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Animals can love too

in The Good Life by

Oct. 4 marked the one-year anniversary—or ‘gotcha day’—for Cornelius, our buck goat. I remember it well. He gave us quite a fright at first, trying to ram out the windows in the van while we finished talking to his previous owners. But as soon as we got the van moving and started paying attention to him, he was best kind.

At the time I was so impressed at how lulled he was by the moving car. Then, as we waited in line for the ferry, I got a little nervous; what if he bellowed out the whole ferry ride? But no, he slept the whole way through. At the time, I wrote a poem about it:

Bringing home our Bell Island Goat

The bell isle ferry rocks you to sleep

You try to not let it take you, awake abruptly with a ‘bleep’

For you know not the new ones who have you

But it’s warm and the ferry is rocking

The music is playing with the humans lightly talking

So let the gentle rocking take hold

For you are a brave goat, forever bold!

You drift and doze while the ship rocks and sways

Off to your new home, for the rest of your days.

Introducing Cornelius to the family

When we first got Goldie and Maple, Goldie was with milk as Maple was only six weeks old or so at the time. We had no thoughts about acquiring a third or fourth or even fifth addition because we had all the milk we needed from Goldie, and all the energy of a kid from her daughter. As Maple grew older and Goldie’s milk eventually dried up, we started to ask ourselves how we wanted to start the milking process anew, and with whom? Maple was a year-and-a-half old when we decided that she would be our next milking goat — so we made the decision to acquire a buck goat.

Not exactly knowing how the goats would react to this new addition, we made sure we were on hand to watch. And what we observed was interesting, to say the least! Cornelius and Goldie immediately made eyes for each other, and it was almost as if Maple was a bystander to their interactions. They wrapped their necks together and bahh’d lightly. With dilated eyes, he pressed his muzzle next to hers and she gently nudged him back, as if they were giving each other hugs and kisses. Goldie gave him a few head butts to let him know she was in charge and since that day they cannot be pried apart.

These two goats show more then just the basic need to fulfill nature’s role of reproduction — they share a mutual affection. They love to be in each other’s company and can often be seen flirting with each other like two lovesick teenagers.

Don’t forget me when I’m gone

When you read about getting a buck, you learn all about their nature. Bucks are generally what are thought to be temperamental and smelly animals. Cornelius is both these things — temperamental and smelly. (We jokingly call him Mr. Pee Beard, as he pees in his goatee to attract the ladies; the scent drives female goats wild.)

But he is much more too. He’s the protector of his flock, and of our homestead. He is gentle, loyal, caring and compassionate. He is also just about the silliest goat there is! 

We have separate enclosures for Cornelius and the ladies, but that doesn’t stop him from sleeping just outside their barn door every morning until they get woken up. He is quite protective of them and doesn’t leave the area until he can make visual contact to know they are safe. Goldie will often ‘talk’ to Cornelius from the inside, light conversations that I always imagine to go something like this: 

Goldie: “How is the weather today? Do the humans have any special treats?”

Cornelius: “Its wonderful, come out and join me for a morning date at the hay loft! The humans are coming with breakfast now, you’ll be let out real soon!”

Earlier this year, Maple gave birth to twin boys; our Cornelius was now a proud papa! We had ‘passed the buck along’ on an excursion around the shore to meet some other doe goats during that time, allowing for Maple to adjust to her new role as mama goat. We were worried about how Cornelius would react when he met the boys, who were almost two months old when he came home.

But the concern was unnecessary, as he was was incredibly gentle and tolerant with them. Only a dad would let his kids climb all over him, and only a dad would teach the little ones how to butt ever so gently. He took much more of an active role with his kids than we were expecting; some reference books and online forums insist bucks must be kept separate at all times outside of arranged mating, leaving me completely dumbfounded. 

The day he came back from his trip he was somewhat interested in the kids and glad to see Maple, but his first thoughts went to Goldie. After being gone for three months he didn’t miss a beat and practically pulled me—as I was holding his leash—to the barn, where Goldie had already come outside and started racing toward him. If that moment were in a movie I’m sure it would have had romantic music and fireworks! She’s been stuck to him like glue ever since.

Love is all we need

Love is something our society tends to keep as a human characteristic. We tend to not apply it to animals, but after living on a homestead and raising and caring for animals I come to see that this is not true. All animals are capable of love, and not just love for humans, garnered with respect and food, but love for each other too—romantic love, bonded family affection, or otherwise—and an open mind to love other animals of different species.  

Photo by Lisa McBride.
A pregnant Maple enjoys a duckling massage. Photo by Lisa McBride.

When Maple was pregnant with her twins, we had ducklings that had just hatched out of the incubator with no present mommy. Maple could sense that the ducklings had a need to be filled, so she let them curl up on her and absorb her body warmth while they slept on her big baby tummy. She gently pushed her nose toward one that was getting too far away in order to bring it ‘closer’ to her. Since then, Maple has really established a close connection to the ducks and now stands guard protectively over the flock when they move about the yard. 

It isn’t just our goats that show these kinds of emotions either. Our ducks have established a flock bond that never ceases to amaze me. They have roles that they fill as part of a group dynamic, but they have individual roles too. They care for each other and form relationships with each other on an individual-to-individual basis. For example, right now we have our duck “Luna” inside caring for some ducklings, while her best buddy “Sol” is spending his days looking for her. You can certainly see that he misses his best foraging buddy. We are looking forward to their excitement when we reunite them once more. 

Love is in all animals of all shapes and sizes. It is in the way they form bonds and in the way they protect one another. It is in the way they act toward one another and in the way they take care of others, regardless of the species. It is intrinsic in all of us. 

Take a step out of your normal daily activities and watch the way animals act toward each other. You will be equally amazed and humbled by the affection they are capable of.  

For more information on husbandry and other homestead-related topics, check out our Facebook page. You can also ‘Like’ Goldie and Maple on Facebook to follow their journey and adventures around the homestead.

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