Close bonds between family members, flockmates, and friends abound among the animals at our shelters. Still, the relationship between new shelter residents Ryan and Hemingway is something rare. You see, Ryan is a gosling (yes, he’s “Ryan gosling”), and Hemingway is a goat.
One Sunday this spring, staff at our Northern California Shelter discovered a lone baby goat at the front gate, dropped off by an anonymous rescuer. The 6-week-old kid was skinny and crawling with lice and fleas. Baby goats are typically bouncy and energetic, but our new friend, now named Hemingway, was subdued. Worn out by hunger and poor health, it was clear that he had been neglected at his previous home. Right away, we began rehabilitation through veterinary care, parasite treatments, and a nutritious diet of grass hay supplemented with timothy hay (a favorite treat among our ruminants). Caregivers and interns watched over the little goat, keeping him company as he slowly gained strength.
Hemingway is a Saanen, a breed that is popular for use in dairy production, so it’s possible that his rescuer saved him from a stockyard. Sick, injured, and dying baby animals are frequently found at such auction facilities, where farmers try to make a few extra dollars by selling livestock they’ve deemed useless or unfit for production: the weak, the exhausted, the sickly, and the unwanted offspring of dairy cows and goats. These languishing animals receive no treatment or aid. The ones who are sold are doomed to slaughter at a young age. Like all animals who are exploited for food, these creatures are denied the future they deserve. At our shelter, however, caregivers have been working hard to ensure that Hemingway is well enough to enjoy the wonderful future that awaits him.
Soon, Hemingway began gaining weight and becoming more active. Although he was too drained to interact with his caretakers at first, Hemingway now eagerly seeks attention from anyone who stops by for a visit and cries out when his caregivers leave him to tend to their other duties.
Like many farm animals, goats are gregarious. They live in herds and feel safest and happiest when surrounded by their herd mates. Even the loving devotion of sanctuary staff couldn’t replace the comfort of constant animal companionship. But help was about to arrive in an unexpected form.
We also welcomed Ryan to our Northern California Shelter this spring after the gosling was dropped off at a shelter in Los Angeles. Few municipal shelters are equipped to handle long-term housing or adoption of farm animals, but fortunately we have relationships with many facilities in the L.A. area as well as a network of conscientious friends and supporters. A Farm Sanctuary member happened to learn of Ryan’s situation and reached out to us, and we gladly welcomed the gosling to our Southern California Shelter.
Upon meeting the young bird, we discovered that he has unusually large, bowed joints, which are likely the result of a congenital condition. He has some trouble moving around but he’s becoming more active, and we look forward to him leading a busy life, full of all the things geese love to do.
We also discovered that this little goose was very friendly! He imprinted on humans and was terrified of being alone. Shortly after we took Ryan in, a caregiver brought him up to our Northern California Shelter, where we care for a waterfowl flock that Ryan will someday join. Like goats, geese need companions to thrive. Both young animals had a deep need for friendship. But just as Hemingway is still too small and weak to join our goat herd, Ryan is not yet ready to become part of our duck and goose flock. Although the idea was a bit unorthodox, we decided to try moving the two in together.
I Get by with a Little Help from My Friend
To our delight, Ryan and Hemingway became fast friends, providing one another with the kind of security each young animal craved. Hemingway no longer cries when caregivers leave his stall, and Ryan is no longer anxious. Instead, the two have become a pair of very content babies. Ryan doesn’t care that Hemingway has hooves, and Hemingway doesn’t care that Ryan has wings. They simply recognize each other as a friend to be at their side when they’re lonely or scared.
There will probably come a time when Hemingway and Ryan outgrow their friendship. Hemingway may become more interested in spending time with other goats, and Ryan may be eager to take part in flock life with his fellow geese. They’ll make other friends and form other bonds. But that doesn’t make what they share now any less special. Through one another, Hemingway and Ryan are experiencing friendship, safety, and peace for the very first time. Through one another, they have discovered sanctuary.