the close relationship between the owner and dog was special to witness. 

“Seeing the human-animal bond displayed so well like that makes me humbled to know that we can nurture that and contribute to strengthening that bond and keeping that bond intact,” he said.

Whether providing care for strays like Evie, someone’s beloved best friend like the Doberman Pinscher, a wild animal brought in by a resident do-gooder, or Oklahoma State’s Spirit Rider horse Bullet, the Boren Veterinary Medical Hospital is committed to providing the best animal care possible.

How A Cruelty Case Works

posted March 15th, 2016 by
  • Share
Coconut Oil

How A Cruelty Case Works and What Every Citizen Can Do

By Ruth Steinberger

When an animal is known to be suffering due to cruelty or neglect, a call to law enforcement should be our first course of action. Many people are unsure of whom to call or what to expect, and citizens across Oklahoma even have wildly differing tales of how a case was handled by their local law enforcement agency or prosecutor’s office. Indeed, some people describe a swift response by a deputy who came out immediately and took action, and others have been horrified to see an animal in their community literally starve to death while their complaints were seemingly ignored.
Some citizens have complained that law enforcement acted like they were doing something wrong to make the complaint, and instead of getting help, they became “the bad guy.” It is necessary to understand what law enforcement agencies can and cannot do, what citizens should expect, and what you can do if you feel that cruelty concerns remain unanswered.
A cruelty complaint needs to be directed to the correct agency where it will be investigated, and if warranted, will proceed to a prosecutor’s office and into court. From the time of the complaint to the conclusion of a trial, Oklahoma’s laws are crafted to protect animals from cruelty, neglect, abandonment and more. As concerned citizens, we need to demand that enforcement of cruelty laws be forefront in the discussion of compassion and public safety. Only through grassroots advocacy will animal cruelty join other issues that have evolved into the forefront in the last four decades, including domestic violence, child abuse and drunk driving. Cruelty is a felony in Oklahoma; that means it is a crime in every single jurisdiction in our state.
In Oklahoma, the complaint should go to a police department, sheriff’s office or an animal welfare division of a municipal shelter designated by the city to handle cruelty complaints. Private organizations are not commissioned agencies; they may advise and assist citizens but lack the authority to take action beyond what citizens may themselves do.
The police dispatcher forwards calls for appropriate action; always request a call back so you can speak with the undersheriff, a captain or deputy. Have the correct location that the complaint is about, a description of the animals and other details. According to the Criminal Justice Information Services Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, most Oklahoma law enforcement agencies have less than one half of the national average level of staffing; it is less likely that a location will be found if an officer has to drive around to look for it. Anonymous complaints may be made regarding any felony, including cruelty; however, obviously, you will be unable to provide certain details or testimony later on if you do not identify yourself.
Animal cruelty (OK Title 21 § 1685), a felony in Oklahoma, includes “any person who shall willfully or maliciously torture, destroy or kill, or cruelly beat or injure, maim or mutilate any animal in subjugation or captivity, whether wild or tame, and whether belonging to the person or to another, or deprived of necessary food, drink, shelter, or veterinary care to prevent suffering…”
When an officer arrives on the scene, if the animals are found to be at risk, but the situation is not critical enough to warrant felony charges, any Oklahoma peace officer or animal control officer may describe the problems and give the owner or caregiver a certain number of days to correct the situation. Called “terms and conditions,” (Chapter 67, § 1680.4), these changes will bring the owner into compliance, and they will avoid criminal charges. This is intended to correct the problem without seizing animals; it also helps support law enforcement if further action is needed later on.
Using terms and conditions, an officer may stipulate, for example, that a limping horse or an underweight animal must be seen by a veterinarian, or simply that an outdoor dog must have access to useable shelter. Under this statute, the officer must write out the terms and conditions, and they must be signed by the owner of the animal and the officer as well. Providing terms and conditions saves time for the courts and enables people to resolve a situation before it becomes dire. However, issuing terms and conditions before seizure is not required; if animals are in mortal danger, officers may bypass this step and proceed to seizure.
