By Amy Nile Herald Writer
MONROE — She’s was a city-slicker from Chicago. Now she is saving goats on an Arlington farm.
Ellen Felsenthal is planning to raise money for her cause with the Goatalympics on Saturday at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe.
“It’s a chance for the people with pet goats to get out and do something fun,” she said.
People with dogs can take their pet to the park. Those with horses can go riding. But there’s not much entertainment out there for goat owners, Felsenthal said.
The Goatalympics isn’t a typical livestock event. It’s for people who don’t see goats as milk or meat producers.
There’s a competition in which the goats strut their stuff for recognitions such as the widest beard, the biggest horns and the most spots. And there are musical chairs and an obstacle course.
“Some of the goats are on it. And some sit on their butts and refuse to do anything,” Felsenthal said. “That’s why it’s so much fun. It’s not that competitive.”
The musical chairs game, which involves humans and goats, gets participants fired up.
“That’s where people really start to get dirty,” Felsenthal said.
Her favorite is the costume contest. A goat named Francis once was dressed as the pope. His owner wore a nun costume.
“Everyone is laughing and smiling to the point your stomach is hurting by the end of the day,” she said.
Felsenthal is expecting at least 70 people to participate with their pets Saturday. She said the Goatalympics has doubled in size each year since it started in 2011.
Felsenthal hopes to raise $6,000 at the event. She plans to put it toward the $70,000 annual operating budget needed for her New Moon Farm Goat Rescue &Sanctuary.
“It’s the hay fund,” she said. “It pays for a year’s worth of food.”
The farm boasts almost 50 goats, most of them up for adoption. About a dozen are expected to live there permanently. The rescue is run by volunteers and Felsenthal, who also works as a photography instructor at Everett Community College.
Most of the goats end up at the sanctuary through Felsenthal’s partnership with animal control agencies. Neglected, abused and stray animals are brought to her because there aren’t many places around that rehabilitate goats. She also gets the pets that people don’t want anymore.
When people come to the farm to take one home, she said, they almost never leave with the goat they thought they wanted.
“The goats pick their people,” she said.
Felsenthal said goats have unique personalities. They’re much like dogs, but they mow the lawn as they graze. They butt heads, sort out a social order and then get along.
“It’s a great model for how I wish the world was,” she said.
Felsenthal is looking to expand her six-acre farm. She’s raising money to buy a neighboring property that would double the size of her rescue operation.
Felsenthal, 45, never imagined herself in the business of saving goats. She was involved with dog, cat and horse rescues as a teen and saw a new need.
She later took a job as an assistant keeper at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. When a Nigerian Dwarf goat named Ziggy was about to be euthanized, she stepped in. The 2-year-old goat had an allergic reaction and its hair was falling out.
“He just looked funny so no one wanted to pet him,” Felsenthal said.
She took him home and nursed him back to health. He lived until he was 16. She continued to take animals in.
“I was turning into the crazy goat lady,” she said. “And here I am 16 years later, still a crazy goat lady.”
Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Pygmy Goat Barn at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds
More Information: newmoonfarm.org or goatalympics.org