Their names are Artie and Miles and they live on Canal Street. Research is limited on this particular topic, but I have a hunch that of all the grand streets in the world, Canal Street is the only one that has a pair of pygmy goats among its residents. Both animals are colored with splashes of black and white and each has a face of one or the other color. Their days are spent in a pen inside the Urban Roads Garden Center located on Canal between North Roman and North Derbigny. The facility consists of an outdoor space where customers can buy potted trees and other foliage. There is also an inside area converted from an old garage that is filled with garden decorations, as well as sacks of soil and even small bags-of live lady bugs. (Why would anyone want a bag of bugs? As chemical free predators for other garden pests.) The inside is also the home of Fin, a pacifist rabbit who spends his days lying on a glass counter with his front part sticking out of a box. There is a hand-printed sign on which Fin, or a ghostwriter, introduces himself and assures that while he is friendly and likes to be petted he should not be picked up. Most of his time is spent staring and munching out of his box.
There is a plastic pond outside, large enough to provide accommodations for at least five middle-sized turtles. If one would spend his time watching a potted fig tree grow or a turtle moving, the fig tree would win. The turtles seem to spend their days in contemplation.
In another pen there are chickens that seem to get along with the ducks, despite the constant clucking and quacking. A cat slinks around outside the pen that is, at least hopefully, feline proof. At this moment the cat is standing stiff on his hind legs at the base of a potted crepe myrtle. He is eyeing a bird that is resting on a twig only a few inches away from the cat’s reach. After a few minutes the bird flitters away, probably unaware of the danger his life had been in. Within seconds the cat was staring at another tree.
Meanwhile Artie and Miles protect their space. The pair are the main attraction, the first sight that visitors see when they pull in to the parking lot. The goats might be playing with the tire that is hanging down from the pen’s top. For whatever they do, the crowd is amused. If you’re a goat it is easy to entertain humans.
There is another Urban Roots Garden Center on Tchoupitoulas Street. According to the Canal Street attendant, there are goats there too, plus sheep. But if I were a goat I would prefer the Canal Street spot where there is always a buzz either from ambulances rushing to the University Hospital across the street or the red streetcars speeding by at seven miles per hour. Then, one Saturday a year, Endymion passes by. A strong-armed toss might even guide a doubloon toward their pen. No other goats have such an experience.
I hadn’t been to the garden center in about a month. The animals were all fine, although Fin hadn’t really changed his act much. He was still halfway out of the box and letting the sign about petting him do the talking. The cat continued to prowl, Artie and Miles saw new faces outside the pen. The place is rich in discovery. I realized that one day when a neighbor said she had gone to the garden center and how thrilled her three-year old was. “He had never seen a chicken before,” she said. If he had never owned lady bugs either, now was the chance.