Following issuance of terms and conditions, the officer (or someone from their agency) will return to the site in the specified number of days to make sure the caregiver has complied. If they have complied, the situation will be considered resolved. If not, further action that may include seizure will be taken.
In the case of a seizure for cruelty or neglect, the law enforcement agency will obtain a court order to remove the animals from care and custody of the owner. Usually that means removing them from the premises, though in some cases the animals will be seized on site, with the seizing agency arranging for care of the animals at the owner’s premises.
Seizing on site may be used in large-scale cases where it is difficult to find temporary placement for the animals, or if animals are too debilitated to be moved. During the seizure, officers will document the scene; a veterinarian will normally be present, and the animals will be placed into a protective situation where they will be further evaluated. Unless the jurisdiction of the seizing agency has an animal shelter, an animal welfare organization will normally provide assistance at the time of seizure.
At the time of seizure, officers will ask for a witness statement from everyone who was involved. At this time, the case splits; a criminal case is prepared against the owner, and a civil case proceeds in order to determine whether the animals will be held throughout the case (at the owner’s expense) or if the owner will relinquish the animals.
The civil case safeguards the animals while the criminal case against the alleged perpetrator gets ready to proceed. Under Title 21, Chapter 67, § 1680.4, within seven days of a seizure, the agency that seized the animals will ask its district attorney to file a petition with the courts to mandate that a person pay “reasonable costs” for the care and feeding of the animals throughout the court case.
This hearing is to be held within 10 days after the district attorney applies for it, and the owner is given 72 hours to post the funds. Though it is called a ‘”bond” hearing, the owner does not regain custody of the animals by posting the money; it simply secures his or her interest in the animals, and should the owner be found not guilty the animals will be returned. If he or she cannot pay for feeding and care, or chooses not to post the funds, the animals are automatically released to the agency and may be sold or placed for adoption. Whether or not the owner posts the funds does not affect the criminal case against him or her.
At the bond hearing, the agency that seized the animals will show that it had probable cause to seize the animals. It may show photos and videos, have witnesses appear and use veterinary records to show the courts why the animals were removed from the owner.
The timeline for this civil process is expected to include seven days for the initial request to be filed, 10 days for scheduling the hearing, and 72 hours to allow the owner to post the funds for a total of up to 21 days from seizure to release or place long-term. Of course, this sometimes takes longer due to court dockets, etc. For agencies with little funding, donations of animal foods and supplies will be critical during this time.
The court will have pretrial hearings in which plea agreements will be entered, or the attorney for the accused will enter a plea of not guilty. Call the courthouse to monitor the docket, stay on top of the case, and make sure that advocates stay in the loop. If advocates are absent, the prosecutor and law enforcement have no way to know people care. Be the family of the victim.
Also, make animal cruelty a priority when you cast your ballot. All agencies or officials answer to voters or to other agencies that designate funding. Animals have only you to speak on their behalf.
As Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, tells TulsaPets Magazine, “Animals don’t vote, but those who advocate for them do. Lawmakers must recognize the needs for better enforcement of animal protection laws across the nation.” (Animal Legal Defense Fund is a California-based organization that has fought to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system for three decades.)
Oklahoma has strong anti-cruelty laws; they are enforceable, and they need to be a priority. Jamee Suarez, president of Tulsa-based Oklahoma Alliance for Animals, says her organization receives calls from concerned citizens desperately trying to get help for animals who are suffering from neglect and cruelty. “Many have called their city or county and have gotten no response,” she says. “These calls are often tragic. Hopefully, more people will contact their elected officials to urge better enforcement of anti-cruelty laws.”
Because the forfeiture statute requires owners to pay for the care of the animals if the owner does not relinquish them, no agency needs a lot of money in order to take action; compassion counts first, and you, the concerned citizen, can place it front and center.

Murphy the Labradoodle

posted March 7th, 2016 by
  • Share
What's in Your Dog Shampoo

Murphy the Labradoodle

MurphyStory and Photos by Holly Clay

 

Murphy is a 2-year-old Labradoodle with a whole lot of love to give.

