By Steva Dooley
When Dale and Maxine Ruppert of Basin decided to fully retire a few years ago they knew they were not cut out for traveling or spending their time sitting and watching TV. They started looking around for a project that would keep them active and out with people socially.
When they first started tossing ideas around, goats weren’t really part of the equation, but they noticed how much Maxine’s dad, who is an elder care center in Thermopolis, enjoyed talking about the farm and the animals there and one day Maxine started looking at goats.
“We were looking for something that was smaller, something that we could easily handle and something that people would enjoy,” Maxine said. “We wanted something that would be easy to transport to elder care facilities around the area so the residents could enjoy them.” Goats seemed to fit that bill for what she wanted. When she discussed it with Dale, he agreed.
And so the research began. Maxine and Dale were both raised on farms in Minnesota, but neither one had ever had anything to do with goats. Maxine started researching goat breeds, goat care, what they can eat, what they can’t eat, what kind of housing they would need and anything else they needed to know about goats. The research took nearly a year, but soon they had a house set up, an area fenced for the goats and a few “toys” for them to play on. It was time to find some goats.
A visit with a friend led them to a group on Facebook and to a breeder of Nigerian dwarf goats in Billings, Montana. She agreed to sell them 6 young wethers (a neutered male goat).
“Some of the boys had been bottle raised, in fact three of them were still on the bottle when we picked them up,” said Maxine. “The other three had been raised on mom and were wild as March hares.”
Dale, Maxine, and a friend made the trip to Billings to get the goats and bring them to their new home. When they arrived home the goats were transferred from the back of the pickup to their new pen and the spoiling began.
“The bottle babies were pretty tame,” Dale said. “But the ones we call the “brothers” a set of triplets that were raised on their mom? They were horrible, wild little things. It took us several months and lots of crackers and other treats to tame them and make them gentle.”
Now it is a year later. The boys have been broke to lead with collars, they are getting used to traveling in a horse trailer that the Rupperts bought to make transport easy, and they are beginning to make their debut as the visiting goats. They travel to Thermopolis to the facility that Maxine’s father resides in, to the Wyoming Retirement Center, and this week to the Big Horn County Library to Story Time.
And Dale and Maxine are having the best time of their lives.
“We are so happy with our goats, and we love sharing them.” They both agree.
“The time we take them out and see how other people love them is so special,” Maxine said. Dale just nods in agreement. “We love them, but we love how other people love them, too.”
At home the “boys” have a pen full of toys and towers, slides and tubs to play in.
“When I am not busy with yard work or something else,” Dale says, “I am thinking up new toys for the goats. Ramps and blocks and tires are some of their
favorite things to play on.”
“Our favorite time of day is afternoon feeding time,” Maxine says. “We feed and give treats and then just go in the pen and let them play around us. Soon there will be goats laying down all around us relaxing and chewing their cuds. It is very relaxing to us, too. They are just what we needed to keep us busy and active since we have retired.”
Dale and Maxing love sharing their goats especially with the elderly. They welcome requests from facilities and other groups to either come to their place and enjoy them or to bring the goats to the facility for a visit.