Friday, September 15, 2017

A New Mission: Enjoy Each Other's Company

Mark, our Therapy Goat, and his pals
The dust has finally settled here on the goat farm, figuratively that is (‘cuz there is ALWAYS dust on the goat farm). The antics and mudslinging of Convention really threw us all for a loop. But a lot has happened since then. And I am happy to report that it is all well.

In our last episode, Katherine wrote a scathing post about the less-than-stellar behavior of adults in The Pygmy Goat Show World. What she didn’t explain was “why.” So, here’s my 2 cents.
A group of people ganged up on an individual in the goat world to push her out of the goat show circuit. It started back in the fall, with the Johnnes scare … or shall I call it an outbreak? I refer you to my November 2016 post "Last to Know"
I took quite a lot of heat for that post. Phone calls. Texts. Social media. No surprise. Johnnes is a sensitive subject, to say the least. Katherine took a lot of grief for it, too – being accosted on her Facebook page by one particularly angry parent who questioned Katherine’s own testing protocols. Maybe she didn’t read the blog? Anyways, the tempest blew over, as it always does, and I didn’t hear any more about the subject for … seven months. Until Convention.
Cicadas, thanks to National Geographic
In truth, I had secretly hoped the drama had drifted away again. Johnnes scares are as predictable as cicada swarms: 5 years for Johnnes, 17 or 13 for cicadas. 
The first day of convention, at the kick-off muckety-muck meeting, the s*&t hit the fan. Accusations flew: supposedly “Susan” (our friend in “Last to Know”) knowingly sold Johnnes-infected goats to families around the country. And, to boot, Susan allegedly FORGED her test results to hide the evidence.
For Pete’s sake. If anyone had just asked Susan, like Katherine did, they would have gotten to the bottom of the matter. Maybe they had ulterior motives or wanted to deflect the attention from themselves. Who knows.
But it turned into a full-blown ethics accusation. Susan’s membership was revoked, which cascaded into a torrent of other consequences --- which I won’t go into because it doesn’t matter now. What does matter is that the process was a witch hunt on par with the Salem witch trials of 1692. 
Salem Witch Trials
For a teenager, it was pretty shocking that adults sometimes act like middle school “mean girls.” (Welcome to the world, honey.) Hence Katherine’s post ("For the Youth")
Fast forward three months, and the dust has settled. People combed through by-laws and minutes, committee chairs left in protest, lawyers sent letters. Charges were dropped and the mob stood down. Susan’s membership was reinstated and everything returned to “normal.”
Kudos to Susan. She’s one of the strongest, most tenacious and most practical women I’ve ever met. And ETHICAL. So there. You all know what side I am on. But why are there even sides in this matter?
Aren’t we all in this for the same reasons? For the love of goats and fellowship with our goat-y community?
Apparently not.
Katherine and I have spent countless hours discussing the matter. Hashing and re-hashing the specific events. Speculating on motives. Venting about “fair” and “unfair.” Reviewing why we have 50 goats on the property and spend a ton of money traveling to remote (and dusty) places to walk our fancy animals around in circles. Anticipating the NEXT blow up. Because in the goat world, there is ALWAYS a next time.
Vicious Cycle
Unless you do something to stop the cycle. Wait. Whaaaaat? It doesn’t have to be this way? Stop it. 
I admit I was content to bury my head in the sand and to be glad that the din had subsided. But Katherine was not. (Ah, youth).
“What exactly is it that I want to get out of goats?” Katherine asked over and over again. It became her mantra. By God, she was going to fix this problem - somehow.
Instead of focusing on the negative, Katherine focused on the positive. She started talking to other goat people about what brought them into goats in the first place and what they ultimately want to get out of it. The answer was the same every time: community.
Yes, goats are cute, cuddly, furry little bundles of love. Watching them frolic makes your heart leap for joy. Holding their warm bodies against your chest calms your soul. Goats make great therapy animals ("Therapy Goat in Training").  
But ultimately, we embark on this abstract hobby because we enjoy hanging out with like-minded people who enjoy raising and living with goats as much as we do. It’s the community and the human-interaction that we crave.
In a world dominated by screens and permeated by the haze of blue computer light, we yearn for connection with other living creatures. For some, it’s goats.
So, how to get back to that welcoming, inclusive, FUN community? ‘Cuz that’s not what we have right now, that’s for sure.
Katherine reached out to people and they pondered the question at great length, finally deciding to form their own pygmy goat club. One right here in our own backyard (literally). The founders met IN PERSON — not over little screens—over and over again to hash out the foundation of their new club: mission, bylaws, non-profit status, accounting procedures, responsibilities, fund raising, websites, EVENTS. Especially events.
This club has to be fun. There have to be plenty of reasons for people to COME TOGETHER to enjoy each other’s company in the presence of goats. Potlucks, barbeques, goat shows, clinics. And the list goes on.
The group is deep in the throes of organizing their first goat show, and Katherine is back to her happy, goat-herder self.
She feels empowered to fix what’s broken. Rather than wallowing in what is wrong, she is reveling in what is right. At the same time, she’s building a community that shares her values. It’s not just about winning ribbons (though that is rewarding in its own right); it’s about connecting with people.

Bay Area Pygmy Goat Club
To illustrate that point, I’ll finish with one quick anecdote from a couple weeks back.
Katherine and her little brother embarked on a road trip to Cottonwood, Arizona, foryes, you guessed it—a goat show. Well, actually, FOUR goat shows. Woohoo. The drive took 14 hours each way. Wretched in my mind, which is why I stayed home.
When they got home three days later, I asked how the show went.
“Did you win anything?” I eagerly asked.
Disappointed, I ventured a tentative, “Was the 28 hours of driving really worth it….?”
“Of course it was. I made a new friend! He got into goats three years ago…. He has 14 goats, named….He told me about a new feed…He wants to be a judge too!” and on and on and on she went.
I was embarrassed by my own shallow priorities. I mistakenly thought Katherine went to Arizona to win some grands, when really, she went down there to connect with her people.
Silly Mom. I could learn a thing or two from this kid.