A few months ago, I noticed my 11-year-old daughter researching something very intensely on the Internet. Because I like to think of myself as a good, caring dad who’s also wise to the world outside my house and some of the darker places the Internet can take an unwary child, I took a closer look.
The article she was reading was titled, “Do Goats Make Good Pets?”
Since she hadn’t asked about the possibility of getting a pet goat for a while, Saba and I had thought it was just a phase, one of those fads or fixations kids develop for a while and then outgrow.
If you’ve ever seen a kid who couldn’t shut up about their extensive Pokémon collection one day and the next day needed “ALL THE YU-GI-OH! CARDS RIGHT NOW OR I WILL BE THE LAUGHING STOCK OF MY SCHOOL AND MY LIFE WILL SURELY BE OVER AND MY TRAGIC SOCIALLY OUTCAST STATUS WILL BE ENTIRELY YOUR FAULT!” you know what I’m talking about.
Oh my God, I thought. She never really got over the goat!
If you are wondering what I mean by “never really got over”, there has been something about goats that fascinated her ever since we took our family to Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee, Florida.
If you haven’t heard of it, it is a drive-through zoo of sorts about an hour from our home in Ft. Lauderdale. The idea is you drive through the park, seeing animals like gorillas, rhinos, giraffes, elephants and of course, lions. They also have a petting zoo featuring more domesticated and kid-friendly animals.
So, bearing in mind this is five years ago: my 6-year-old daughter was all about the petting zoo. With all the exotic animals to see, she became fixated on, of all things, the goats! When it came time to leave, she cried inconsolably, because she wanted a pet goat desperately.
Over the next several years, when we went to the zoo or wildlife parks, the rest of the family would want to see the more unique, non-indigenous animals. Not her—she invariably left us spending too much time with the goats!
From age 6 to 8 to 10, there was nothing for it: we went to see animals, she was totally there for the goats. “I want a pet goat!” “Can we get a pet goat?” “Mommy, Daddy, wouldn’t it be COOL if we had a GOAT?”
Eventually, she stopped asking for a pet goat, and for a while, Saba and I thought she had lost interest.
Now, here she is a full 5 years later reading an article online about how goats make great pets. Ordinarily, I would laugh this off and go on about my day. Kids being kids, right?
But we just sent our 18 year old daughter, Alina off to college and it was our first time as parents experiencing one of our kids leaving the nest so we were a bit vulnerable to “time running out”.
All the clichés parents hear, and say, all the time came to mind:
“They grow up so fast.”
“They’ll be gone in the blink of an eye.”
“You’re going to miss this when they’re gone.”
It’s a moment when pride and heartbreak intersect in a way that’s very difficult to explain to nonparents. I don’t know if there’s an equivalent emotion which I could point to and say, “Yes, it’s just like that.”
My goat-crazy daughter is 11 now. That gives me seven years give or take before she leaves the nest, following in Alina’s footsteps and blazing her own trail through this world at the same time. All those timeworn parental clichés whirled through my brain.
After I did some more mental calculations, I approached my wife Saba.
Now, you would think, given how many times Saba has backed “crazy” ideas of mine which might have left a lesser spouse laughing, furious, reaching for a bottle of something strong or looking up divorce attorneys, I would know better than this, but I was freaking scared. I mean, we’re talking about a domesticated animal.
Now, Saba had agreed to leave NYC when I wanted to start my patent practice, uprooting our whole damn lives, flushing established careers and practices down the toilet and starting all over again in another state under the weight of crushing student loan debt while she was pregnant with our second child. But I was sure, after all the “crazy” Saba has endured and trusted me with in our twenty-one years together, this would be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Or the goat that got John Rizvi punched in the mouth and divorced.
Even with our daughter, Alina, out of the house, we still have a household of eight: myself, Saba, my aging parents and the four kids still living at home, which in itself makes for a very full and hectic house indeed.
Plus, Saba has her dental practice and I have The Patent Professor®, both of which are wonderfully demanding and take up a lot of time and bandwidth. Dentistry especially presents unique challenges during the pandemic.
By its very nature, dentistry requires being much deeper within the social distancing “bubble” of other humans than most conventional medical wisdom admits for. Meanwhile, The Patent Professor®’s ongoing growth means I’m constantly on a treadmill that is hard to get off of. My firm recently made the Inc5000 list of Fastest-Growing American Companies for 2020 and are tracking for $7 million in revenues this year (see the full story at https://www.linkedin.com/post/edit/6700500769537372160/?lipi=urn%3Ali%3Apage%3Ad_flagship3_publishing_published%3B1fAjfUyeQJyuqKx2RMNLAg%3D%3D ).
Add to these assorted challenges, complications and opportunities five chickens, a cat who wavers between domesticated and downright feral, five kids of varying ages, interests and temperaments and a partridge in a pear tree. As you can imagine, we have a full house in every possible sense of the phrase!
In our household, finding five minutes alone when everything’s calm requires planning and strategy which are very nearly superpowers. I finally managed it later that evening.
“Hey, Saba. So, um, listen. I, uh, well, I’ve been thinking—”
Saba, bless her heart, has very little patience for waffling. Least of all when it comes from me. She folded her arms over her chest and gave me Impatient Wife Look #9. If you’ve got a partner, you have probably come to know and fear this look very well: the slight head tilt, the furrowing of the brows, the tightening of the mouth that combine to send a very simple, clear message. The next words out of your mouth next had better be some Mark Twain-level oratory, because they may well end up being your epitaph.
