Gifts for goats

Best Friends volunteers from Colorado discover their new favorite species -- goats! The couple brought the goats gifts to show their love.
By Christelle L. Del Prete

Valerie Andres and Andy Sontoski with Dreama the goatWith four dogs, three cats and seven birds at home, Valerie Andres and Andy Sontoski have constant furry and feathered companionship. But the longtime Best Friends members still can’t resist coming back to the Sanctuary year after year to volunteer and make even more animal friends, even if they can’t bring them all home. “If you love animals, this is the place to come and spend your vacation,” Andy says.

For the past six years, the Colorado couple has made love connections all across the Sanctuary, splitting their volunteer time among dogs, rabbits, birds and pigs. But it wasn’t until last year that they added goats to their list and fell head over heels in love with the clever, agile creatures. “We would have goats in a heartbeat if we could,” Valerie says. “They are funny and full of personality.”

A heart-stealing goat trio

One trio in particular swooped in to steal the hearts of Valerie and Andy. Dreama, Cupid and Skid are sweet goats who were rescued from certain death on a feedlot. With a mythical name, outgoing personality and the heart-shaped marking on his forehead, Cupid woos everyone he meets. But Valerie found herself drawn to Dreama — a friendly but quiet goat who loves attention so much that she'll stand in one place for hours to get scratches and pets.

The goats made such a great impression on Valerie and Andy last year that they couldn’t wait to return to Horse Haven to see them again. And this year, they came bearing gifts for Dreama and the rest of the goat herd. Valerie and Andy dreamed up the idea while helping Horse Haven caregivers groom goats and walk them through the canyon. That’s when the couple noticed that the goats were wearing collars, just like dogs. And that gave them an idea.

Delivering gifts to goats

When they got home, they called on a friend who likes to make handcrafted, unique dog collars. Valerie and Andy asked if she would make collars for all the goats at the Sanctuary that they could bring on their next trip. The answer was yes and the result was 18 durable and expandable breakaway collars in the colors of the American Southwest.

While they don’t consider arts and crafts to be their personal forte, Valerie (a human resources manager) and Andy (a handyman with a successful business) were thrilled to return this year, and eager to deliver the gifts.

Valerie Andres and Andy Sontoski with Dreama and Cupid the goatsUntil next time

On their most recent visit, they helped each goat “choose” his or her individual collar. They also took part in their regularly scheduled duties of mucking and weeding, which they enjoy just as much. It’s rewarding work, they say.

Although the time Valerie and Andy spend at the Sanctuary is never long enough, Valerie says, “It’s a great stress reliever.” The couple always returns home to their furry and feathered crew feeling rested, rejuvenated and ready to plan their next Sanctuary visit. “We love this place, and we look forward to coming out here every year,” Andy explains.

Until they return, there’s no doubt they’ll be thinking of their favorite animals around the Sanctuary, including their fashion-forward friends, the goats.

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Photos by Molly Wald