Saturday, September 6, 2008

the gaze of a goat

There are few things quite so humbling as the stare of a goat. When they look at you--nurturer, protector, caretaker--their eyes seem to say, "Who the fuck do you think you are? You think you're the boss? Get over it." They will never acknowledge how wonderful you are. They will not wag their tails at you. When you scratch them on that hard-to-reach place behind the withers, they soak up the attention for a while and then commence, nonchalantly, to graze as if you were never there. There are more and less affectionate goats, but ultimately, they will all give you the look at one time or another.

You cannot scold a goat. You can yell, scream, flail your arms wildly, even push them around, but they are unresponsive. They do not cower like a dog with their tail between their legs. They just look at you--the look--and defy you as soon as you turn your back. Even if you scare them into doing whatever it is you want them to do, they will not learn and alter their behavior. They are incredibly willful.

What, you may ask, is the difference between a goat's gaze and the gaze of any other animal? Well, I'm fairly certain that it is both physical and mental. Goats and octopi are the only two animals with rectangular pupils--that helps dramatize the look. You can't quite tell sometimes if goats are really stupid or really brilliant and are hatching a plan inside their weird little heads to dominate you. But I firmly believe that goats have a personality which comes through in their belligerant look. Cows, for example, seem to take more of an interest in you when they look at you. They don't just glare. Dogs look at you expectantly. Cats look at you sometimes with aloofness but sometimes with something resembling adoration--oh, yes, rub my back and I shall purr for you. Goats are altogether different. They are the one barnyard animal that can humble you.

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