Gabby not only fit in with our horses, but she found a way into our hearts, too.
horses. Like a kitchen table without salt and pepper shakers or truck without a
“Cowgirl Up” sticker on its rear window, a barn feels unfinished until a few
assorted creatures take up residence alongside the horses. Often it’s a dog or
cat that takes on the role of mascot. But it can also be a different sort of
critter, maybe something not quite so equine. My friend Karole has a pair of
potbellied pigs that waddle in and out of the horse corrals. As for my family,
we had a pygmy goat named Gabby.
We never intended to get a goat until one of our Trakehner broodmares
died a few hours after foaling. Stuck with an orphan bottle baby, our vet
suggested we buy a pygmy goat to keep the little filly company. As luck would
have it, a woman just a few blocks away raised pygmy goats and she happened to
have a little mouse-colored female that was available. We picked her up
immediately and named her “Gabby” because she was a gabby little loudmouth.
Gabby bonded with the warmblood filly just as our vet
predicted. They ate, slept and played together. When it came time for the keuring, where
European officials from the warmblood registry inspect the foals to determine
which ones are worthy of being branded and placed in the studbook, Gabby came
along for the ride. In fact, she was loaded into the horse trailer right next
to the filly. When my mom and sister got to the keuring, both filly and goat
were unloaded and brought into the inspection ring. As the filly trotted around
the ring, displaying her movement and conformation, Gabby performed her own
little pointy-toed goat dance. It was such a cute sight that the normally stoic
jury exclaimed in broken German, “The goat gets high marks for its trot!”
Over the years Gabby became a celebrity at my family’s small
ranch. Long since independent of the filly—now a big, mature mare—Gabby was the
center of attention at holiday parties and get-togethers. Since her goat pen was
just over the fence from my parents’ patio, she’d gambol up her little ramp,
position herself on her sundeck, and peer over the fence and stare at the
guests. Her striped face would glow with the rainbow hues of the row of
twinkling lights that decorated the fence and she’d turn her head just so, with
her ears pricked forward, demanding attention. And she’d get it: a carrot from
the veggie tray, an ear of corn on the cob or an oatmeal cookie from the
dessert table. At Christmas it became a tradition to bring Gabby inside and
take her photo next to the tree. These indoor excursions must’ve proven
pleasant, because she’d frequently invite herself inside.
“Who’s knocking?” a house guest would ask, alarmed at the
persistent rapping sound.
“Oh, that’s just Gabby butting her head against the door,”
we’d reply nonchalantly. “She just wants inside.”
When that wiry-haired little goat came into our lives none
of us could have foreseen how much joy she would bring with her. And so, when
we had to have her put down recently due to continually declining health, it
was a sad day for our entire family. We got cards of condolences from friends
and relatives who’d met our bearded ambassador; many of them recounting her air
of self-importance and unabashed determination to sample whatever tasty morsel
was set atop a party platter. To be sure, Gabby was one of most memorable souls
to have lived at our barn.
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