The weather changed overnight from chilly to warm and muggy. It\’s not my favorite kind of weather, but it\’s perfect for trimming goat hooves, because the humidity softens them.
Goats who spend their lives scampering over rocks in Mediterranean countries never need pedicures: the stony soil acts like emery board on their hooves. Goats who spend most of their time on soft hay need frequent help with their feet.
I am a great believer in doing tasks such as weeding, dog- nail clipping and goat-hoof trimming often enough that they stay manageable. This time, however, what with gardening and herding and company, the hooves had gotten out of hand.
I found this out the minute I put sweet Alsiki on the milking stand and picked up her hind foot. The tip of the hoof had grown long and narrow, making her look like she was wearing pointy-toed high-heeled shoes. I pinned my hair out of my face, grabbed the hoof shears, and went to work.
And it was hard, hot work. Bending over a short, squirming creature is hard on the back. Holding on to a small hoof even as its owner tries to climb the wall is hard on the arms. Cutting off the non-essential parts of that small jerking hoof without causing major bleeding is hard on the brain. And that was just sweet Alsiki, the calmest of the herd.
Next came Blossom, who, halfway through her pregnancy, is almost as wide as she is tall. I put grain in a dish on the stanchion to distract the goats from what is happening to their hooves, but ever-hungry Blossom would have none of it. The whole trauma was made worse by the fact that when she went out of sight, the other two set up a wailing chorus of “Where have you gone, Blossom, beloved sister? Alas, will we ever see you again?” and so on. Her great belly, which made me even more aware of the need to be gentle, didn\’t seem to affect her squirming ability one bit.
By the time it was Virginia Slim\’s turn, sweat was running down my face and the hoof shears kept slipping in my hand. I was covered in goat debris: hair, bits of hay, and hoof trimmings. You have to get close and personal to do this job, and your nostrils fill with the smell of the stuff you dig out of the hooves, which while not exactly foul is peculiar, and strong.
Back in their stall, the girls consoled themselves with mouthfuls of hay while I swept the milking room of hoof trimmings and other yuckies. I thought I was done when I remembered I needed to weigh some hay. I\’d been advised to let them have no more than two pounds of hay per goat per day, lest they get fat and have trouble giving birth. But I had no idea what two pounds of hay looked like.
I went into the house, moving slowly so as not to shed any of the hoof stuff that was stuck to me, and got the bathroom scale. In the goat shed I weighed myself, trying to ignore the personal significance of the results, then picked up an armful of hay, stepped on the scale again, did the math….
There was one more goat duty left, and that was to repair my post-pedicure relationship with the girls. There is no better way to make friends with these goats than to brush them, so I did. Not that they needed it. Their summer coats are short and so shiny they look as if they\’ve been buffed. But their spirits needed brushing, and so did mine.
I sat among them and they stood close, their eyelids drooping as I brushed and brushed. I could have stayed there all day.
Instead I went back to the house, jumped in the shower, put on clean clothes, and rushed to the computer to tell you all about it.