Not only IS HE SPECTACULARLY ADORABLE, but Murphy can say something about himself that most dogs cannot. In fact, Murphy might even have a longer list of accomplishments than most humans. So what makes Murphy so different from most other pets out there? Murphy is not only a therapy dog with A New Leash on Life and a Certified Canine Good Citizen, but he also shines in the classroom where he volunteers his doggie time with children. If that did not make you feel a little self-conscious about your own life, then just know Murphy also has great hair.

In the winter of 2013, Stephanie Summers and her husband decided they wanted a family pet. Unfortunately, Stephanie suffers from severe allergies. While her husband started his research on dog breeds, a coworker suggested a Goldendoodle—specifically an F1b (Goldendoodle crossed with a Standard Poodle). The Summers heeded the advice of their friend and adopted Murphy on Jan. 20, 2013. Murphy is their first pet and obviously a good one!

So how did Murphy get involved with therapy work? His mom Stephanie was kind enough to explain the entire process of becoming certified. Let me tell you, it does not sound like an easy task to become a certified therapy dog and Canine Good Citizen.

“My husband and I both have hearts for volunteering,” Stephanie says. “Since Murphy is a ‘people-dog,’ it seemed like a natural fit to involve him in our volunteer efforts. At a very young age we started taking him to Jessie Cantwell, a trainer at Ranchwood Veterinary Hospital. We began with puppy socialization and then advanced to basic manners and obedience. In addition, we did extensive socialization training at parks, children’s festivals, playgrounds and dog-friendly businesses. Finally, we completed the six-week required therapy dog program through A New Leash on Life.”

As you can guess, Murphy successfully passed the required exams and became a certified therapy dog and Canine Good Citizen. However, Murphy’s work was not finished there.  Once he became officially certified, he moved his skills and volunteer efforts into the classroom at a local elementary school.

Through A New Leash on Life, Murphy and his parents have partnered with South Lake Elementary (Moore Public Schools). They currently visit the school several times each week, where he volunteers as a reading buddy and works in the special education classrooms. Murphy visits are also being used to motivate and reward good behavior. It is evident the children have a special bond with Murphy. In fact, Murphy will be starting his own club this February in the special education classrooms, called “Murphy’s Kindness Club.” The goal is to teach students the importance of kindness and how they can spread kindness each day.

Although Murphy is very popular throughout the school, the largest impact has been with the students in the special ed classrooms. These students have become attached to Murphy.

“I have seen students go from struggling in spelling, to earning a perfect score simply because Murphy came to visit for the spelling test. It’s incredible to see students who typically struggle with anxiety excel in Murphy’s presence. Everyone loves Murphy Days, even the teachers!” says Kara Evans, special education teacher.

The smiling faces say it all! It is as if a celebrity is present when Murphy enters the school. The kids yell his name and reach out to touch the fluffy dog as he happily gives kisses to them all. Murphy seems to enjoy the attention just as much as the children do. He is also given an extensive amount of treats, which he certainly does not mind either. Every job has its perks, and it seems Murphy has found the perfect job for him.