I blurted out, “I’m thinking about getting Sakina a goat.”
Saba blinked. “Oh my God! I’ve been secretly wanting to approach you about getting her a goat too!”
“Uh. What?” I said incredulously, employing my usual brilliant eloquence when Saba surprises me. You’d think, with our marriage license old enough to purchase its own alcohol legally, this would no longer be a thing, and yet here we are. “I thought you’d chew my head off for even asking.”
Saba laughed. “Yes, I was afraid to bring it up because I thought you would chew my head off. I mean, you have enough on your plate and there is lots of work involved in having a goat that I can’t do. I mean, I can’t reinforce the fence. I can’t build a goat house. I don’t even know what goats eat, aside from everything under the sun. I don’t even know where to begin to start thinking about the care and feeding of a goat, never mind what it takes to keep them alive and healthy.”
I blew out a long breath. “I thought Sakina would grow out of it. But this is the one thing she wants more than anything in the world, Saba. We don’t have that much time left with her, and the memories we give her are really all we have in the long run.”
We talked for a few minutes about Alina. There may or may not have been tears. There may or may not have been mutual supportive hugs exchanges.
I wouldn’t necessarily say there was a stroll down Amnesia Lane with Alina, which our other kids’ past selves joined in. I’m also not saying there wasn’t.
Finally, we talked ourselves into the fact that yes, we were in fact getting a goat as a pet. We both had a good, albeit resigned, laugh and wondered why our kids couldn’t ask for normal pets. Like a dog, for example.
Now the discussion turned to logistics. Two busy professionals managing two elderly people, five kids and our current menagerie could prove a little tricky, but doable. We’ve got a chicken coop with five chickens, which I built with my own two hands. Surely creating a shelter for goats wouldn’t be much more challenging, purely from a structural and labor standpoint. All we needed was a little detective work to figure out how to make it happen. Since I’m a super-nerdy patent attorney and one of my great joys is doing research on arcane and strange things for both business and pleasure, I decided to take point on that.
As it turns out, complications presented themselves almost immediately. It’s really not a good idea to have a single goat. Goats are herd animals. This means they tend to do horribly on their own. Imagine being an extrovert on a desert island for the rest of your life, not by your own choice or because of an accident, but because some callous jerk decided that it would be best that way. Not a good picture, is it?
In fact, having a single goat is considered a form of animal cruelty. If you have horses, cows, etc., you might be able to get away with it, which means living in a rural area or far exurb of a metropolitan area, maybe.
But we are “city folks”, transplanted n from Manhattan, and live in a suburb outside Ft. Lauderdale in Plantation, Florida.
We are within walking distance of Sawgrass Mills Mall, one of the largest malls in the United States and down the street from the Bank Atlantic Center, the second largest sports arena in the Southeast.
To put it mildly, we are not on rural farmland by any stretch of the imagination. However, I was fortunate to have purchased two acres of land to build my home on over a decade ago while there was still large parcels of residential land available to buy in Broward County. So, we did have the space for a couple goats if we could somehow work out the other logistics.
Logistics like fenced yard space, infrastructure for feeding, and a plan for special construction in the outdoor shelter to help keep the goats secure from predators.
Yes, even a very, very well-trained and well-mannered Labrador retriever can be a viable threat to goats if Fido gets loose and decides to roam the neighborhood looking for a snack.
The next and less obvious hurdle was actually procuring the goats. Turns out it’s very hard to find two goats at once.
Everyone seems to sell just one and that posed a significant problem.
If we only got “a goat”, the animal would be miserable until we found it a companion. Worse, finding a second goat later would be no guarantee they would get along, because they had not been socialized to each other. This meant there was a risk of the goats squaring off to establish territorial rights, which would be hugely upsetting to the humanoids in the equation and dangerous for the goats.
Despite these apparent roadblocks, I refused to give up. I put some scouts on the mission of finding a pair of goats for Sakina and the rest of the family.
Paolo Coelho once wrote, “When you want something with all of your heart, the entire universe conspires to make it happen.” I have often seen the truth in this wisdom throughout my own life, and once more I was about to confirm its accuracy.
One of my scouts found us a goat owner whose goat had had twin kids. Although they had tons of inquiries and interest, everyone wanted only one.
The owner could not bring themselves to separate the twin billies (the technical name for male goats; female goats are called nannies).
So the goats stayed and waited, until a patent attorney and his dentist wife got wind of the farmer’s predicament, which just so happened to pose the solution to their own.
And so the saga begins…
About the Author
John Rizvi is a Registered and Board Certified Patent Attorney, Adjunct Professor of Intellectual Property Law, best-selling author, and featured speaker on topics of interest to inventors and entrepreneurs (including TEDx).
His books include “Escaping the Gray” and “Think and Grow Rich for Inventors” and have won critical acclaim including an endorsement from Kevin Harrington, one of the original sharks on the hit TV show – Shark Tank, responsible for the successful launch of over 500 products resulting in more than $5 billion in sales worldwide. You can learn more about Professor Rizvi his patent law practice at www.ThePatentProfessor.com
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I’ve helped hundreds of inventors successfully prosecute their patent applications, from initial filing to final award and look forward to helping you with your new idea.