Reporting, writing and photos by Abbey Marshall
You might think he’s a dog at first glance. Between his soft salt-and-pepper pelt, horns tucked into a straw-woven fedora and walking companions — owner Henry Bressler and Daisy, the moppy three-year-old shih tzu-poodle mix — the trio look like a regular pack of an owner and dogs out for a stroll.
But once he’s in earshot of Highland Square residents tending to their lawns or lazing on their porch stoops, they’re sure to do a double take at the clack of his hooves on pavement and his gentle bleat.
Arnie, after all, is a pet Pygmy goat trotting through Akron.
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Since his neighborhood debut in May, the unusual pet roaming the city has turned quite a few heads.
“I raised full-sized goats as a kid growing up,” Henry says. “My wife calls it my mid-life crisis, but it’s really been a big part of my life. I’ve always loved goats.”
Henry had been on a waiting list at a farm outside Columbus for about a year before Arnie was born in March this year. Pygmy goats have soft fur, unlike regular goats with a coarse outer coat. They are also small, standing only 15-20 inches, half the size of a regular goat.
“It’s really no different than adopting a dog,” Henry says. He says Arnie has a loving personality, curious nature and playful demeanor.
Since Arnie entered his family of four children, two cats, a dog and a bearded dragon, there has been nothing but smiles and excitement, Henry says. That’s not just from his household, either: Much of the neighborhood seems to be buzzing with adoration for Arnie.
“He makes a new friend every day. People just absolutely love him,” Henry says.
That love — as well as some frustration about noise, poop and other pet habits — is reflected in the swarm of messages on Nextdoor. In fact, Henry was so inundated with requests, he started an Instagram page for Arnie (@arnie_the_goat) and posts on both his page and Nextdoor when he’ll be taking his goat on walks in a new neighborhood or to a park for meet-and-greets.
“We’re huge fans,” Highland Square resident Claudia Williams said at a Hardesty Park meetup on Aug. 21. “When I’m out watering my flowers, I keep my ear out for the bell (on his collar), and I get excited to see him in his little hat. We wanted so badly to meet him, so I made sure to put it on my calendar and set my alarm so I wouldn’t miss him.”
Arnie makes quite the impression at the meetups. He approaches excited park goers for back scratches, leaps across rocks and gives what Henry calls “love taps”: a soft pat of his horns against a person’s forehead. He even stands up on his hind legs to accept feedings of grass, leaves and veggie straws — and in one instance, hopped on a table and snacked on a nearby picnicker’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich, much to the group’s amusement.
“How often do you see this? It’s so cute, and the kids just love him,” said Patty Irvin, whose family was eating at the table when Arnie paid them a visit — and ate their snacks.
At least a dozen others approached Arnie at Hardesty Park, watching him romping freely around the park, stroking his fur or chatting with Henry and one another.
“It’s just such a bright spot in the day to see him,” Claudia says. “When you’re stuck at home or on your porch, it’s just a nice thing to see a goat out and about. He’s so unique and fun.”
Abbey Marshall covers economic development for The Devil Strip via Report for America. Reach her at email@example.com.