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February 29, 2012: Animal Communication, 101

This morning I took Ranger, Rover, and Peaches (goats) and Signy for a walk. We were barely out of the driveway when Rover, who easily weighs 120 pounds, began pushing into me. It’s been rather annoying.

He’s been doing this for some time. Ranger used to do this, but for some reason, stopped. I had reached an impasse. I’d tried breaking him of this habit by pushing him away hard and gently, and by wacking him with the lead rope. I’d also tried dodging him, and taking my hand, and pushing on his far side. Horses move away from pressure, and goats towards it, so I figured that this would work. I was wrong.


Nothing worked.

So I decided to try something else, a last resort kind of thing. I knelt down in the road. Rover was at that minute, grooming himself—he does this when (as at that moment) he’s not getting his way. I think this is a form of goat disrespect.

I then cleared my mind. Rover started sniffing my mouth. A possible reason for this problem then came to mind. Rover (who is the ultimate goat chow hound) is of the belief that I’m a human food dispenser. He smells oatmeal on my breath and treats in my pocket. And I’m the one who doles out the hay. It has to come from somewhere, right? So pushing on me gets the reinforcer. This makes sense, given that he’s food obsessed.

I told Rover, in images, that oatmeal and treats come from inside the house, and that the hay comes from the hay shed. He said he knows this, but that they also come from me. Quite obviously, there is some strange sort of disconnect going on here.

But then maybe this isn’t so strange. When I was a kid, I thought that the food I ate went down a long clothesline, and hung there – bowls of oatmeal, hard candy, and salads included. And I hung on to this image long after I figured out that it was nonsensical. So Rover may hang on to his image.

I have to say that once we were again all in motion, that Rover was much better. He did not push into me once. I suspect that I’m going to have to repeatedly remind him that food doesn’t arbitrarily come from inside me. He’s not going to get this in one fell swoop.

We continued on, with me thinking about a question that I’m often asked, which is why do you have goats? They’re Pete’s least favorite animal, and sometimes a source of contention. They are a lot of work, and yet another expense. And quite often, they’re where they ought not be. If one of us is working on something, one or two goats will be in your face. Leave a tack room door open, and sure enough, one, two, or three will have their heads in the grain bin. And say, you are in a hurry to go someplace, that’s usually the day in which the goats will bust down their shed door. There have actually been times when I’ve considered finding the three a new home.

My interaction with Rover again reminded me of their importance in my life. Goats don’t respond to yelling, screaming, or any form of physical punishment. In fact, the more forceful I am, the less effective the results. They actually do well with the opposite. We all fare much better when I offer a kind word and scratch behind the ears. The comparison is this—I would be far better off if I could keep this in mind in dealing with people. The goats, especially Rover, repeatedly remind me of this.

Next: 84. 3/1/12: Mr. Siggi