Pygmy goats, doting owners converge in Washington Co.

June 20, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

SHARPSBURG - Soothing, baby-talk tones played upon the rhythms of an air blower as Liz Freeman and a friend coifed, coddled and cajoled little Prince William.

"Really so pretty," Freeman, of Monclova, Ohio, said slowly as she admired her handiwork - the fluffy coat of a struggling, stubborn black goat.

Scores of goats - and their owners - hammed it up Sunday at the National Pygmy Goat Convention at the Washington County Agricultural Center.


The show, which featured the naming of National Champions - the best of the best goats - in several categories, continues through Tuesday. More than 200 people were expected to participate in the event.

Prince William could hardly endure preparations for competition and he dragged Freeman away from the area where he was being brushed, his knees sliding in the dirt as he tried to get away from all the fuss.

"His real name is Prince William. We call him Bad Willy, for just this sort of behavior," Freeman said, laughing as the goat tried to scramble back to the pens.

Tattered and chewed ribbons hung beside and above some of the pens where goats about the size of beagles bleated for attention.

"Everybody has a passion - or they should - and this is ours," said Annie Stettler, who traveled with her husband, Robert "Stetts" Stettler, more than 1,600 miles to show five goats at the national association's annual competition.

The Stettlers, who own several national champions, and other convention participants said raising the goats does not bring in much money. They do it for the competition and camaraderie, they said.

"This is just for the love of the goat," Maggie Leman, of Durham, N.C., said as she talked to the Stettlers.

Robert Stettler, 61, a retired military pilot, said he and his wife enjoy watching their herd of about 35 goats frolic outside their home on a ranch in Gillett, Texas.

"They just grow on you, they pull on your heartstrings," said Stettler, who grew up on a dairy farm.

Annie Stettler, who proudly puts her age at 661/2, said she knew from the first time she laid eyes on a picture of a pygmy goat that she had to have one.

"For 30 years, I talked pygmy goats," she said.

For anyone who doubts love at first sight, the Stettlers and other goat owners pointed to Mike Atkinson, who brought his newborn does to the show.

A relative newcomer to the hobby, 55-year-old Atkinson, of Darlington, S.C., said he went to a goat show several years ago and had the opportunity to hold a baby goat. It nipped him on the neck, "And, I said, 'Oh my Lord, how sweet,' and I fell in love with them as soon as I picked him up."

Atkinson's three 10-day-old kids, Hope, Joy and Faith, romped in the grass outside a pavilion, scrambling up and falling down a limestone outcropping, as other convention participants readied for their shows.

"Is that a good tumble, you had?" Atkinson asked one of the tiny goats. The babies weigh just a little more than 3 pounds, he said.

"Me and my wife have actually given goats to each other as presents," Atkinson said.

Freeman, who first purchased two goats to give her horse someone to play with, said she is hoping to hold her pygmy herd to about the size it is now - 22 animals.

"If I had to do it over again, I would never have a dog. These guys are so intelligent, it's creepy," Freeman said, as Prince William - Bad Willy - tugged at his leash.

The Herald-Mail Articles