Mason and I visited the Puget Sound Goat Rescue the first week in August. It was my third visit in three years. Unlike my previous visits, the temperature last week in Maple Valley, WA was ideal, 73, cloudy with sprinkles of sunshine. Normally, it’s hot, 90-degrees type hot.
The other difference was that my husband Mason made the cross-country trip. He came to meet Rosebud, a three-legged goat. Besides the fact that I mention Rosebud weekly, Mason wanted to meet her because he’d been wearing her picture on his chest since last December, when I bought him a Puget Sound Goat Rescue (PSGR) sweatshirt for Christmas. I was anxious about Mason’s reaction to Rosebud. Until I met her, I thought of all goats as livestock. I knew he felt the same way. On occasion, he even ate mutton. Full disclosure: I tried mutton once at a bar-b-q joint in Kentucky.
Barbara Jamison, a retired corporate sales representative, started the goat rescue in 2001, shortly after she bought her farm. Most, but not all, of the animals come from the slaughterhouse. Others live at the rescue because they were neglected or abused or surrendered by owners unable to care for them. Unlike many farm sanctuaries, PSGR adopts their goats to well-vetted homes. Currently, the rescue has 101 goats available for adoption.
Barbara runs the nonprofit with a team of 45 volunteers over two farms. After being around her for any length of time, I can understand why so many people want to help her. Barbara exudes strength, the kind of strength that is the root of every successful animal nonprofit. Any person who undertakes rescue work fulltime must possess the right blend of compassion and steely strength. Too much of the former and the rescue fails. Too much of the latter and the same applies.
Caring for goats isn’t an easy physical job either. Poop is everywhere. There’s no avoiding it. One volunteer joked she was going to apply for a job as a professional pooper-scooper. We laughed but she wasn’t kidding. It also means slogging heavy buckets with fresh water, carrying hay, and pushing wheelbarrows. It means dirty, menial labor and never getting a day off.
A Llama named Sabrina, two sheep, two dogs, two turkeys, and a rooster also live on Barbara’s farm. It’s a busy place, and goats are busy creatures. Most grazed the fence line. Others crawled on chairs and tables. One licked a salt lick. Another fellow rested in a neon blue kiddie pool. All held my interest for about fifteen seconds because I couldn’t focus on anything until I saw Rosebud. I scanned the field again.
After five minutes passed, I started worrying. Had something happened?
“Oh, you’re looking for Rosebud?” Barbara smiled as though she suddenly understood the real reason we flew 2500 miles. She called Rosebud’s name once before I saw the goat’s shadow move against a barn door. I felt my heart start to pitter. I’d been talking about her so much, I had the irrational fear Mason might not see the same magic in her. That he might be disappointed. That she would be a letdown.
Rosebud stood up one joint at a time, unfolding like a ladder. When on all three limbs, she took her first unwieldy step forward, unwieldy because her weight isn’t distributed evenly. Rosebud wears a deep brown coat that gleams reddish in the sunshine. Black smudges her face and legs. Her ears stick out from each side of her head like mini-winglets. Barbara guesses she’s around three years old. She was a neglect case. In her first home she had become so weak and anemic, she pulled herself around on her front legs. It destroyed her left knee joint.
In some ways, I’m not sure Rosebud knows she’s missing her leg. I fell in love with her on my second visit when I saw her moving her stump as though her hoof was still connected. Like dogs, goats dig the ground before they sit down. As Rosebud made her nest in the leaves and hay, her stump dug in unison with her right limb. That simple motion, brain muscle reacting to the nonexistent caused a rush of pity that resounded for a full five seconds. Just as quickly, a sense of complete joy followed, joy that an animal like Rosebud was given a chance in the world. And that feeling lasted long after my pity.
As Rosebud approached us, I watched my husband’s face and knew he felt the same sympathy I had. But, I kept watching. I watched until his eyes lit up, until I knew he realized there was something completely intact about this three-legged animal. Mason was seeing exactly what I hoped. My husband was learning, like I had, that goats possess complexity. They have emotions and memories. They have personalities. Although I’m not religious, it was the equivalent of realizing goats have souls. My guess is Mason won’t be eating any mutton in the near future.
Rosebud rotated her head like a helicopter when I combed my fingers through her thick, shiny coat. Her brown eyes shimmered with curiosity, contentment, intelligence. At one point, I asked Barbara if Rosebud was up for adoption. She answered quickly, “It’d have to be a really good home.”
I thought to myself there is no better home for Rosebud than right here at this goat rescue.
On our way to the hotel that evening, Mason wore his Rosebud sweatshirt. One word is under her picture. Flawless.
P.S. Special shout out to Ruth Laitila, another animal-rescue warrior. She makes these visits possible. You can see everyday life at the Puget Sound Goat Rescue on their IG feed. And to see all the characters we met at PSGR, follow The Farnival on IG.