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Canines to the rescue: Farm dogs help save part of goat herd from fire

Kim Gochenour, of Mountain View Farm in Lebanon Church, walks with her herding dogs Scarlet, left, an Anatolian Shepherd, and Coconut, right, a Great Pyrenees. The two dogs helped save some of her goats after a barn on her farm was destroyed by fire. Rich Cooley/Daily

Dogs, for the most part, are extremely protective animals. It’s an instinct innate to their condition, a trait instilled by nature and relied upon in the most crucial life or death decisions, when taking the time to think things out isn’t an option. For a pair of Lebanon Church dogs, that protective instinct reached beyond the human-dog bond.

When Kim Gocehnour’s goat barn at Mountain View Farms in Lebanon Church burned in late December, she thought she had lost everything – a herd of more than 100 goats, the barn itself and her two prized dogs – a Great Pyrenees, bred to protect livestock, and an Anatolian Shepherd.

Gochenour saw flashes of orange from her bedroom window the night of Dec. 23 and by the time she realized what was happening, there wasn’t much she could do. Her 35-foot by 35-foot goat barn, full of her South African Boer goats that she sells to children in 4-H, was engulfed in flames. Her Pyrenees named Coconut and the Anatolian, Scarlet, were nowhere to be found.

“By the time I saw it, there was nothing that could be saved,” an emotional Gochenour said.

While the barn was gone along with 80 goats and a 14-week-old Anatolian puppy, not all was lost. When Gochenour came around a corner toward  another field on the farm’s property, she was greeted by something she never thought she would see again.

Scarlet sits on a hillside watching a herd of goats. Scarlet and a Great Pyrenees, Coconut, escorted these goats out of a burning barn in December and led them to safety. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I didn’t know there were any goats here until we made the turn,” Gochenour said. “She (Scarlet) started barking at us and we could see them standing up there. I thought they (goats) were all gone, plus the dogs. I didn’t think there was anything left.”

Coconut, 5, and Scarlet, 3, had done just what their instincts told them – herd and protect. The four-legged first responders led approximately 30 goats to safety from the burning barn. During the interview, Scarlet, standing proudly with her goats, wouldn’t leave them as Gochenour walked among the bleating herd.

“There was a gate over here where they could still get out,” she said. “They must have gotten them out. None of the goats were burnt, none of them had any black on them. So I guess as soon as it happened, they got them out.”

Gochenour said she thought her entire herd, which started out with 20 head or so, was lost. She was going to get out of the business for good. Thanks to the bravery and quick action from Coconut and Scarlet, she said she plans to press on and build her herd back up.

“(Building up everything will take) a couple years probably,” she said. “There are like 10 of them that are going to have babies and then I have, I think, 10 yearlings that I’ll breed this fall that will have babies next year.”

The barn wasn’t covered by insurance. However, she said she plans to rebuild sometime in the spring. An official cause wasn’t determined but Gochenour said she thinks heating lamps used to warm young goats is a likely culprit.

“I would assume (the cause was) electrical of some sort,” Gochenour said. “I use heat lamps – you have to or they freeze. I’ve never had any problems before. These were specifically made for livestock. Nothing can really get into them. Somebody could have a chewed a cord or something. You try to be as careful as you can.”

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com