Prunella was a goat. I don’t know how old she was or where she was born. I only met her once and know of her mostly through the stories my friend Audrey told me about her.
Prunella spent the first two years of her life living and working in a research laboratory at the University of Minnesota. We don’t know what kind of research she participated in. We just know that after the study was over, Pru was scheduled for euthanasia.
One of the students who worked on the study – and knew Prunella – was a friend of Audrey’s. When Pru was scheduled to be ‘released’ from the program she contacted Audrey, who she knew had a farm with pastures and a barn, and begged her to take the goat in. Audrey’s not a goat person, but she can be a sucker for a sad story – especially when it involves an innocent furry creature, so she agreed to take Prunella.
That was almost ten years ago. Audrey and I joked about Prunella a lot – we agreed that we wanted to volunteer for whatever study it was that she had participated in… You see, that darned goat was the absolute picture of health. She never got sick. She never had problems with infections or parasite infestations. She was a super goat.
Mostly, Prunella was a pet. She was an Alpine doe and I suppose Audrey could have bred her and used her as a milk goat, but she didn’t. She just tamed her and fed her and cared for her. They were friends.
Sunday afternoon Audrey was doing chores around her place when she heard the hens in her barn raise up a great and terrified ruckus. They were obviously panicked. Really panicked. So she sped out to the barn to see what the problem was.
Clustered in a tight flock in the corner of their coop, the hens appeared to be terrified, but unhurt. As she checked on them she heard odd, raspy sounds coming from Prunella’s stall. She assumed that what she heard was the sound of a terrified goat, and went into the stall to visit Pru and calm her down.
As she entered the stall, she was horrified to see that two dogs were in the stall and Prunella was lying on her side in a corner, obvoiusly in distress. The dogs, a border collie and a rottweiler mix, were snarling and their faces were bloodied. Audrey – who can be incredibly intimidating when she wants to be – chased them out of the stall – with nothing more than her voice and presence.
Once they were gone, she went to check Prunella – and found that her trachea had been badly torn. It was a wound she could not survive.
Filled with righteous indignation, she leaped into her van and drove up the road to the house where she knew the dogs lived. Their owners were just piling into a car, dressed up for some outing, when she arrived. Smart woman, she parked her van diagonally across the drive to block them in, then told them that their dogs had fatally injured her goat.
The female owner leaped right into denial. She whined that it couldn’t have been their dogs - they’re always chained up in the yard. A pointed look toward two trees surrounded by hard-packed earth and empty chains said all that needed to be said about that. So Audrey told the male owner that he needed to take ownership of the problem and come to put her goat out of its misery – NOW.
Quietly, he got his gun and did as he was told.
Then they all piled into the car and went off to their party. Leaving their dogs to roam free through a neighborhood filled with poultry, sheep, calves, pets — and children. No tears. No apology. No offer to bury or replace the goat.
Sadly, it will be dogs who pay the price for this bit of ignorance and stupidity. Their owner will likely let them run at large until a neighborhood vigilante shoots them or the county sheriff picks them up and gets rid of them for him. Then he’ll find a couple more dogs who are ‘free to a good home’ and chain them up outside his house until they die or go mad. Or kill something.
A dog doesn’t need a home in the country. It needs a home that cares.
The Goat And I
-Robert W. Service
Each sunny day upon my way
A goat I pass;
He has a beard of silver grey,
A bell of brass.
And all the while I am in sight
He seems to muse,
And stares at me with all his might
And chews and chews.
Upon the hill so thymy sweet
With joy of Spring,
He hails me with a tiny bleat
Though half the globe is drenched with blood
And cities flare,
Contentedly he chews the cud
And does not care.
Oh gentle friend, I know not what
Your age may be,
But of my years I’d give the lot
Yet left to me,
To chew a thistle and not choke,
But bright of eye
Gaze at the old world-weary bloke
Who hobbles by.
Alas! though bards make verse sublime,
And lines to quote,
It takes a fool like me to rhyme
About a goat.