I don’t know why they puts goats in petting zoos, do you? Goats are pretty creepy-looking animals. They’re kind of skeletal with all those bony bumps, they’ve got demon eyes, and they’re always jerking around as if their own personal invisible devil is jabbing them up the behind with a sharpened, flaming stick. Yeh, let’s throw our children into a cage with hyperactive, scary-looking animals. Good idea.
But when we were a young couple, and we had a young boy who loved barnyard animals, we took a day trip to the Berlin zoo and stopped at the petting zoo filled with all kinds of cute little fluffy animal babies. Most of them were in small pens, but there was a large, open area in the middle filled with chickens and ducks and goats and other seemingly harmless livestock. Sean wanted to pet each and every one of them.
The goats had absolutely no interest in us. We tried to pet them and they just walked away, not like they were afraid of us, but like they had something better to do. But Sean really wanted to pet them, so when one of us spotted the coin-operated feed dispenser we figured maybe we could catch the attention of at least a few goats if we had some yummy green pellets to feed them. We led Sean over to the machine, showed him how to cup his hands under the chute, dropped ten pfennig into the slot, and turned the handle.
And that’s when the goats attacked.
Cranking the handle on that machine was like ringing a dinner bell. There were no goats anywhere near us when we stepped up to the dispenser, and then when we turned around, every darn goat in the petting zoo was rushing us like stoned teenagers trying to trample each other to the first through the gates at a rock concert. I tried to keep Sean calm by casually encouraging him to offer the goats his handful of food pellets.
Big mistake, bigger even than the idea of buying the pellets in the first place. Every one of those goats wanted to eat all the food in Sean’s outstretched hand, but the goat in the front stopped them all cold by sucking Sean’s entire hand into his mouth. Sean freaked and tried to pull his hand out of there, but of course the goat wasn’t letting go until he sucked down every last food pellet. Meanwhile, the other goats were climbing over one another trying to get at the goat who was hogging the little boy all to himself.
Barb and I both did what we could to get the goat to let go, but my brain was short-circuiting and I’m afraid I wasn’t much help. Great, I was thinking, It’ll take years of therapy and a keg of Zoloft to put this behind him, and even then he’ll be haunted by those weird eyes. Eventually the goat finished off the last of the food, at which point he became profoundly uninterested in Sean and let his hand go, and when the other goats realized there wasn’t any more food to be had, they instantly lost interest in him, too, and they all ran off to mob somebody else.