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Thank Goat it's Friday

So I thought I would bring you joy on this Friday in one of the best ways I can think of: goats.  Nothing brings more joy to the heart of man than goats.  Well, maybe cheese puffs bring more joy, but goats are second only to cheese puffs.  It's a close call, really. But before I cheer you up, I need to make you miserably sad, because the first goat tale is a sad tale.  It is a tale of intrigue and tragedy.  It is the story of the evils of gang violence and the sadness of love lost.  This actually came from the Toronto Sun, and naturally, it is a story that takes place New Mexico.

A dwarf goat was killed in a drive-by shooting in Santa Fe, N.M., Sunday evening.

Neighbours said they heard three shots after a minivan pulled up in front of the house. Afterwards they discovered Maria the Nigerian dwarf goat had been shot in the abdomen and face, the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported. It was an hour before the animal died in the arms of its owner as neighbours gathered around.

Maria's owners have two other goats that survived the shooting, as well as 12 chickens, four cats, a dog and a duck, most of which are rescue animals.

Sad.  I don't know if the folks in Toronto found this of interest because of the poignant image of a goat baaing it's last baa in the arms of a weeping owner, or because there is also a rise in gang/goat violence in Canada.  Perhaps they have a soft-spot for Nigerian dwarf goats; I know I do.  We can only speculate about this, as can we wonder what exactly Maria knew that someone wanted to cover up.  Why spare the other animals?  Were the other goats dwarf goats?  Were they from Nigeria?  Or were they Hungarian giant goats?  There just isn't enough information and it is quite suspicious.

This wasn't lost, obviously, on a goat in Madison county, Georgia:

Authorities won't press charges against the owner of a goat that attacked an 88-year-old Colbert man last month, though city leaders plan to bolster animal control as a result.

The sheriff's office planned to press charges against the goat's 69-year-old owner for of allowing livestock to roam free, but decided against it, Madison County Sheriff Kip Thomas said.

"The (Davis) family didn't want to, so we didn't," Thomas said.

The goat escaped when a tree branch fell and broke the fence around its pen.

Tree branch?  Right.  Don't people realize the connection between these two stories?  Why haven't the Canadians shown interest?  This really smells of a cover-up.

My third story was picked up by the Wall Street Journal, and it also (suspiciously) involves my home state of Georgia. It appears there is a restaurant in Wisconsin that is famous for having goats on the roof. People call it: "That restaurant with the goats on the roof."  I am not quite sure they call it this, but the owner of this establishment decided to capitalize on the goat notoriety (goatoriety?), trademarking the "goat on the roof" motif.  He then caught wind of some trouble in the state of Georgia:

Last year, he discovered that Tiger Mountain Market in Rabun County, Ga., had been grazing goats on its grass roof since 2007. Putting goats on the roof wasn't illegal. The violation, Al Johnson's alleged in a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, was that Tiger Mountain used the animals to woo business.

The suit declared: "Notwithstanding Al Johnson's Restaurant's prior, continuous and extensive use of the Goats on the Roof Trade Dress"—a type of trademark—"defendant Tiger Mountain Market opened a grocery store and gift shop in buildings with grass on the roofs and allows goats to climb on the roofs of its buildings."

Al Johnson's "demanded that Defendant cease and desist such conduct, but Defendant has willfully continued to offer food services from buildings with goats on the roof," the suit continued.

The article makes no mention if the goats are Nigerian, nor if their size is of note.  But you must see the whole connection here; the goats are at the eye of a storm of gang-related violence perpetrated by Swedish restauranteurs.  Was Maria the Nigerian dwarf goat about to snitch?  Was the killer goat of Madison County sent as an "enforcer" to give a "little reminder" that infringement on the "goat on the roof" idea will be "dealt with swiftly and savagely?"  Where are the Canadians when you need them??

Here is, in fact, a video showing a masked goat terrifying other goats in an attempt to keep them quiet:

Terrifying. Utterly terrifying. You see the terror unleashed by this heartless goat wearing a mask. What is the world coming to??

