Lending a helping hoof

At Goat Rescue in Langley, a goat leaps for joy after coming back from a run with Jane Hyde and the rest of the herd Wednesday afternoon. The goat rescue operation ran by Hyde and her husband Jim is in its ninth year of working to ensure safe, happy and healthy homes for pet goats. - Cynthia Woolbright
At Goat Rescue in Langley, a goat leaps for joy after coming back from a run with Jane Hyde and the rest of the herd Wednesday afternoon. The goat rescue operation ran by Hyde and her husband Jim is in its ninth year of working to ensure safe, happy and healthy homes for pet goats.
— image credit: Cynthia Woolbright

Daylight comes and already there is activity on a hillside just outside of Langley. Youngsters are frolicking and old-timers are just crawling out of the hay. The goats of Goat Rescue — an organization ran by Jim and Jane Hyde of Langley working to find safe and healthy homes for pet goats — are already kicking up their heels.

“Oh, yes, I’m happy to see you too,” Jane Hyde tells the goats as they spring to attention when she comes to refill their water.

From the time Mary Jane Hyde was a small girl, she’s had an affinity for animals.

“It was always known that where you’d find me there’d be a few animals following,” she said.

Now she has 27 goats following her, rubbing up against her or simply wanting to stop by for a look. Hyde stops to check in on anyone who might have had a bad day the day before. She knows each and every one by name and personality.

Moses, a nearly 200-pound Nubian, is no doubt one of the biggest of the herd but one of the sweetest. The queen goat would be Isis, a La Mancha cross. Sub-queen is Booboo, a pigmy mix. BooBoo loves Vincent VanGoat, a Nubian whose ears were taken by a dog. Other characters milling about include Esme, Gandolf, Cocopuff, Grandpa Billy, Hercules, and Julia. This herd is just a small number of goats the Hydes have helped.

Jim and Jane Hyde began rescuing goats in 1994 while living in Santa Cruz, Calif., although they didn’t know at the time it would become a grand venture. They were given a baby La Mancha goat who’d been rejected by its mother. They ended up buying the mother also, but the baby later died and they were left with one unhappy mother goat.

“She would constantly cry and wail out in the pasture,” Hyde said. “We ended up keeping her in the kitchen because she never could stand to have us out of her sight.”

Because “an only goat is a lonely goat” they searched for more goats and found an alpine goat named Brownie and an “anciently old” Nubian named “Ma.”

There were more to come.

“It spread in the neighborhood that we had adopted some goats and people just started dropping off any goats they’d had a problem with or that they couldn’t take care of anymore,” Jane Hyde said.

Pretty soon, the Hydes were working with the Santa Cruz area animal rights groups and the Goat Rescue herd lived on land donated by the Santa Cruz chapter of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The Hydes turned into not only being caretakers for goats, but also a goat adoption agency of sorts by screening people interested in a pet goat of their own.

Goat Rescue’s mission, goals and abilities have evolved and changed through the years but have always stuck by the motto to “seek safe and loving homes for pet goats.” This generally means fostering, rehabilitating, trimming hooves, giving goat exercise and ensuring their charges have a proper diet. Consider the Hyde house a health spa for neglected and mistreated goats.

“Goats can be wonderful companions,” Jane Hyde said. “They’re very social intelligent, curious and compassionate creatures. They have relationships, friendships and crushes just like you and me.”

During the nine years they operated Goat Rescue out of Santa Cruz, they helped find homes for dozens of goats each year and placed 40 goats in new homes last year alone.

But after nine years in Santa Cruz, county ordinances and zoning restrictions banning goats in Santa Cruz County required them and their goats to move.

Looking for a new home, they came to Whidbey, a place they were familiar with since Jim’s mom lived here.

They hired a professional goat mover from Texas to transport 20 goats, plus the Hydes’ seven cats and three dogs and one rooster. They left Santa Cruz on Mothers Day and drove for two days with a caravan of vehicles. The Hydes now reside on 25 acres just outside of Langley. They have a little over one acre of the property fenced for the goats and are looking to expand. They’ve taken in seven goats since moving to Whidbey but the inn is now full.

“We’ just can’t take any more at the moment,” she said.

Only emergency situations are the only exceptions.

Some of the goats already seeking adoption are a former victims of attack by dog or coyote. Others needed homes after their petting zoos closed. Julia, born Feb. 13 of this year, was meant to be one family’s Easter dinner.

“People buy these small goats to eat but see how cute they are and just can’t do it,” she said.

Sadly, some of the main reasons goats become lame or sick are some of the easiest to cure, according to veterinarian Robert Moody who regularly visits the Hyde’s goats. Regular hoof trimming every two to four months helps deter injuries and lameness. And maintaining a fresh water supply can prevent bacterial infections.

“A lot of times we find goats in a rescue situation where the owners just plain don’t know what they are doing,” Jane Hyde said.

While they are currently seeking nonprofit status so they can more actively seek donations, the Hydes have been running Goat Rescue mostly out of their own pockets for the last nine years. When they first got into rescuing goats, Jim was a software architect in the Silicone Valley. Now, dozens of goats and a national crisis later the funds are dwindling.

They request a donation for every goat that is surrendered or adopted which can sometimes range from $20 -200. But donations often aren’t enough to offset the $1 per day it takes to feed the goats, not counting veterinary care, fencing, shelter and other necessities.

“I’m just not sure how much longer we’re going to be able to do this at this rate,” Jane Hyde said.

Priority for the winter is more fencing and to construct a barn — both of which are going to put a financial crunch on the Goat Rescue’s already dwindling budget.

Homes are also needed for goats. The Hydes interview applicants and screen properties so people without a fence or ability to provide clean food and water and shelter need not apply. None of the goats are for breeding purposes.

“Because of their ability to clear land we’d have people all the time call for a goat, but they didn’t have a fence and no idea how to take care of it,” Jane Hyde said. “We want to ensure the goats will have happy homes for a long time, not that they’ll be back with us in a few weeks.”

Home, for the Hydes, is now where the herd is. The television that sits in the Hyde’s living room is rarely turned on because they spend so much time in the pasture.

The goats have given Jim Hyde a new consciousness.

“When I’m out helping the herd, I try to flow and move as if I was part of the herd,” he said. “Sometimes I’m amazed that they allow me to be a part of their herd, because that’s really what they’re doing.”

Hyde says as much as he is humbled by the goats allowing him to intermingle with them, he knows they know their dependence on him.

“I’ve become a helper to them, but they realize that they wouldn’t exist without them recognizing their dependence on me,” he said.

In addition to maintaining the health and happiness of their own herd, the Hydes keep tabs on the goat population all over Whidbey — healthy goats and not. They also correspond to e-mails from people and groups around the world who have questions about goats.

In looking at the goat population on Whidbey — of which there is a great number they said — overbreeding appears to be an issue the island will have to soon face.

“Come this spring alone there will be kids people aren’t prepared to take care of,” she said.

Jean Favini, co-founder of Oasis for Animals, said the Hydes are a welcome addition to a small group of animal welfare groups on Whidbey that are already stretched.

“There is always help offered to organizations for people but animal organizations are often neglected and ignored,” Favini said. “To be able to add another resource and area of expertise is always desperately in need.”

If people have a goat question — give the Hydes a call. One of their key missions is keeping goats in the homes they already have and will take the time to answer queries about everything from hooves to behavior issues.

“Goats are uniquely maligned and ignored animals,” Jim Hyde said. “But they are fun, entertaining, happy creatures that all have individual personalities and are very rewarding to have as pets.”

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