As the human population was generally coping admirably with being confined to restricted areas while living in a real-world sci-fi story, some inhabitants of a small Herefordshire paddock were beginning to crack under the pressure.
You may recall my occasional irritation at the behaviour of our two goats, Thunder and Lightning, who live how they like and sleep where they please. Well, as the weather’s remained warm and sunny they decided to move into Rosie’s field shelter.
Lightning is the most mischievous of the two and only happy when teasing another animal (usually his brother). But if Thunder has given him the slip or refuses to indulge him, he’ll happily turn his attention to whatever creature is in sight. He hounded and bullied our sheep until they agreed to let him pretend to be a member of their flock, chased Romeo until he got bitten and has even butted Richard several times.
Some years ago he regularly stole Rosie’s hay, until she gave a swift kick and knocked his horn into a horizontal position. It hasn’t grown straight since – but even that failed to teach him a lesson. He now dodges her teeth but still eats her tea.
I wasn’t a witness to his latest injury but can only think, having watched him goad the donkey, that the heat and biting midges were all too much for Rosie when she couldn’t get into her shelter because it was blocked by a belligerent basking goat.
I heard her making her “get out of my paddock” noise, always sounded when she’s chasing an intruder, usually a night-time fox. But this was the middle of the day.
I ran to the fence to see her galloping around her paddock, head low and her back legs occasionally bucking as she chased after one of the goats. Izzy had heard the commotion from her bedroom and called out of the window, “Oh blimey, have you seen Rosie?”
I was walking back towards the house, “Yes, I just looked. She’s chasing the goats again.”
“But she hasn’t stopped. She’s really after him this time”
So I went back to watch.
It was his own fault. He’d been given the warning, he’d been chased out of the shelter, out of the field – and what did he do? Double back, nip under the fence at the opposite side of the paddock to Rosie and do the goat equivalent of blowing a raspberry at his pursuer by skipping merrily back into her bedroom.
On any other day she might have let it go. But that day she was an angry donkey. She hadn’t yet shed her winter coat, it was hot, her ears were being bitten by midges and, even though I’d put hay and water in her shelter, that menace of a goat had helped himself to her rations and was now back for more.
She saw red, bellowed so hard it sounded like a throaty growl and went off like a rocket. Taking the corner on a slant because she was travelling so fast, she leapt the last couple of feet to land inside the shelter. We saw Thunder zip out as she went in and Lightning followed moments later. But I can only imagine there was a whirling dervish of a donkey in that confined space for those few seconds… and she was out for blood.
Amazingly, both goats seemed fine when I checked on them. But the next morning they were dozing in the pony paddock next door to the donkey and as I threw their hay over the fence Lightning was slow to join his brother at the feast. When he finally stood he seemed to walk a little strangely. I suspected Rosie had done some damage.
But Lightning is well named. He is very quick, quite clever and almost impossible to catch. His leg might’ve been sore, but he wasn’t letting me (or the vet, when she tried to examine him) anywhere near it. From his behaviour, and strange new gait, the vet diagnosed shoulder damage.
He has carried on being a nuisance. He’s back in Rosie’s shelter but now, as well as having a wonky horn, he’s a goose-stepping goat – unless I try to catch him, when he miraculously recovers. With rest his shoulder should improve, so he needs to curb his naughty habits.
Lightning’s not as young as he used to be, and I don’t love him quite enough to act as the shield between him and one dangerous diva of a donkey.