Willy and Nilly were one week old when I bought them at a feed store. They were pygmy dwarf goats: not as chunky and stubby as pygmies, but smaller than standards. I was living with my girlfriend in a house on a one-acre, fenced lot. We had chickens and ducks, already. Extending the chicken house for a goat shed wasn't difficult, so why not? I wanted my own milk, yogurt and cheese. I'm very low income and depend on food stamps. The more self-sustaining I am -- with gardening, eggs and dairy -- the better off I am.
Five years later, the girlfriend is gone, but I have my goats. After we split up, I had a terrible time, finding adequate and affordable housing. Every place I've lived has been substandard, with landlords who, basically, use my goats as hostages to force me to pay rent for raw sewage, leaking pipes, infestations of vermin and actual verbal abuse. A landlord last year shot and killed all my ducks, chickens and geese. I barely got out, lost almost everything, but managed to escape with most of my animals alive, although one dog had a bullet in her shoulder. I hitch hiked 160 miles with Willy, Nilly, 2 doves and 4 cats in crates to where I'm living now.
Willy, Nilly and my 2 dogs boarded, temporarily, with some unscrupulous animal hoarders, posing as an animal sanctuary. When they realized they couldn't hold my animals hostage for ransom, they called the state's Animal Cruelty Hotline, to report me for "animal abuse" and called Adult Protective Services (APS), saying I was too mentally unstable to care for myself and my animals. Animal Control ended up investigating them and "red flagging" them as animal hoarders, no longer allowed to adopt from the shelter. APS told me the people who'd taken my animals have tried to extort money from others in the past, even trying to get one woman to sign over the deed to her house! They lurk in CraigsList. When they see someone with a pet who is in distress, they move in, promise to help, then blackmail the person. They prey on the elderly, disabled and behaviorally challenged. I'd put an ad in CraigsList, looking for help in my crisis. They had answered.
I got one dog back. The hoarders had the County Livestock Commissioner pick up Willy and Nilly; they wouldn't give me their address and let me pick them up, myself. The Commissioner had no place to keep them. So I got a call at 3:30pm, demanding I show proof of ownership at the Cattleman's Auction, all the way across the county, by 5pm, or Willy and Nilly would be auctioned for slaughter the following morning. I called the place in Albuquerque where I'd bought them; she faxed a bill of sale to the auction. I downloaded all my photos and videos of Willy and Nilly onto a thumb drive, grabbed two leashes and, in the dead of winter, hitch hiked across the county to get my goats. And yes, I hitch hiked home with two goats.
Willy was covered with knots and bruises. Nilly had blood on her flanks and was bleeding from her vent. They had bred her without my consent or knowledge. A pygmy nanny cannot easily pass a kid from a father who is too large. The pregnancy could have killed her.
When she came due, she yelled. I had a tiny bedroom all ready: sheet plastic and absorbent blankets on the floor, sterilizing, suturing, antiseptic, bandaging and other equipment ready. I had gloves and lubricant and I even had a soldering iron hot and ready, in case she tore and I needed to cauterize it. She lay on her side, pressing against my filing cabinets, pushing her back into my thighs. I massaged her and lubricated her. When it was time to really push, she screamed and screamed. Poor Willy was outside the window, frantic, trying to climb in. The first kid came out perfect. I set it by her tummy. The second kid came out a lot more easily. They were large. She stretched until she was transparent. And, if the babies had been breach, I could have done nothing; she was too small for my hand.
The babies are very healthy and they will be larger than Nilly. Nilly died just at the time they were almost totally weaned. I worked on her for seven hours. I called out to neighbors passing by for help, but nobody would stop. I didn't get to look up the problem on the internet until the next day: neurotoxic poisoning. I think, if she'd eaten something poison, she would have told the kids to eat it, too. And, of course, you can't feed one goat without Willy getting in on it, too. Since the other goats are fine, I suspect a venomous creature bit her.
So, now I have Chili, Willy and Nilly II. I wethered (neutered) Chili myself. I don't want inbreeding; that's why I wethered Willy, too. It's not difficult and not painful, after a few minutes, if you use a good banding tool and have some nerve, antiseptic and a tetanus injection ready. Willy complained more about the tetanus shot than the banding!
We live, quite literally, in frontier New Mexico. The house I rented is unfit: no sewage, heat or running water. The ex-girlfriend took out a small loan and I bought a thirty foot travel trailer and am paying her back. I live in the trailer, in the driveway. I am a hundred mile hitch hike, round trip, from Albuquerque: the closest place for decently-priced provisions. I am completely alone out here. I am afraid of my neighbors; they've been hostile, abusive and cruel. I am searching classified ads and internet boards, all over the state of New Mexico, trying to find adequate housing that I can afford.
People say I should give up my animals and move into a HUD project. Well, first: have you ever LIVED in HUD housing? Just writing about the idea is making me a little sick. Next, my animals are my friends. They protect me; they show me affection; they amuse me. Now, in the modern age, I know we're all supposed to put our own needs ahead of anything or anybody else. But not me -- not with my animals, anyway. They depend on me. They trust me to feed, house, doctor, care for and love them. If I betrayed their trust, I couldn't live with myself.
I was happy in that little house in Albuquerque. We used to put the goats on their leashes and walk around Old Towne. Tourists took their pictures in the sculpture garden and on the plaza. We'd put them in our box truck, drive downtown for the free movies on Civic Plaza during the summer. The goats ate popcorn while we watched movies.
I live without a lot to keep my animals safe. It's hard work, just to get groceries, do a load of laundry, get to a doctor. But nobody will rent to me, either because my little disability check is too small for the unaffordable rents, or because they don't understand my goats. They're quiet. They don't dig or bark. They stay close to home (ie me) and they're not destructive, if you know what you're doing and how to fence -- and amuse -- a goat. Bored goats, just like people, get into a lot more trouble than active, busy goats.
The Weekly Alibi ran an article a few months back. There is no affordable housing, anywhere, in New Mexico. I'm sad and scared and check the ads every day, trying to find a place for us to live.
They only need a space as big as a suburban back yard, but Albuquerque zoning won't let me keep them on less than four THOUSAND square feet, per goat. These goat are the size of German Shepherds, full grown! Well, Willy is pretty rotund, so let's say a pot bellied pig.
I'm not a freak or crazy for wanting my goats for milk, cheese, yogurt, amusement, protection and affection. Apparently, though, I'm way ahead of Albuquerque's time. Let low income people feed ourselves!