I was house and cat-sitting in Bridgetown, Western Australia. The two cats were doing great, and I got some writing done. The homeowner, Alex, also asked me to feed two goats on a large piece of land that she had recently purchased with her boyfriend.
I drove 25 minutes to get to the land, half of which is on a bumpy dirt road. The goats, Billy and Apple, were happy to see me. I didn’t want to get shocked by the electric fence, so I used the metal gate. It was hard to open, and I had to ensure it was securely closed so the goats couldn’t escape.
I enjoyed the brief pause in the rain while the goats ate. The rolling green pastures looked like something out of a storybook. Billy let me pet him, but Apple was skittish and would barely let me touch her. Maybe it was because she was only about eight months old. Once they finished their bowls of food, I spread out some hay that was in my trunk for them to enjoy.
I went back to the house and was feeling tired. I took it easy while watching some TV. The following day was the same as the day prior – feeding cats and goats. In the afternoon, I decided to walk around the main street that was home to little shops and restaurants. I browsed the shops with locally made items, resisting the temptation to buy anything. I continued and stepped into a chemist (pharmacy) for some Tums.
“Tums?” the pharmacist said, confused. “Yeah, for heartburn?” I explained. He showed me a stick of chewable squares for heartburn. He also helped me get some vitamins that I needed. The chemists are interesting in Australia. Many things are behind the counter for the pharmacist to sell. You don’t need a prescription, but they monitor them. Things like Advil and antihistamines are often behind the counter. I’ve found the pharmacists very helpful in finding alternative brands that I’m not familiar with.
The following day was my last full day of house/cat/goat sitting. Alex would return late that night, and I’d leave in the morning. I had been very nervous about the goats because the first day I spent with Alex to learn what to do with them, Billy had been missing for a few days. Alex told me that sometimes he escapes and likes to spend time at the other end of their property with the neighbor’s cows.
Thankfully, when Alex was showing me where their new home was going to be built, Billy came trotting up the hill, happy to have some good food. Alex was able to get him locked into the pen with Apple. Apple seemed sad without him – she follows him everywhere.
The pen is a large fenced-in area on the property. There is a small shed for the goats to seek shelter, and most of it is sectioned off by a flimsy electric fence. From time to time, the fence will get knocked down by a kangaroo. Alex showed me how to turn it off and repair the fence if that happened.
On my third and final day to feed the goats, I had a solid routine. I got out of my car to open the gate and drove my car through. Billy and Apple came trotting over from the fallen tree that they loved to stand on.
My hands were full. In my left arm, I had a large bundle of hay with two large bowls of food on top. I’m the type of person who carries too many grocery bags inside at once to avoid multiple trips. I was struggling to open the metal gate to their pen with one hand. My left arm was starting to shake, but I finally got the gate open!
Just then, I noticed Billy and Apple standing to my left…outside of their pen! I panicked. I hadn’t closed the gate to their property, and they could escape the whole property. I set the food down and raced twenty feet to the gate and closed it.
I noticed the first section of the electric fence that was near the metal gated fence had fallen. It was still making a crackling noise, so I knew it was live. My heart started racing! I was terrified the goats would run away. They crossed the tiny section where the fence was lying on the ground so that they didn’t get shocked when they stepped over it. They passed the fallen part when they saw I had the food.
I needed to get them back into the pen and repair the fence. Not wanting the goats to get electrocuted, I convinced them to follow me through the metal part. I bribed them with food, and they eagerly followed me through the maze to the main section of the field. I walked up the small hill by their shed, so they weren’t near the fallen part of the fence. I set their food bowls down, and they frantically dug in. I set the hay inside the shed and ran back to my car through the metal part of the gate.
To get to the electric fence controls, I needed to get to the other side of the fenced-in area. When Alex had shown it to me, she drove us in her pickup truck. I wasn’t confident my Subaru Outback would make it, so I ran.
I ran as fast as I could around the huge circular area. When I got to the control box, I switched it to the “off” position and also disconnected the two wires connected to the fence, just in case. As I ran back to repair the fallen section before the goats escaped, Billy stopped eating and stepped a few feet away from his food.
This was very unusual for Billy. He loves his food. In fact, I had to place his bowl a small distance from Apple, or he’d yell at her because he wanted his food to himself. If he finished before her, he’d start eating her food too. As I ran back to the first section of the fence, Billy stared at me with a concerned look on his face.
