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Goat herd therapy

Belmont goats dazzle visitors, turn to Indigogo to fund Lents move


by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Bailey hangs out on top of a structure inside the goat pen in the Belmont area. The goat plan to move in the next few weeks to a new site in the Lents area.There are two kinds of visitors who stop to see the goat herd on Southeast 11th Avenue between Belmont and Taylor streets.

“There are the neighborhood people, who drop by nearly every day, and then there are people who are just passing by who say they had to stop, because they are so shocked to see goats in the city,” says Christopher Frankonis, one of three owners of the goat herd. “People are surprised how sociable the goats are, almost like family dogs.”

“There are people from all walks of life who stand outside the chain-link fence interacting with the goats and talking to each other as if they knew each other,” notes Jason Jimenez, another herd owner, along with Jess Kurtz.

“Goat fanatics are out there; they didn’t even realize they were goat people until they met a goat,” Jimenez adds.

Two rented herds of goats were first brought to the site in 2010 to clear the land of overgrown weeds, but those were working goats and were not encouraged to interact with humans.

Then, in October 2012, a new herd of “pet” goats was brought to the site by Mike Redmond, owner of Creative Woodworking NW Inc., on Southeast Taylor Street, just across from the field where the goats roam.

That herd is moving in the next few weeks to a site in Lents. To raise money for the move, and for goat pens, the owners have turned to crowdfunding and donations.

Jimenez, who works for Redmond, and the other two owners acquired the current herd in October 2013, and took self-guided, crash courses in caring for the goats. They knew that nearby neighbors were fond of the herd, but were taken by surprise when a community of goat fanciers sprang up.

by: COURTESY OF DICK TRTEK - Bambi, a member of the popular Belmont goat herd, surveys the neighborhood. The herd owners are raising money through Indigogo to move the goats to a lot in Lents.People started bringing their children and grandchildren to interact with the goats. Older people stopped by after work to decompress. One man said he was petting the goats to relieve his PTSD, Jimenez says.

“A community of elderly people stop by often in a bus, and when we see them, we take the baby goats out to them. A group of learning-disabled children came by and we could see the joy in their faces, and we even took two goats to Reed College during finals week so the students could relax with them,” he adds. “I’d like to see us doing more of that. It’s informal animal therapy, and there is a childlike sense of wonder, when people see the goats.”

Portland resident Mary Jo Bierig brought her 6-year-old grandson Mier to see the goats last week, when the weather turned sunny.

“I grew up on a farm and I like having the goats in town. I want my grandchildren to be exposed to animals in a more natural setting,” she says, adding that the last time she visited with her 4-year-old granddaughter, the goats were all rubbing up against the fence, waiting to be petted.

Crowdfunding in Lents

by: COURTESY OF DICK TRTEK - Jason Jimenez, one of the owners of the herd, feeds a special mixture of grain to two of the Belmont neighborhood goats. The goats have become a local attraction for residents and schools. But the goats will be moving sometime this month as a developer begins to build a mixed-use retail facility on the well-chewed lot.

The herd is moving to a lot on Southeast 91st Avenue, between Foster and Reedway near Lents Town Center. “We’ll be right behind the Lents Farmers Market, and our other backdoor neighbors will the Masonic Lodge and the fire station,” Jimenez says.

The owners have a one-year, rent-free lease on the land owned by the Portland Development Commission. The Lents site is not slated for development.

Jimenez and the other caretakers are working on the new spot, designing a structure that will be goat friendly, with places for four-legged creatures to climb, and benches for their human friends to sit and admire them.

“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from neighbors there, so we feel we’ll have a built-in neighborhood watch,” Jimenez says.

And, another big change is that “we are a business now, with a tax ID number,” he says.

by: COURTESY OF DICK TRTEK - Christopher Frankonis holds Winter, who has taken a liking to Tabor Moro, 6, left.  His brother, Creston, 8, says he likes coming to see the goats in the Belmont area, instead of having to drive out to a farm to visit them.Green Lents, an all-volunteer led community group based on Southeast Ramona Street, is a fiscal sponsor for the goat owners, so any donations made to the group will be tax deductible.

Although the PDC-owned land is rent-free, the herd’s owners still need money for permits and insurance, and, of course, for hay to feed the goats.

“We have an account set up at Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply, on Southeast Schiller Street, in Portland, and all the money goes to the goats,” Jimenez says.

The Belmont goats also have their own website — www.thebelmontgoats.org — and the owners launched an Indigogo crowdfunding campaign on March 30 to help pay the moving and resettling costs. The campaign that ends May 30 originally wanted to raise $7,500, but more than 200 people helped the group so far raise $8,340.

People who donated $15 to the campaign get their name on a sign outside the pen thanking supporters. A $20 donation earns a thank-you card from the goats. People who donated $50 can walk some goats around Lents Town Center (they also get a bumpersticker). The big prize for people who donate $250 is a home visit from some of the goats.

Jimenez knows the herd’s inner-Southeast neighbors are sad to see the goats move, but he’s hoping people will follow the goats and explore parts of Portland that they may have never seen.