Should I be upset that my most requested story is "The Goat Story," an e-mail I wrote of our morning's adventures several years ago? It stars several of the dogs in the photo above, who have since passed on. They look so sweet, don't they? Read on...
The e-mail was entitled: Free Salukis---to any home. It took place on (or next to) our acreage in rural Georgia.
This morning we were walking the dogs when I heard barking that seemed to be coming from the far side of the fence. That area sometimes gets a tree over it, and sure enough, a limb was on the fence and the barking was coming from the far side. Dammit. I crawled over and started calling, following the barking, and eventually came upon Jeepers. Jeepers, being my good dog, came almost right away, and I used one of the three leashes (Bad decision #1: three leashes for 13 dogs?) I had with me to hook him up and start leading him back.
Problem was, I sort of thought I’d heard two different dogs barking, so I called to my mom to find out if anybody else was missing. Before she could answer, I spotted Kitty, also outside of the fence. Mystery solved. Crisis over. Probably just a bunny. Kitty was on the other side of a downed tree so I just casually called her. Bad decision #2: not taking the chance to grab a loose dog when I had it.
Suddenly, more barking---it was Wolfman barking in the distance with his “I GOT SOMETHING BIG AND I NEED BACKUP!” bark. Dammit again! I lunged for Kitty but she was already crashing off through the underbrush to help Wolf. I started toward the barking, pushing through kudzu up to my thighs with legs as heavy as dream legs, dragging Jeepers behind like an anchor under a kudzu sea. I lost one shoe. Kept going. Jeepers seemed to be doing his best to help his buddies just by slowing me down, an evil plot, so I finally decided I had to let go his leash and plow on without him while he stayed behind. Bad decision #3: A dog in hand is worth two in the bush.
I finally clawed my way through some thickets, scratched, bleeding, and one shoed, to stop and stare at Wolfman, Kitty, and Beanie (where did he come from?) attacking a giant feral goat (where did HE come from?). A GIANT feral goat! Kitty and Beanie each had one of its hamstrings, and as fast as the goat could kick them off they were coming back for more. Wolf had the goat's head and neck—mostly head, between the horns (this seemed a bad choice, but I'm no goat killing expert). The goat butted him and sent him flying through the air, over and over, and as soon as he skidded to a stop he was back on his feet and on the goat again. I snatched up a stick, since I knew hands are invisible to salukis in hunting mode, and began yelling and pulling and swatting and doing what I could to get them off, but the dogs were oblivious even though I was using all my strength and voice. Finally... I was able to hold Kitty and Beanie off enough to turn to Wolf, who didn’t care what I did. But eventually I had all three in a stand-off, the goat and I facing the three of them as I brandished my stick. The goat stood firm, even allowing me to hold him by one horn. Time for some quiet talk, goat whisperer stuff, and to decide who would get the last two leashes. The goat was closest---keeping him calm was the key to keeping them off---but would a 200 pound feral goat walk on a leash? Would ia leash even hold him? Should I...Bad decision #4: Put the leashes on somebody, anybody, don't just stand there!
Because that was when I heard a loud crashing, and out from the woods hurtled another two goats with three more salukis—Sissy, Stinky, and Jeepers (with his leash flying behind) right on their tails. My goat threw me to the ground and took off to flee with his friends, and Wolf, Kitty, and Beanie took chase. DAMMIT! Now I had three crazed goats and six blood thirsty salukis running amuck in the woods, and on the other side of the fence, still in our yard, but barely, was my mom trying to contain seven more salukis who were going berserk. I was so out of breath from breaking through kudzu I kept falling as I tried to chase them.
I began to realize just how bad a situation this was—if the goats ran out of the woods and across the field, the dogs would follow, and eventually they would cross a 55 mph highway. Unless the goats stopped. I decided if they got another goat down, I would have to let them kill it so I could catch as many dogs as possible while they were diverted. I was horrified at the thought, but even more so at the idea of my six salukis running across the highway.
Fortunately, the goats kept running in circles, wisely I suppose avoiding the open field. I could hear them crashing through the woods, catch an occasional glimpse of a goat or dog part. I realized the key to the situation was Wolfman, who lived for the hunt—catch him and the others may not be so keen on continuing without their “headman.” One of the goats broke away from the others, with Wolf on his tail. My mom had now climbed over the fence to help. I tried to yell for her to catch Wolf when he went by her, but I was too exhausted to get the words out, and just managed to squeak “Catch…him!” Bad decision #5: Be explicit, even when you can't breathe.
And so my 70 year old mom threw herself on a giant feral goat (she told me later she thought that’s what I meant by "him") and somehow, she says, this goat seemed to know she was trying to help, and he stopped and backed into a fork between two trees next to the fence. Problem was, this allowed the seven dogs inside the fence to reach through and try to bite him--not to mention Wolfman saw his chance now that his quarry was cornered. I saw my chance too. I lurched and stumbled, gasping, to them—and was able to tackle Wolf! I got the leash on him, but now what? There were still two running goats and five chasing salukis. I tied Wolf to a tree where he started going crazy. Bad decision, but for once, one that didn't bite me in the butt.
One by one I was able to catch the other dogs as they came to see the "caught" goat---or in some cases as they barreled past still chasing or hanging on the others. One by one each dog was passed through the other property's barbed wire fence and then over our field fence---while we tried to keep the cornered goat still and while making sure the excited/jealous dogs inside didn’t jump them. Then we had to try to use our too few leashes to secure them so they didn’t run back around to the downed fence area. Finally we had everyone but Wolf, and we got him through under great protest. I lost my other shoe somewhere. I am bloody, bruised all over, and I can’t stop coughing from being so out of breath.
Anybody want a saluki? Good with livestock.
There was post script to this: Two days later I went in for my annual physical. I was covered in bruises from goats and dogs. The nurse nodded politely as I explained, and handed me a brochure for battered women.