by Ted Shockley, Staff Writer
ACCOMAC -- Two weeks ago, Billie Blackwell faced a difficult decision. The mother goat was ignoring the newborn kid and a snowstorm was approaching. Should she let the baby try to survive or bring it indoors?
Blackwell did what many loving Eastern Shore pet owners did as temperatures dropped and snow fell. She brought her pet inside.
"It was making a choice between two evils," said Blackwell, nodding at Snoopy, now 14 days old, standing in her kitchen in the Henry's Point community. "We selected this one, which is going to be a problem."
Living with an indoor goat has its challenges. Blackwell has been paper-training the kid on the vinyl kitchen floor. But, as she puts it, every five ounces it eats produces at least 20 ounces in return.
Relations with the 9-year-old indoor cat, Fuzzball, have been strained.
"The goat wants to investigate the cat, but the cat doesn't want anything to do with the goat," she said.
But the living arrangement has been poignant at times.
Blackwell bottle-feeds Snoopy, who sleeps in a big cardboard box. Its muffled bleating sounds like a toy. It sits in her lap like a puppy.
With it standing on the floor, Blackwell trains it to butt heads by pushing her sock-covered foot against its forehead. Snoopy pushes back.
Blackwell, who retired from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility as a contract specialist after 35 years there, and her husband, Charlie, have raised goats for 30 years. But circumstances have never required one to live inside.
Now, despite her good intentions, she is worried about the future. Snoopy has become accustomed to the warm house and might not take well to outside living in February. But the goat is growing faster than spring's arrival.
"He can't stay in here too much longer," Blackwell said. "He's going to be taking over the land. They just get rambunctious -- they want to butt on everything. They want to chew on everything."
Now housemates for two snowstorms, Snoopy has taken to Blackwell, and has charmed the owner who took seriously her responsibility as a pet owner.
But as soon as it warms up, Snoopy might be back where the other goats live.
"The Bible says there is a time for everything," said Blackwell, who then recites several verses from Ecclesiastes 3 from memory -- there is a time to be born, a time to plant, a time to heal.
Then she adds a new one:
"There's a time to have goats, and a time not to have goats," she said.