BELFAST, Maine — One thing was clear: the pet goat that escaped from its owner Tuesday in the parking lot of the Belfast Veterinary Hospital really didn’t want to go to the doctor.
Instead, the 4-year-old white goat with a green leash ran off on a jaunt that took him across Route 1 and through a retirement community, much to the delight of the residents. His great escape finished with a long swim in the frigid ocean and a dramatic rescue at sea.
“I think he was just free and happy,” Steve Bowler, the marketing director for Penobscot Shores, an independent retirement community located on Penobscot Bay, said of the goat. “He went around, and I think he saw most everybody. The residents had a good time.”
But the goat could have had a sad ending to his big day out. After gallivanting through Penobscot Shores, Belfast police officers spotted him on the waterfront Tuesday afternoon and tried to catch him.
“Apparently the goat was not done with his walkabout,” police said in a Facebook post about the incident.
The goat traveled along the shore, then went into the water and began swimming out to sea.
Jerri Holmes was making chili in her Battery Road home around noon when she saw three officers in her yard looking for the goat. When she spotted the animal swimming toward Islesboro, the avid all-season kayaker knew she had to do something.
“I got my life jacket, neoprene gloves and a rope,” she said. “I had in mind that I could go on the far side of the goat and herd him into shore.”
But it wasn’t easy.
In her kayak, Holmes kept trying to tie the rope around his horns, but the goat kept slipping it off his head.
Then her paddle blew off the kayak. On a windy day where the air temperature was 28 degrees and the water temperature about 40 degrees, that could have been bad.
“It was so windy, so cold,” she said. “I said, ‘Sorry, goat, I’ve got to save me.’”
Holmes used her hands to propel the kayak back to the paddle, and she tried again to herd the goat toward shore. Once she was closer, others were able to help and the goat finally came back to land after swimming for more than half an hour.
Concerned neighbors and the police officers helped, bringing delicacies such as heads of lettuce and a bucket of grain to tempt the pet goat back home. They also tried to warm him up, covering him with a blanket.
Holmes, who was also very cold, joined the efforts.
“I went over and draped myself on the goat, trying to warm both it and me up,” she said.
The goat’s owner enticed him up a set of aluminum steps that led down the steep embankment to the shore with bananas.
Later in the afternoon, the goat was back where it all began: at the Belfast Veterinary Hospital.
“He’s doing well after his fun adventure,” a staff member said.
Holmes was relieved and a bit surprised that the goat was doing fine after his chilly ordeal.
“I had quite a while of thinking that this poor animal is not going to make it,” she said. “Tough old goat.”