My final story is about goat intimidation going wild:

Just why are these goats fainting?  Do we really believe the story of so-called "myoclonus?"    Are these people really kind owners who like to laugh at the expense of a genetic defect, or are they in the clutches of the Swedish restauranteur gang that has these goats terrorized to the point of syncope?

I think only the Canadians can give us the answer to that.



Return of the Llama

Too much seriousness lately...the readers are getting restless. Then the following article blasted across my consciousness like a Howitzer


LA County says OK to couple's goats, llama, emu

Wed May 27, 12:11 pm ET

LOS ANGELES – A Southern California couple will not be allowed to have 15 goats. They'll have to settle for 10 goats, two horses, a llama and an emu.

Roberto Alguero (all-GEH'-roe) and Iris Fiorito (fee-oh-REE'-toe) live in an unincorporated area near Claremont zoned for light agricultural use. They had originally asked for a permit to keep 15 goats, but Los Angeles County's planning commission granted them a permit allowing them 10, along with the rest of their menagerie.

Neighbors filed objections complaining of the noise and stench at the farm-like house, but the Board of Supervisors ruled Tuesday that the couple could keep the animals, provided they build a 6-foot wall and keep male and female goats separate.

Fiorito concedes that "we know we have a few more goats than we should."

Not only does this article mention a llama (only in passing), but also an emu and lots of goats.  It seems there is a quota system in place in southern California.  As hard as the conservatives fight it, there is not the kind of goat freedom most expect in America.  I am glad they were allowed to keep the llama (and emu), but worry that the noble creature's significance has been overlooked.  I also wonder if the smell of 10 goats is that much different from that of 15.

So this got the llama part of my brain working.  We all do have llama parts of our brains, you know.  It's very close to the corpus callosum, just below the part of the brain dedicated to sudoku.  My llama brain segment is larger than most (not that I am bragging).  So I wondered if there were any other significant llama, goat, or even emu stories that I have missed.  Are there any new llama websites?  Is there a new version of the llama song?

Did you know Llamas eat from Frisbees?

Did you know Llamas eat from Frisbees?

So I set out on a quest for knowledge.

The first thing I found when Googling "Llama goat" was the various sites dedicated to "Guard Llamas."  No, this isn't like the National Guard, where llamas would be called to active duty in case of a national emergency (although it appears this may not be a bad idea), it appears that llamas are quite effective guards of sheep and goats against canine predators.  One website quotes the International Llama Association Educational Brochure #2:

Llamas, who are long-lived, can provide an effective, long-term and economical alternative for predator control in a variety of farm and ranch conditions. Sheep and goat producers currently using llamas to guard their flocks are experiencing high levels of protection from predators

This made me wonder if this couple was using the llama to guard their goats.  Perhaps predators are a problem in the neighborhood.  Perhaps they are using the llama to scare away pesky neighbors.  Perhaps the neighbors have pet coyotes. The explanation continues:

Llamas have proven to be very effective against canines, especially dogs and coyotes. Over half of the llamas guarding sheep are 100% effective, completely eliminating losses. Many of these producers previously suffered losses of over a hundred lambs per year. Some have not suffered a loss to predators in two to ten years after purchasing guard llamas. An additional 40-45% of the guard llamas were highly effective in dramatically reducing predator losses.

That explains the llama; but what about the emu?  Googling "guard emu" uncovered this incredible story:

Epileptic emu farmer frets over windmills

Published: April 13, 2009 at 8:44 AM

A Canadian emu farmer in northwestern Nova Scotia said he is concerned a proposed windmill nearby will kill his birds or trigger his epileptic seizures.Davey and Debi VanTassel run the Ocean Breeze Emu Farm in Gullivers Cove, and told The Chronicle-Herald newspaper in Halifax one of 20 proposed wind turbines will be about a half mile from their property.The couple said emus have been known to die from noise and vibration. They said a test mill erected last year in the county drove coyotes from the area to their farm, where five emus were killed this winter.

Debi VanTassel also told a recent community meeting she feared for her husband's health, as the flickering of sunlight through the windmill's blades could trigger epileptic seizures.

