Long before I had a chance to become acquainted with animals other than cats and dogs, I fell in love with Isaac Bashevis Singer’s story of “Zlateh the Goat” (Zlateh Goat & Other Stories). In the story the beloved goat no longer gives milk. With Hanukkah approaching and money tight, Reuven decides to sacrifice her. He sends his oldest son, Aaron, to sell Zlateh to the butcher.
The goat and her human companion are caught in a blizzard and quickly lose their way. They stumble across a hay stack. Aaron digs out a makeshift cave, and he and Zlateh snuggle together inside it for the next three days. Thanks to Zlateh’s warmth and milk, Aaron survives the storm. The grateful family never again speaks of selling Zlateh.
The story is full of love and warmth. When I was a school librarian, I frequently recommended it to children and their teachers.
Years later I had goats of my own, the angoras whose hair is spun into mohair. They were friendly and loving. When I was with them, I always thought of Zlateh.
Then I came across the story of Noel Osborne, an Australian farmer whose goat helped keep him alive. In October 2002 a cow butted him into a manure pile where he lay helpless, his hip broken. The fickle weather of a southern hemisphere late spring brought rain storms, hot days, and cold nights.
The goat discovered him the first evening. He had found a bottle and was able to milk her into it. Though she wandered off to feed during the day, she returned to his side every night, snuggling against him for warmth and feeding him her milk. Osborne's dog, Mandy, brought him bones and comfort, but it was the goat’s milk that brought him through.
Five days later friends stopped by the remote farm to pick up a kid goat. They found Osborne, still in the manure pile, and called an ambulance.
Maybe Oscar Wilde was right: “Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.”
[I originally wrote this for Story Route. It gives me hope.]