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Petsitting Visiting Europe

How I Almost Killed A Goat While Petsitting in France

This specific housesit in France was pretty unique: 9 goats, 10 chickens, a herd of cats, and a basset hound named Austin – but I may have missed the mark when giving the goats a ‘treat.’

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IT WAS AN ACCIDENT… before you go much further, I should back up a bit:

After petsitting in England for six weeks, we traveled by ferry from Portsmouth, England, to Caen, France.

My (Adam) cousin, Ash – whom I hadn’t seen since we were both 18 months old – picked us up at the ferry.

He had recently moved from Middlesborough, England to Lalacelle, France, and purchased an abandoned chateau with his partner, Terry. They live there while restoring Chateau Lalacelle with Terry’s parents and nephew.

We stayed at Chateau De Lalacelle for 10 days, and took a day trip to explore Mont-Saint Michel.

Next, we moved to our pet sit at a hobby farm in Bretagne, a town located just outside of Josselin in the northwest corner of France. We found the pet sitting opportunity using Trusted Housesitters.

This specific housesit in France was pretty unique – not only did they have nine goats, ten chickens, a herd of cats, and a basset hound named Austin, but their property was also a ‘Bed & Breakfast’ (no other guests stayed overnight while we were there). The house was very large and had three upstairs bedrooms each with an ensuite which was intended for guests.

Meet Austin the basset hound on Instagram
Meet Austin – our pet to ‘sit’ in France.

Every morning, the boys would go out back and collect the chicken eggs scattered around the large, fenced-in yard. They’d find them behind hay bails, under some leaves, in the grass, and, occasionally, in the hen house.

We had a tally going on the fridge to see who collected the most eggs each day. And by the end of our stay, which was just over two weeks, our boys had collected 70 eggs between them.

The hosts showed us how to care for the farm animals. They showed us how to gather clippings from the trees and plants in the front yard to feed the goats as a daily treat. It was something the goats really looked forward to, so we decided to take the wheelbarrow out every day and collect their favourite clippings.

Petsitting goats in France
The goats were great hosts to our boys

The homeowner told us that she let the goats roam in the front yard occasionally to help her know which plants they enjoy eating. The goats would go straight for the oak leaves and the ivy on the side garden wall, their favourite plants. But they need some variety here and there – some taller grass or some of the apple tree clippings now and then.

After a few days of gathering clippings, I was looking to offer them some more variety (not that the goats wouldn’t have been happy with more oak leaves), and I discovered a large bush that I hadn’t noticed before at the bottom of the oak tree.

I figured that if the goats had been in the front yard, they would have eaten from that bush. And if they hadn’t eaten from the bush in the past, they would likely ignore the clippings they didn’t like when I threw them in the pen.

The following day, Celine urgently called for me to come out to the goat’s yard. The smallest one, Yvette, was standing as still as a statue with foam coming out of her mouth, and the mother goat was standing still, in front of her, bleating like something was REALLY wrong. All of the other goats were standing around the two of them wondering how to respond.

We quickly called the vet to let them know that we were on our way, threw a blanket on the baby goat to hold her legs from flailing around, set her in the back of the hatchback car we were borrowing, and tried to keep the goat calm for the short car ride.

Thankfully, Yvette wasn’t in the mood to move around much, and we had a collar and a leash to help make sure she stayed still. Celine sat in the back seat for the ride to the vet, the whole time petting and calling the goat’s name too comfort her while I drove.

Once we arrived, the vet asked us if the goat had eaten anything unusual, like clippings from a rhododendron (the ‘mystery’ bush in the front yard that I had pulled clippings from.) While the bigger goats probably went after their favourite clippings, the oak and ivy, the smallest goat’s only option was to snack on leftover rhododendron.

The vet showed us how to stand behind the goat’s head and hold her body still with our knees, squeeze our fingers behind the goat’s back teeth to get her jaw open, and insert a syringe of liquid charcoal into her throat. The charcoal goes into the goat’s stomach, absorbs the poison, and then passes.

This had to be done twice a day – once more that evening and twice the next day. The goat just stood there, nice and still, when the veterinarian fed her the charcoal, so it seemed easy enough to us to handle the task once we got back home.

We put the blanket back on the goat, put her back in the car, and back to the farm we went.

Yvette started calling to her mother the moment we got her out of the car, and spirits picked up the moment they were reunited in their enclosure.

Her energy had picked up – almost to full “excited baby goat” speed by the time we needed to get that second dose of charcoal into her that evening.

You may think it’s easy to identify a single baby black and white goat in a herd of only nine goats, but think again. Between them jumping on and off their trampoline, running around their hay bales, and trotting through the thistles (along with our three boys joining in on a game of “catch that goat”), the goats were more convinced we were playing a game of tag rather than trying to get them to politely standing still while we administered charcoal.

It took us about 20 minutes of playing goat tag to get ahold of the baby goat we needed. Like the flick of a switch, the sounds of 9 overjoyed goats playing tag with these five humans turned quickly into sounds of complete and sheer panic when we caught the baby goat by the horns and held her in place.

Pleasant bleating turned into a 9-goat alarm that had me second-guessing my priorities.

I held the goat between my legs, held her horns steady with my right hand, and stuck my left thumb and forefinger on either side of her back teeth to force her jaw to stay open.

Celine stuck in the syringe and squeezed the charcoal solution into Yvette’s mouth while the goat struggled to cough up the charcoal, and simultaneously bleated for her mom to headbutt either of us to stop the madness.

After a quick washup to get the leaked charcoal off my hands, I realized that the next day, we had to do it all again, twice, except the next time, that goats would know what was coming.

We kept the homeowners in the loop the whole way through this process through our Trusted Housesitter app. They were thankful that we had handled the situation right away and were very open about it all.

While pet sitting comes with more responsibilities than just renting a place for a vacation, it also comes with rewards – not just a free place to stay, but also unforgettable experiences like this one.

While in Josselin, we visited a Saturday farmer’s market on the main street downtown that reminded us of the set from the live-action Beauty and the Beast. We also got to explore Suscinio Castle in Sarzeau, France, wander historic Vannes, enjoy a beach day for the first time in a few months, and take Austin, the basset hound, on a hike in Brocéliande Forest – the birthplace of the Legend of King Arthur.

Petsitting near Vannes France
Visiting Vannes, Frances while petsitting

And despite all of that, when we talk about our experience with petsitting in France, our boys say, “Is that where Daddy almost killed the goat?”


After this house sit, we moved on to pet sitting in Switzerland!

Wondering why Switzerland next? Here’s how we decided where to visit in Europe.

 

Visiting Chateau De Lalacelle, Alencon, France
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