Goats — yes, goats — are making visits to Philly neighborhoods.
From Kensington to Center City to Germantown, the goats from the nonprofit Philly Goat Project (PGP), are putting on play performances, parades and bringing joy to residents of all ages.
“They’re incredibly intelligent creatures,” said Virginia Friedman, a volunteer with PGP, who helped out at this week’s Performance & Parade event with the Free Library of Philadelphia at Shakespeare Park — one of the many types of events that PGP hosts throughout the city.
Philly Goat Project was started back in 2018 by Karen Krivit, a clinical social worker, and her daughter, Lily Sage, an artist and funeral director. After a 30-year career, Krivit was starting to feel burnt out, but wanted to continue to help Philadelphians. One day, she and her daughter encountered goats grazing while on a run and they decided they wanted to bring goats to the city to help people.
But what is it about goats that make them so special?
They’re small, which makes them uniquely situated for animal-assisted therapy, and they have four-chambered stomachs. This means that they’re approachable to kids, easier to house and have a digestive system that allows them to devour invasive plants and destroy the seeds.
They’re also fun to be around.
“They have great personalities and people just light up when they see them,” said Pallas Weber, co-director at Philly Goat Project.
Friedman, who has been volunteering with the project since the pandemic, agrees. She has spent most of her career working as a teacher and says goats are very similar to middle school students.
“They have their social dynamics,” explained Friedman. “You have the troublemakers, the ones that want to be obedient and get and get a prize, the ones that are a little mischievous. So they’re a lot of fun to work with and really smart.”
PGP has a total of 13 goats, a combination of Nubians and Nigerian Dwarf breeds — and they all live at the Farm at the Awbury Arboretum in Germantown.
There’s Ivy, who’s small and a “strong-willed, stubborn woman.” Oonagh, who loves head scratches. Anthony and Bebito, who are twins. Violet, who is deaf and understands sign language. And many others.
No matter what their quirky traits and special characteristics are, adults and kids enjoy being in their presence.
That’s why the organization brings them to different neighborhoods, for all kinds of activities — from animal-assisted therapy, to fun family programs and even landscaping. That’s when goats basically eat your overgrown yard. PGP also offers a teen internship program, where young people can work on the farm with the goats, and All Abilities RAMble, a free monthly therapy experience for people of all ages with disabilities.
“Part of our mission is that we bring the delightful and dynamic capabilities of goats to our communities,” said Leslie Jackson, who is the “folks herder” at PGP, which means she coordinates volunteers.
Plus, Jackson added, “they’re so flippin’ cute.”
The goats offer a way for people to connect with our environment, said Liz Gardiner, a children’s librarian at the Free Library.
They “are a huge way that Philly is actually dealing with some issues like overgrowth of weeds and plants,” said Gardiner. “It’s very interesting to be able to learn about those things as well as just meet animals and get that experience that some city kids don’t get on a daily basis.”
Whether you work with goats regularly or see them every once in a while, volunteer Friedman says that they put you in a good mood.
“You know it’s going to be a good day if there are goats in it,” she said. “It’s impossible to be in a bad mood around them.”
On Aug. 13, the goats will head to the Nicetown Park Festival. To learn more about where the herd is headed next, check out Philly Goat Project’s website, or stop by the Farm at Awbury Arboretum in Germantown, which is free to visit and open 365 days a year.
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