Thursday, October 20, 2011

Adventures in animal procurement

I haven't shared this hilarious story from last summer, and I want to do so before I forget it all. I am old, now. In 2010, I was far enough beyond breast cancer to begin a post-cancer mid-life crisis that for me, predictably, involved horses. I found a 5 year-old thoroughbred, with no issues, on the Internet, and obtained him--without specifically asking my husband--for free. The owner delivered him to the stable I where I've been connected for many years and I thought all my dreams had finally come true.

It was very exciting. I owned a TB. He was handsome and athletic and I was boarding him at a real stable. It was what I had wanted all my life, honestly. It was also over 90 degrees every single day from May on. It was quickly determined that he would need training that I couldn't provide. Then I started cleaning stalls to pay for the training.

I had learned in college that I could trade hard, honest work for whatever horse-stuff I couldn't afford. And I was eager to sustain my fantasy that I could be a good wife, mother, rural property owner and equestrienne. I would drive 12 miles one-way to clean stalls for several hours. Then I would groom my horse after someone else had ridden him and I would drive home exhausted, cook for my family, do laundry and clean my barn. Just what every girl dreams of...

Long story short, he wasn't quite the right fit for me. A terrific horse, a tremendous opportunity, but I couldn't sustain the training he needed, either financially or logistically. So I made other arrangements for him and began a descent into horse-divorce depression. Death of a dream. And in order to short circuit that mourning period, I decided I'd get what I'd REALLY been wanting--dairy goats.

I was sure that my horse phase had officially ended. I had had to work myself to the bone to pay off the training debts for a horse I couldn't consistently ride. I told myself that I was too old, too weak, too chicken and too poor for any more horsey adventures. Goats would be just right. They couldn't kill me. I didn't have to be brave and I didn't have to do a whole lot with them to prove myself to anyone. And, Handyman and I love goat cheese...

So, I found just the ones I was looking for on that mother-of-all bulletin boards: Craigslist. Two dairy does, under a year old. Specifically, an Alpine and a Toggenburg (which I had wanted since my first summer camp job in Michigan, where we had one.) Toggs are uncommon and so this convinced me that I was destined to be a great goat cheese maker. The arrangements were made.

These two little gals were down south, a little more than an hour away. In hill country. I had discussed with the owner about putting the smaller goat in our large wire dog crate. She thought that would work, but thought the bigger goat would not fit in a crate. I was not going to borrow someone's horse trailer to pick up two little, albeit not mini, goats. The dog crate would take up one half of the back of the Expedition and the larger goat would have to be loose, next to the crate.

I am not terribly knowledgeable about goats, but a little horse and dog experience, some riding instructor safety training and enough fear of the unknown to keep me wary, made me think that an unrestrained goat weighing almost 100 lbs., loose in the back of my Expedition might not be the smartest decision ever. So, Handyman graciously cut a piece of plywood to fit upright behind the seat of his Expedition. The Expedition with the rubber floor mat with the curved edges. (This will be important later.) Handyman is such a smart guy that he took the mat out and put roofing felt paper underneath the mat, to cover the holes where the seatbelt clamps are placed. I don't know why he thought of this, but we were all so thankful for this foresight.

I drafted #1 and #2 to go with me. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and we were driving to one of the most scenic areas of our state to pick up our new pets. What fun! (Why Handyman puts up with these sporadic plunges of mine that always involve money and more work, is beyond me!)

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