In Norton: Bo, the two-legged goat

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Bo, who lives in the house with the Greenleafs, was born without the use of his hind legs.
Bo, who lives in the house with the Greenleafs, was born without the use of his hind legs.  Photos by David Dudley

copyright the Chronicle November 26, 2014 

by David Dudley

NORTON — One afternoon in the summer of 2012, David Greenleaf and his wife, Bunny, went out to run errands. They had been raising and breeding goats for three years at this point and knew one of their nanny goats was due any day. Though they knew it would be soon, Mr. and Mrs. Greenleaf were surprised by what awaited them when they returned home that day.

“The mother had birthed four little ones,” Ms. Greenleaf said. “Three of them were dead. And then there was Bo —short for Bow-legged — a baby French Alpine goat, laying there in the wood shavings. We knew he was special from the moment we saw him.”

Bo was born without the use of his hind legs. They were folded and tucked up under his belly, where they’ve remained. While some farmers would have put him down, the thought never even occurred to Ms. Greenleaf.

“I just don’t have the heart to put them down,” she said. “Especially when so many of the ones they said we should put down have gone on to live long, happy lives.”

“We tried to pull his legs down,” Mr. Greenleaf said. “But they just wouldn’t budge. I didn’t know if he’d ever be able to walk. But then, about two days after Bo was born, he was up on his forelegs, walking.”

Bo.
Bo.

The Greenleafs have a video of Bo’s early days. The cute little goat can be seen struggling to balance his torso on the pivot created when he gets up on his forelegs. Then, sure enough, he gets going. He hobbles along from one end of the Greenleafs’ little house to the other.

Today Bo is one year and four months old, and as rambunctious as any of his peers. Visitors to the Greenleaf household will find that he’s friendly, curious, and ornery.

Like any other healthy goat. He can also be a handful.

Mrs. Greenleaf possesses certain qualities that set her apart from other goat breeders.

To begin with, she has an almost uncanny knack for naming her goats. There’s Miracle, Gabby, Vinny (named after the New England Patriots place kicker, Adam Vinatieri), Bucky, and Buttercup. There’s Roxy, Ellie, Houdini, Bambi and Jasper, there’s Baby, Pearl, Molly, and Patience….

But Ms. Greenleaf’s devotion to these animals is possibly the key trait that separates her from her goat breeding peers. She doesn’t make much money from breeding and selling goats. Rather, it’s about the animals themselves.

“The business really isn’t very profitable,” she said. “I do it for the fun of it, and the love of the animals. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t do it.”

David Greenleaf helps out his wife, Bunny Greenleaf, with her goat-raising and breeding.  The little one on his lap is named Reesey.  She was enjoying the warmth inside the Greenleaf house during Friday's snow.
David Greenleaf helps out his wife, Bunny Greenleaf, with her goat-raising and breeding. The little one on his lap is named Reesey. She was enjoying the warmth inside the Greenleaf house during Friday’s snow.

Ms. Greenleaf never gives up on her animals. No matter what challenges they may face she will do all she can to make sure the goat keeps on breathing, kicking, and playing.

“We started with about 20 goats,” Ms. Greenleaf said. “They were all living in our living room, because it was so cold outside. Four mama goats and about 16 kids. It was a madhouse. But, oh, was it fun!”

Now the Greenleafs house 53 goats. Each one has its own personality, a name, and a story.

“My baby is Ben,” Ms. Greenleaf says, as she enters one of the shelters on her property. “It was love at first sight for Ben and Bambi.”

It’s a cold, snowy November day. All of her goats are indoors. It’s the first real snow of the season, and the goats are thankful to be inside, but their excess energy is apparent. As Ms. Greenleaf told the following story, another goat, behind her, punctuates every other sentence by ramming his head against the stall wall.

Goat breeder Bunny Greenleaf gets a greeting when she steps inside one of her three shelters, Friday morning.  Photos by David Dudley
Goat breeder Bunny Greenleaf gets a greeting when she steps inside one of her three shelters, Friday morning. Photos by David Dudley

“When Ben was little, he climbed into our woodstove,” Ms. Greenleaf said. “He climbed right into the stove, and then climbed right out. His body was smoking! David and I tried to stay calm. We wiped him down with rags and cloths, wondering if he had hurt himself. He was fine.

“Oh, I was mad at how he could have hurt himself. But he just grinned at me — he has the sweetest, wickedest grin you ever did see — and carried on. Ben’s my baby. He could get away with murder.”

That baby is now a full grown billy goat with formidable horns.

Gabby, a full grown Nubian Saanen mix, earned her name by being the most talkative goat of the bunch. That, and she hams it up for visitors. Her long ears go every which way, and her smile brightens the dimly lit shelter that she shares with other goats, rabbits, and chickens.

As Ms. Greenleaf entered another shelter, near the northern end of the property, she threw a glance toward a white goat that appeared to be sleeping.

“Bucky, you ain’t dead are you?” Ms. Greenleaf beckoned. Bucky didn’t move. Ms. Greenleaf called to the goat again, louder this time.

“Bucky?”

Though Bucky was only sleeping, Ms. Greenleaf does discover dead goats some mornings when she makes her first rounds at 3 a.m.

“The well-being of the goats is always on my mind,” she said. “You’ve got to constantly check their hooves. You’ve got to check for lice and other parasites. You’ve got to protect them from predators. And the cold is something else to worry about altogether.”

Ben is Ms. Greenleaf's favorite goat.  “He could get away with murder,” she said.
Ben is Ms. Greenleaf’s favorite goat. “He could get away with murder,” she said.

The cold brought two other creatures into the house to be spoiled alongside Bo. Reesey, a four-month-old Nigerian goat, and Abbey, a ten-week-old pot-bellied pig.

Reesey is energetic and incredibly cute. Abbey is equally cute, and very clever. Abbey walks along the perimeter of the room, waiting for the moment when she can swoop in and steal cereal from Reesey and Bo. Bo isn’t confrontational, but Reesey will butt heads with the little pot-bellied pig.

That’s when Mr. Greenleaf intervenes, protecting the feisty little pig that can fend for herself just fine. Still, Abbey loves the attention. She doesn’t put up resistance when Mr. Greenleaf takes to rubbing her belly. She lies there on her side, hooves in the air, grunting gently.

All the animals on the Greenleaf property get their fair share of love, but Bo is clearly the center of attention. Bo is the one who rides around with the Greenleafs in their truck.

Bunny Greenleaf brought Gabby home when she was just a kid.  She's been talking ever since.
Bunny Greenleaf brought Gabby home when she was just a kid. She’s been talking ever since.

“We visit China Moon and have lunch,” Mr. Greenleaf said, proudly. “And there will be bus-loads of tourists eating. They’ll see the goat and want pictures with him. So we let him get out and mingle with the tourists. It’s a hoot.”

“Bo didn’t even know he was a goat because I was his momma,” Ms. Greenleaf said. “I saw where he was going to need some special care, and I brought him in the house. He’s been in the house ever since. ”

contact David Dudley at [email protected]

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