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Forty Years with Birds and Dogs 

Goats, Skunks, and Gardens

Years ago daughter Indra wanted a goat. It was time for each daughter to have a pet of their own. We had seen baby goats at the State Fair, and she had fallen in love with a miniature variety with huge brown eyes. It seemed not all that different from a big dog. But intriguing somehow, perhaps more needy? We all agreed, a goat would be fine. The garden would suffer, but it already suffered from being too large with too many hills. Maybe the goat would help by mowing the hilly parts. A well-known lady in town had once had a house-broken goat. That would be even more fun--but the current pet rules were too specific. No goats in town. Sorry. So we got Indra a skunk--a wild animal, not domesticated. More on that next week. Therein lies the complexity--emergence and all that.

It was perfectly legal in those days, to have a de-scented skunk as a pet--if the skunk had been bred and was rabies-free five generations from the wild. She was named for the white marking down her nose, Streak. She liked to sleep in Indra's bed with her nose on her girl's shoulder. She made a lovely nest of tissues under the kitchen sink, but every spring she would insist on moving the nest to a cozy place under the rocking chair. No way, Ms. Streak. You don't want someone rocking on you. After five years battling over where her nest would be, she became an affectionate morning cuddler, coming out from under the sink to step on my toes until I picked her up.

I don't think skunks are allowed as pets in town these days, but I haven't asked. There are plenty of wild ones under many porches. However, goats are allowed now--so long as they are 100 feet from the house and are not "livestock." But Indra has moved on with her own family, two lovely girls who are now older than she was when we got Streak. And I don't want a goat eating the Potentilla bushes and the Periwinkle that has finally covered most of the garden strip behind the house. On the other hand, I can't help wondering if the dogs would like to share their den under my studio desk with a goat. It would be fun to try to housebreak one. Or would it?

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