Gabriel Munroe, 9, of Auburn plays recently with his goats in his backyard. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — When it became clear that Gabriel Munroe was deathly allergic to cats and dogs, he and his family were devastated.

They found new homes for two dogs and three cats, but Gabriel, then 5, needed some kind of pet. A tank full of saltwater fish? Nice, but not the same.

Then his allergist suggested something more unconventional: goats.   

“I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, I’ve never had a goat in my life,'” said mom Heidi Campbell. “So we had to do some research.”

Four years later, the Auburn family has more goats than people — five, including three baby Nigerian dwarf goats who moved in last month.

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“They play with you. You can snuggle them,” said Gabriel, now 9, leading the trio of bouncing, bleating kids into their play yard. “They’re fuzzy. And cute.”

The grown-up goats are Edmund and Antonio. The 4-month-olds are Oscar, Nibbles and Julian Edelman — the last named after the New England Patriots wide receiver.

All five came from Gabriel’s allergist, who also happens to be a goat farmer.

“It was fun. It was kind of crazy. We were totally flying by the seat of our pants as far as learning what they needed. At least I was, anyway,” Heidi Campbell said. “My husband is a vet, so he has some experience with some of these animals.”

The goats have their own personalities. Nibbles — aptly named — delights in chewing on any human clothing within reach. Antonio likes to roughhouse. Edmund is friendly.

“He acts more like a dog than anything else. He’ll walk up to you just for attention. He’ll slober your face,” said dad Alex Munroe, as Edmund leaned against his legs.

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Just like dogs, the goats wear collars — Edmund and Antonio get “Star Wars” — and they walk on leashes. They can learn tricks, including “shake hands.”

And, like dogs and so many other pets, they like to be the center of attention.

“I am. …” Gabriel started to say.

“Baa!” Julian interrupted.

“Trying to. …”

“Baa!”

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“Make a conversation!”

“Baa!”

But while the goats are cute and fun, and they don’t impact Gabriel’s allergies, there are drawbacks. They can be destructive, including, but not limited to, tearing the siding off their barn. They go to the bathroom a lot and all over the place, and traditional pooper scoopers do not work well on goat dung. And they need specialized medical care.

Even Munroe, a vet who works with cats, dogs and exotic animals at the Forest Avenue Veterinary Hospital in Portland and the Animal Emergency Clinic of Mid-Maine in Lewiston, doesn’t feel comfortable handling anything but minor issues for his family’s goats. Bigger problems need an area vet who specializes in large animals and livestock.

Still, the family said, the goats are worth it.

“We love them,” Campbell said.

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The goats aren’t the only animals in Gabriel’s life now. He also has three tanks filled with fish, nine hermit crabs, 12 chickens and two horses. However, the goats are his favorite.

He was heartbroken when the family had to give away its dogs and cats four years ago. The goats have helped ease that pain.  

“I don’t miss it as much anymore,” he said.

Have an idea for Animal Tales? Call Lindsay Tice at 689-2854 or email her at [email protected].

   

Gabriel Munroe, 9, plays with one of his goats in his backyard in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Gabriel Munroe, 9, stands guard at the barn doors so his goats do not escape into the yard at his home in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Gabriel Munroe, 9, stands guard at the barn doors so his goats do not escape into the yard at his home in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)


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