Sparky the Asthmatic Wonder-Goat

Alma has wanted a goat for a long time.

A really long time.

This summer seemed like the perfect combination of: A) Alma’s best friend of 5 years just moved away B) the compound was pretty empty due to some people leaving, and others not yet returned C) our move to Rwanda made a natural end-point.

The goat was basically an emotional support animal. A stop-gap replacement for a friend until the end of the summer. Little did we know Alma would become so attached to this animal there would be a need for an emotional support animal when we left Sparky. (luckily, that role was filled by a stray kitten at the hotel in Bujumbura when we got stuck there for a week due to false-positive COVID tests)

To start with, you need to understand we had no idea goats were so smart. No clue that Sparky would learn her name so quickly, or learn to identify Alma’s voice so easily. That she would identify Alma by sight, sound, and learn where her bedroom window was and stand outside it. That he would sit by a window and wait for her to come back outside. That he would run to catch up with her and cry if she got in a car or ever went in anyone else’s house.

Ok- so the only time she got in a car was to drive some of our bins up to a storage container by the hospital since we were packing up. So to solve that problem – we just started taking Sparky with us.

since she thought she was part of the family – she seemed to feel free to come inside
luckily – Sparky was a big fan of Adventures in Odyssey audio stories
sharing breakfast – granola for Alma, leftover popcorn for Sparky
“hey buddy – is that too big for you…here, let me help”
Alma knew exactly which leaves Sparky loved the most – including this type of tree with red leaves which we also see here in Rwanda and still referred to here as a “sparky tree”

We found sparky the way we did almost everything else we didn’t know how to do – ask our Burundian friends to help us. Fidele found a ‘good’ goat- and we walked up through the village to his office to get her. Sparky cost 35,000Burundian Francs – about $10.

Man, was that money well spent.

The first morning Sparky woke us up crying at 04.30. The next day it was almost 5. We were really questioning what we had gotten ourselves into.

Then starting from day three, she would wait till she saw me open the curtains at 6.00, and then bleat just once to let me know she was up. I’d go out and let her out of the pen (the only time she was in it was overnight) and she’d come out and wander around the yard waiting for Alma to get up.

She would follow her into the house if we don’t stop her. She ran after Alma wherever she went, and when Alma came in to eat, Sparky stood on our patio table just on the other side of the window so she could keep a close eye on her.

But why Sparky the Asthmatic goat?

uh….because she was.

I don’t know why, I’m not a vet.

She’d run after Alma wherever, and as soon as she’d stop she had this weird dry bronchial cough. Like someone who forgot their inhaler for PE.

When the day finally came to say goodbye we left Sparky with our friends who have a lot of other animals in their house in the village.

“yes – I am human child”

So next time you’re in Kibuye, walk up through the village to the house with bright green paint. In there with the long-horned cows, guinea fowl, and other animals, you’ll find the kindest, gentlest, friendliest, dare I say smartest little goat you will ever meet.