She said they avoid dances where strobe lights are used and they have no wallpaper in their home, as patterns can trigger a seizure, the report said.

Their town is considering a proposal to erect 20 turbine towers with an output of 30 megawatts, the newspaper said.

I have to admit that the headline was irresistible to me.  I don't think I would ever have put epilepsy, emus, and windmills together, even in my most creative moments.  But this story sheds light on the LA couple's llama.  I am not sure if either of them have epilepsy (the article neglects to include this important fact), but clearly coyotes attack emus when in the presence of epileptic farmers and windmills.  See my point?  The llama not only defends the goats from coyotes, but the emu as well.


So then I googled "epilepsy llama" to see if I could put all of the pieces together.  I did find a few articles that spoke of

berzerk llama syndrome

(a frightening thought) and some that talked of diseases that would make llamas have seizures, but nothing of llamas helping with seizures.  Certainly watching the llama song would put the epileptic farmer at risk.

Judge for yourself:

There is no question that this is far worse than a windmill.

I did find few possible clues into the mysterious llama-epilepsy connection as I searched the web for llama-related health discoveries:

So there you have it.  This has been an incredible learning experience for me, and I hope you feel the same way.  Here are the take-home messages of this blog post:

  1. Don't try to have more than 10 goats in Los Angeles.
  2. If you have anything that needs guarding, get a llama.
  3. Keep your emu from vibrating things.
  4. Dandruff and chemical warfare may become history thanks to llamas.
  5. Canadian farmers are a bit neurotic.
  6. The Llama Song is hard to get out of your head once you hear it.
  7. Avoid using the word "movement" too often in a paragraph.

Have a great day.



Speaking of Mice...

While I continue to mull over a good "Ask Dr. Rob Val" post... (thanks for the warm welcome!) I thought I'd continue with the lab animal theme. I have always felt sorry for the little fellas, especially the rats. Here's a cartoon of one "getting even:"


More Burning Goats

As many of you may know, I am fascinated with the Christmas tradition in the town of Galve, Sweden in which they build a giant statue of a goat. What could bring more yule cheer than a goat? Perhaps a Llama, but not much else. Anyway, there is another tradition in which some scoundrels try to sneak in and burn this goat up without being caught. This year was a momentous year in the history of this town in that it was the first in many years where the goat did not get burned down. Yea Goat!


This all flooded back into my mind when my I was speaking with my business partner about an issue that really was bothering him. As he was describing his frustration, he said to me:

"This whole thing really burns my goat."

180px-HopkinsMascotGoat1 Initially, the phrase passed by me without much of a thought, but my fascination with goats must have gotten the best of me, because I stopped and thought about what he said.

"It burns your goat?" I asked.

He got a little flustered and told me that his grandmother used to use this metaphor often. I suspect it is a mixed metaphor between the sayings "it gets my goat" and "it burns me up." But the image of someone going and burning up his goat was funny to me.

The only thing that would have made it better would have been for him to use the term "literally" with it, as in "This whole thing literally burns my goat." People often use the word literally as if it means "a whole lot. It does not mean that, but instead means that what you are saying is not a metaphor, but to be taken literally - as is said. This is funny to think about when people say things like:

"I was literally sweating bullets." Really? I have never heard of such a medical condition. What caliber are your sweat glands?


179028PUxT_w "It was literally raining cats and dogs." Yikes! That would be a mess. You may go outside and step in a poodle. (Sorry about that one).

So what about this goat? Was it badly burned? Did they have to send it to the burn unit? My nurse subsequent sent me a note explaining the origin of the expression "it gets my goat":

A 20th century Americanism said to have originated in the practice of stabling a goat as a soothing mascot with a highly-strung thoroughbred racehorse. The horse could be made fractious and prevented from winning it its goat was taken away.

So there you have the soothing nature of goats once again confirmed. I wonder if this may be a new approach to ADHD. Children with goats are well known to be high achievers, so perhaps instead of stimulant medicines, we can prescribe a goat. I think I feel a meta-analysis coming on.

Unfortunately, I don't have time for that kind of research. To do so, I would have to literally burn the candle at both ends, and would literally end up fit to be tied.