“It’s ok, Billy. I’m ok. Just don’t move, ok?” I yelled to him, out of breath. I made it to the first section and paused. It’s off, right? If I’m electrocuted out here, nobody will find my body for at least a day.
I picked up the fallen part. Thankfully, I was not electrocuted. I was able to stick the post back into the ground and secure it once again. Billy continued to eat while I went to work. But I needed to turn the fence back on.
Once again, I ran across the field to the control box. I reconnected the wires and turned the switch to “on.” I ran back, and this time Billy was farther away from his food, standing on top of the fallen tree. He didn’t seem bothered that Apple was now eating his food. He was following me with his eyes as I ran around the loop back to the beginning.
“Oh, Billy. You sweet guy! I’m ok. I’m just panicked. But it’s ok because you didn’t escape. You wonderful goat!” I reassured him. I went back through the metal fence and met the goats where they were eating.
I was breathing heavily, and my heart was still racing. Billy continued to eat his food while I scratched his head. He seemed to love it. Billy pushed his head farther into my hand and, at times, stopped eating to enjoy the scratches. I told him he was such a caring goat, and I felt honored that he was concerned for me. Billy didn’t escape. He was a good goat, and it melted my heart to see him so concerned for my well being.
Once the goats ate, I got back into my car. Billy yelled out several times, and I yelled back, “I’ll miss you, Billy!” I closed the gate and drove away. I felt relieved that the goats were safe and sound. I also laughed at how comical I must have looked if a nearby farmer had binoculars. A couple months later, Alex found out that Apple was pregnant! It must have happened just before they bought her.
I decided I needed a drink, so I stopped at a cidery. They offered free tastings of their ten or so types of cider. I stood at the bar, tasting the samples and talking with the bartender. He told me that his mother was from England, but his father was Australian. I pointed out that there seems to be a lot of English people in this small town. He explained that it’s because the green rolling hills are similar to the English countryside.
I ordered a cider and sat down on a couch by the fireplace. A woman in her 50s was across from me eating a late lunch. I explained to her how it had been so cold. The day Alex left, the fire went out in the fireplace, so I sat in front of the small space heater for warmth. I was too afraid of burning the house down and didn’t really know how to start a new fire. The only heat in the house was the fireplace and a small space heater. The woman sat a little further away because it was too warm for her. To me, the fire felt terrific because I had been cold for days.
The woman told me how she grew up in South Africa and lived in London for a while. She moved to Perth decades ago. She was on her way to Albany, a few hours south of Bridgetown. She had never been and decided to take a short holiday there.
The woman was divorced, and we talked all about travel. I told her about my goat fiasco and how I managed to keep the goats safe. She thought my goat-sitting was amusing. After a while, the place was closing up, so we both got up. The woman was a little heavyset, and as she stood, she pulled a muscle in her groin. She couldn’t move and was in a lot of pain.
I didn’t know how to help her, but I didn’t want to leave her. She tried to move her leg to stretch it out slowly, but it wasn’t helping. An employee walked over and asked if she was ok. After a few minutes, she managed to walk to the bar. We both bought some bottles of cider to take with us. As we walked to our cars, she hobbled along, trying to stretch the muscle. We parted ways, and I went back to the house.
Alex arrived late at night, and I told her about the fence. She could see I had been panicked and apologized. I said, “It’s ok. Now I can say I have goat-sitting experience.” She laughed, “I wouldn’t put that on your profile. You might end up being asked to take care of a whole herd!” I explained, “Oh I won’t put it on my profile. I’ll just tell my friends I’m now a goat-sitter because they’ll get a kick out of it!”
The next morning, Alex headed to the gym. I ate some breakfast and took my time packing up. I enjoyed meeting Alex because she instantly felt like a close friend. The cats were well-behaved, and one loved to cuddle. It was an excellent time to relax for a few days, get some writing done, and not have to drive. But it was time to keep moving.
We said our goodbyes and I drove three hours to Perth. I was excited to explore a city again. It had been almost two weeks since I had been to a big city. I didn’t know much about Perth, but I had heard good things. It was my opportunity to learn a little more about Western Australia.
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Post Edited By: Mandy Strider