28th January 2006
Our first ten minutes with Rusty was to give us some insight to our future together- challenging, just about covers it!
We first became aware of Rusty via an email plea for a home for a goat. As we were already guardian to Gladys goat we had been harboring thoughts of a companion for her. With fencing here at the Mission nowhere near complete and given goat ability to get out of just about anything it was decided to wait and pray that a suitable home would be forth coming for the 7 month old male goat. Luckily for Rusty nothing was forth coming as we are sure not too many would be have been prepared to cope with a wayward young buck from the “western suburbs”.
The first time we laid eyes on Rusty he was pressing his head into his then guardian’s chest with the guardian holding one horn in each hand. “How cute” we thought, they obviously have a strong bond. Wrong, we were soon to learn that this was the posture one adopted to prevent the testosterone charged Rusty from head butting (read bashing) you into oblivion.
Ah but the fun had yet to begin. Arriving home Rusty was introduced to his new companion Gladys. She hated him! And in typical goat fashion she made no bones about letting us know it. And right about this point we were to discover the reason for the holding of Rusty horns by his previous guardian. Whack, shin bone down, whack forearm down, and whack “ah ah not this time buster”, so a grab of his horns was made to prevent yet another attack and herein began our goat behavior lesson 101, “don’t grab said goats horns and offer resistance to his advances unless you are prepared for an equal and greater resistance”, oh and heaven help you when you do let go.
On reflection we believe Rusty’s behavioural problems not only led to his surrender but were heavily contributed to by human intervention. Rusty was taken in as a cute infant, of which he was no doubt. A frolicking and gamboling young goat would have been considered quite cute.
But sadly, what is cute behaviour in a young and far less strong goat, is dangerous behaviour in a mature goat and more tragically this exercise is being played out across the country with countless species of animals.
Behaviour encouraged in young animals then becomes unacceptable and even dangerous in older animals. The older animal is then unaware that its behaviour is causing it to be shunned and it craving the attention it once had, creates a vicious cycle that ultimately ends painfully for the human and badly for the animal.
Today we are still learning to “read” goat speak, and not reward/recognize Rusty’s bad behaviour and encourage his good. All the animals here at the Mission are ambassadors for their kind and here to challenge the way people view them. With this in mind, we wondered what Rusty would be able to contribute to this lot. Struggling at first; (probably due to the pain in our bruised shins and forearms) we realized that Rusty was teaching us as much about animals as about ourselves, about how our behaviour affects others, confirming that animals are animals not furry or surrogate humans. Animals have evolved over the eons with their own innate language which humans need to learn and understand and that given understanding we can all live in harmony. Life with Rusty will no doubt continue to be filled with challenges but also fun times. Nothing is quite like the joy of calling him and seeing him recognize his name and come charging up to you, bounding like Pepi La Pew, simply to be with you.
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