Five Great Reasons To Get Your Goat

posted February 28th, 2016 by
  • Share
Coconut Oil

Five Great Reasons To Get Your Goat

BY Nancy Gallimore, CPDT-KA

It was a pleasant drive to a spot in the country just outside of Claremore, Okla. I drove up a winding, tree-lined drive to find a lovely home in a clearing. I was there to meet goats, to learn about goats, to write about goats. Yet, there was not a goat in sight. Huh.
As I got out of my Jeep and looked around, I could see fenced areas with shelters. I could see hay. I could see feeders. But goats? None.
Just as I was starting to wonder if I was at the wrong address, Sharon Wilson emerged from her home with a warm greeting. We introduced ourselves, and I asked the obvious question, “Where are the goats?”
Sharon smiled as she glanced around. “They’re around here somewhere.”
She picked up a little bag of goat treats and started calling, “Goats! Here, goats!” I waited, I watched. It didn’t take long. One shake of the little bag of goat chow, and I heard the first bleat. Suddenly, like funny, little horned elves, Wilson’s Nubian goats stepped into the clearing to check us out.
At first, they seemed a little shy and unsure with strangers in their midst, but another rattle of the food bag did the trick; they scurried to us to collect on the promise of a quick snack. Suddenly, we were surrounded by curious faces and agile little lips gently and quickly nibbling goat pellets from our palms.
As we enjoyed their company, I talked with Wilson about her goats and why she considered them good pets. Our conversation, combined with information from other goat enthusiasts, led me to the creation of my top five reasons to (or not to!) add goats to your life.
Goats will likely give you an opportunity to meet your neighbors.
When considering sharing your life with goats, you need to know that they don’t always stay where you want them to. In fact, they could well be the best escape artists in the barnyard, and they do love to roam. You may even find them standing on your neighbor’s front porch.
According to Wilson, the majority of her little herd came to live with her because they were consistently escaping from their former home at Shepherd’s Cross, a nearby working farm. Because the farm was located near a busy road, the owners feared the wandering goats would be injured.
While Wilson admits that she hasn’t been 100 percent successful in keeping the goats contained, her 100-acre property allows the goats to roam safely, and they don’t seem to get into too much mischief. Because goats are at risk to predators, such as coyotes and stray dogs, Wilson does secure her goats in pens by the house each night.
The pens are enclosed with 6-foot-tall chain-link fencing that does keep the goats contained and safe when necessary. Standard stock fencing, like the fence at Shepherd’s Cross, is generally not adequate for thwarting determined goat escape attempts. I have personally seen a small goat hop on a hay bale to hop onto a horse’s back, allowing it to then hop right over a corral fence to freedom. The general consensus among goat owners I have talked with is a goat will almost always find a way out, no matter what type of fencing is used.
Goats are natural landscapers.
Goats are great for weed control. Wilson said she acquired her original two goats, Billy and Bobby, to help control weeds on her acreage. Goats are browsers whose diet consists of about 70 percent non-grassy plants and brush, so they do not compete with other grazing animals for grass and can actually improve lawn and pasture conditions.
At the same time, if you decide to plant a garden or ornamental landscaping around your home, your goats may see it as just another buffet line. Wilson was quick to point out that goats are smart, curious, and can be destructive. If you plan to invest in extensive landscaping, you might first want to invest in really secure goat fencing.
Goats just might teach your dog a thing or two about agility.
Once the picnic was over, the goats meandered away from us and into a fenced area where there were some pieces of equipment generally used for dog agility training. In this case, however, the agile dogs were agile goats.
They immediately displayed their climbing ability by scampering up a narrow ramp to perch atop the dog walk… um… goat walk, a 12-inch-wide plank positioned about 4 and a half feet off the ground. These guys could definitely win an Olympic gold medal in the balance beam competition. Three of them maneuvered around together on the plank with ease.
According to Wilson, if you are going to house goats, it is a good idea to build them plenty of things to climb on. If you don’t give them something to climb on, they will likely find something on their own. That something could very well be your car. Seriously. Goats will hop right onto your car. Wilson, and about a million other goat owners with slightly scratched and dented cars, can confirm this fact for you. She eyed my too-nearby-for-comfort, still-new-to-me Jeep with unconcealed concern. Thankfully, the goats decided to climb elsewhere during my visit.
If you want to have a pet goat, you should double your pleasure by having a pair of goats.
