…and no, we don’t mean the Greatest of All Time (Sue Bird, of course). We are talking literal goats, i.e., ruminants, here. If we can convince Sue to talk to us, you’ll be the first to know.
Those of you who have ventured into lower Wallingford lately may have noticed the return of the goat herd that visits every year (except last year) around this time, in the fenced area along NE 40th. This is a steep and heavily vegetated piece of property that frequently hosts encampments and occasionally small wildfires. But in late summer, Rent-a-Ruminant appears on the scene with a large crowd of hungry goats, who crop things down and add a little whimsy and animal magic to our otherwise mundane existence here in Wallingford.
It took a while, but I caught up with head goat wrangler, Tammy Dunakin, who is pretty much the one-woman operation that is Rent-a-Ruminant. She had her crew of 115 on scene along NE 40th for around a week. Tammy and faithful herding dog Liz stay under the Ship Canal Bridge in a trailer to keep an eye on the critters and keep them watered and out of trouble. Tammy—who has been in business since 2004—says she’s been coming to this location for ten years or so, with the exception of last year when there was some sort of snafu in scheduling (because of the popularity of the site for tent camps, the process for getting things cleared and prepared for the goats is more complicated and takes more time).
Her goats work many different locations around the area. I asked her what the biggest challenges were with the Wallingford site in particular, and Tammy said it was people issues. People who are displaced from the area in advance of the goats are typically unhappy, people mess with the fences that contain the area being worked, and people steal her equipment and try to break into her trailer (such an attempt during the past week in broad daylight was thwarted by a neighbor with a baseball bat). She gets woken up in the middle of the night by people banging on her door. I asked her if she worries that the animals might encounter the cast-off ephemera from urban life, like needles and other trash. As it turns out, the animals aren’t much affected and avoid the bad stuff (they’re pretty smart, and evidently more discriminating than many of us). This isn’t exactly the idyllic grazing gig that you might see on BBC shows. But, Tammy says that she still enjoys it. She portrays it rather lyrically, as the perfect trifecta of 1) good for the planet; 2) good for the community (people LOVE seeing the goats working in their neighborhood); and 3) good for the goats, who are all rescue animals and get to live out their days doing what goats like to do in “stimulating” urban surroundings.
Tammy and her herd are finished with this year’s work in Wallingford, but plan to be back next year. Wallyhood will undoubtedly check back in with her and the clan when they return.