Monday, March 2, 2009

Freaking out in the Twilight Zone

Life just keeps getting weirder. The faltering economy means different things to different people, and it's hard to comprehend what it means out here. After taking a couple of kittens off my neighbor's hands, I mentioned to the vet that people were dumping an awful lot of cats lately. She said that's because the county can't afford to keep them in the pound, so they won't take any from owners. So, owners are just dumping them out in the country. That was sad enough, but I heard something even sadder this weekend.

Apparently, not knowing what else to do with them, some people are castrating stray males themselves. I won't repeat the procedure here, because it was rather barbaric -- sounds like something from the Civil War era surgical books -- and I certainly don't want to give anyone else any ideas. The person who told me about it said that most of them survive.

Then today I received a letter from a couple of Shetland shepherds who can no longer care for their sheep and are looking to give them away to someone. They had photocopied their letter and just filled in my first name after "Dear" in the salutation of the letter, so the letter obviously went to a number of people with Shetlands.

A friend also called today and started telling me about people deserting horses in parks that allow riding. Since horses cost a small fortune to keep boarded, and no one is buying horses right now, some people take them to the parks to ride them, and then just leave them when no one is looking.

And to put icing on the cake today, I had a visit from a very suspicious man. He called last week and asked a lot of questions about taking care of goats, then he said he'd stop by sometime and asked me for directions. I told him to call whenever he was ready to head over, and I'd give him directions then. Well, today my phone rang, and he said he was outside looking at my sheep. I told him I'd be right outside, and he said that I didn't need to come out. He just didn't want me to worry if I looked out the window and saw someone with my animals. He was just going to head back down the road so he could look at my goats.

"No, just give me a minute, and I'll be right out!"

"Oh, no, I don't want to bother you. You don't need to come outside," he said in this sweet grandfatherly-sounding voice.

"Well, you won't know who you're looking at or what if I'm not out there to tell you."

"Oh, that's okay. I just want to see what they look like. I don't want to bother you."

And we went back and forth until Jonathan saw him pulling into the driveway, and I blurted out, "Don't get out of your car! I have a big dog, and he hates strangers, and I don't know where he is! Don't get out of your car until I get out there!" He stopped arguing at that point, and I went out to meet him. (I knew exactly where both my dogs were, by the way.)

He was short and a little overweight with a long white untrimmed beard and no teeth. I took him into the barn to see the babies, and he said that he just wanted to see what they looked like so he'd know what size crate he'd need to transport one. Then he starts sizing up the adults, even though I never said the adults were for sale. He pointed to Coco and asked, "Is that one pregnant?" I said yes. And he started talking about what a good home they'd have and how they'd be in "goat heaven." That was a phrase he kept repeating -- "goat heaven." I know it's a metaphor, but somehow it was making me really uncomfortable. After he left, I realized he didn't ask any questions that buyers normally ask -- not even prices! He never asked any of the goats' names or production history or anything. As he went to leave, he never said anything about getting back to me, calling me later, or buying a goat. But he did keep talking about what a good home they'd have and how happy the goats would be in "goat heaven."

Okay, so, I suppose this man could be completely devoid of any normal social skills, but it's hard for me to believe that anyone could be so clueless. I had to practically threaten the man with being mauled by my dog before he would let me come out into my yard to show him my animals!

I asked him how he found our place, and he said he just went to the gas station in town and asked, "Where's Old MacDonald's Farm?" and someone gave him directions. That seems really strange also, but I don't think my physical address is on the net anywhere.

Needless to say, the barn is locked tonight! I wish I had a way to lock up the sheep. I am freaked out though, knowing two goat breeders who've had goats stolen, and reading the Shetland shepherd's story about her neighbor's cow being shot with an arrow and butchered in the pasture. We should probably be looking at how we can put all the animals behind locked doors and gates. The world is getting increasingly weird and scary.


Jackie said...

Wow creepy! You have every right to be totally freaked out! I would not give him the benefit of the doubt thinking he's just lacking in social etiquette. I know it's easier than thinking he's a serial goat killer. LOL! Seriously though it is a scary time and people need to be on guard. I live in AZ and people are dumping their horses in the desert. Prices for hay have sky rocketed from 7bucks a bail to 15.50 a bail plus this is the desert so we have to feed all year round. It's so sad because people are trying to sell these horses for ridiculous prices instead of being realistic for the time were living in. They would rather turn them loose if they can't get the price they want instead of selling them at a fair price to people that could take care of them. So basically their sending them out to die. The desert doesn't have much to offer a horse. Sorry for the long post I'm new to the blogging world and I'm sure this long comment is a no-no.

melanie said...

I like the line about the dog...I'll have to remember that one.
I hope he turns out to be a creepy visitor - and nothing more than that. On the last farm I worked on, we did have older folks drop by all the time...I kept wondering about their social skills also, but one of them explained that to drop by a farm "back in the day" was not unusual, and often they bought from the farm.

Kara said...

Around Easter last year (and the year before) the woman we got Glory and Giggles from had several goat kids stolen while she was at work. It was one the reasons she decided to get out of the goat business. She has gates on her driveway and dogs inside the gates but the thief was still able to pull it off. Did you get this guy's plate number and name, do you have caller id and get his number? Just be careful and keep an eye out!

Deborah said...

Hi Jackie and welcome to blogging! Your comment is perfectly fine -- not too long. How sad that people are dumping horses in the desert. Thanks for sharing.

Nope, Kara, didn't get his license plate. I felt uncomfortable when he was here, but it didn't click until he'd left that he didn't ask any of the normal questions that goat buyers ask or ever say that he'd get back in touch with me.

I hope Melanie is right!

Tammy said...

Wow...what a strange week for you. Like the others, I hope the guy was just a weirdo, but I'd also be like you and amping up the security measures. It sounds an awful lot like he was casing the joint, so to speak. You might call the sheriff's office as well, just to see if they've heard of this character before--also maybe your neighbors. There is usually a good 'grapevine' if he has been around before. I knew someone that castrated a cat in that manner too--they were old time folks and did it matter of factly. The cat lived and thrived and even forgave them. I could never do it though...yeesh.. The dumping issues are so sad..
Take care and be careful!

Sharrie said...

Sorry to hear about all the creepy things that are happening by you. Just another thing for us to worry we don't have enough!! I am always wary since we live on a dead end road and people seldome come up here. Now I will be twice as suspect of strangers on our road.

Gizmo said...

I read this last night, to my DH too, and it's still just as creepy this morning. I'm with everyone else (and DH agreed last night), this seems to be more than just a strange visitor.
We stopped going to the local auction, because people are dumping animals there too. They tie horses to the outside fencing, and drive off. It's a real shame.

Claire said...

That's incredibly creepy. I'd be on the lookout! Maybe even install a couple of internet security cameras. Can't hurt! I think he can keep his "goat heaven" to himself. I also really like the suggestion on calling the Sheriff's office. You never know who else he might be visiting.

Really sad about all the animal drop-offs and abandonments. That said, if somebody would like to send me a letter asking if I'd take their Shetland sheep, they are more than welcome to do so!

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

I read a great article years ago on women's intuition, what it really means in terms of brain function, and most important of all, why NOT to ignore it. Don't ignore the creepy feeling; take every precaution you can. Can you keep your dog with the animals that must stay in pasture, and would he attack a stranger?

Lots of abandoned horses in our state, too, although not so much in our more densely populated area. I understand that people can't buy hay if they are losing their houses, etc., but I think people are mean and cowardly if they won't pony up the money to have a horse humanely euthanized instead of turning it loose to starve or get hit by a vehicle. If you get an animal, you are making a commitment to its care or humane end!


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