“Goats need companions,” advised Wilson. “You don’t want to have a solitary goat; you need at least two.” But be careful—without a little herd management, it can become a dozen goats in no time at all.
When Wilson originally decided to get goats for weed control on her property, she bought a pair, Billy and Bobby—neutered males, called “wethers” in goat-speak. When she added the goats from Shepherd’s Cross to her little herd, there were a few does and a buck named Joseph in the mix.
With Joseph’s “attention” (keeping it PG-13!), after about five months, the few goats suddenly became a herd of a dozen goats. Nubian goats often have multiple babies, so it is not unusual to see a doe give birth to twins or triplets. This means your herd can grow quickly.
Five of the babies were rehomed, as was the amorous Joseph, but apparently not before he wooed the ladies once again. With a sigh, Wilson pointed to a couple of the does who were displaying suspiciously large bellies.
It appears the stork will visit Wilson’s farm one more time in the coming months. There are few things cuter than baby Nubian goats with their huge, pendulous ears, bright eyes and mis-chievous antics. I do believe this story will require a follow-up visit, and I can’t swear I won’t leave with two baby goats in tow.
If you have goats for companions, get ready to laugh. A lot.
“Goats are clever, funny animals. Ours give us lots of laughs every single day,” Wilson said.
In just the time spent with Wilson and her crew, which includes Billy, Bobby, Mary, Molly, Emma, Sissy and Joey, I could easily understand the entertainment value of having goats around. Some were affectionate; some were shy; some were very curious—I actually cleaned goat lip smears off of my camera lens—and all were enthusiastic when it came to each goat claiming his or her share of the treats.
Honestly, I could have sat and watched this herd for hours. They bounced around, played, and loved climbing on their custom jungle gym, as well as on the agility equipment I suspect was really in place for Wilson’s beautiful Samoyed show dogs.
Of course, when considering adding any animal to your family, it is important to understand the specific care requirements of that animal before diving in headfirst. In addition to fencing challenges, and the need to have at least two goats for company, goats do have some specific diet and care requirements.
Wilson said that while she lets her goats graze freely on her property, she also supplements their diet with quality hay, alfalfa pellets and goat pellets. She also provides them with minerals essential to their health. And of course, fresh, clean water must be available at all times.
Goats also need to have their small, cloven hooves trimmed routinely and be wormed and vaccinated on a regular schedule. Wilson also counsels that you have to watch your goats carefully for any signs of illness, such as dullness or a yellow cast to their eyes, diarrhea, lack of appetite and any nasal discharge. As with any animal, early detection of illness is vital to their wellbeing, so diligent supervision is required.
Despite their hardiness, goats are susceptible to pneumonia during cold temperatures. Wilson stressed that goats need adequate protection from cold wind and damp weather. She has several straw-filled shelters in her pens, which allow her goats comfortable snuggle space out of wind and rain. She works to keep these shelters clean and the bedding dry and fresh.
If you are considering goats as weed-eating pets, information provided by Gary Pfalzbot, author of the website Goatworld.com, suggests it’s important to first define your expectations for a pet goat.
“If you are looking for a pet that sits in your lap while watching TV, a goat is not that kind of pet,” stresses Pfalzbot in an article on his site. “If you are looking for the type of pet that you need to pay very little attention to and feed perhaps once a day, a goat is not that kind of pet either.
“Having a goat as a pet primarily means that you are willing to let it be the type of animal it is—an outside animal that you cannot necessarily have sleeping on the bed with you each night. A goat basically needs to be outside in natural elements.”
Another important consideration when thinking of acquiring goats is to be sure that you live in an area where they are allowed and where you have proper habitat to allow them to thrive happily. For example, goats are not generally allowed within city limits and must be kept in areas that are zoned agricultural. A goat would not do well kept in a small enclosure in a backyard.
Wilson’s goats are all Nubians, a popular breed for goat enthusiasts. Nubians were developed as dairy goats with milk rich in butter fat. They are pleasant, friendly, people-oriented animals with a little spark of mischief readily visible in their eyes.
In a couple of months, when Mary and her other herd-mates deliver new, tiny, floppy-eared bundles of bouncing, prancing joy, I can’t swear I won’t be the first in line to see them and fall in love.
In the meantime, I’m heading to my home in the country to rethink my fencing just in case I “need” to add a couple of goats to my fold. For now, I’m still entirely too fond of my Jeep to even entertain the idea of my future goats tap dancing on the hood.