A girl and her goat: 12-year-old raises animal from birth at Duluth home

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

DULUTH -- Madison Boles turns her head just so, allowing Lula to nibble on her earlobe.

It's something the now almost 8-month-old pygmy goat has done since she was a newborn, when Madison became her surrogate mother after Lula's own mom rejected her.

The 12-year-old Duluth resident has raised Lula -- short for Talulah -- from birth, and the often-hungry goat would try to nurse from her earlobe.

"When she was little, that's how we knew she was hungry," Madison's mom, Erica Boles said.

Since human earlobes are certainly not made for that purpose, Madison spent the first couple weeks of Lula's life waking up three to four times a night to feed the hungry newborn from a bottle filled with warm milk.

"She would sleep with the goat in her room and she would get up in the night, just like with a baby, and she would have to heat up a bottle and she bottle-fed the goat," Erica Boles said.

"Just like with a baby, but their screams are a little louder," Madison added, "a little more annoying."

Nibbling at her surrogate mom's earlobe has since become a show of affection for the tiny, playful goat, who spent the first month-and-a-half of her life living indoors with the Boles family.

"She jumped all over everything and she chewed on everything, she peed a lot," Madison said.

The latter required a bit of house training, which Madison, who said she wants to be a vet when she grows up, undertook by walking Lula outside on a leash right after she ate.

Once Lula began chewing up everything in sight, though -- most notably Madison's 10-year-old brother Caleb's birth certificate and a check -- she was moved outside to the pen she now shares with her mother Ashlii, a mix between a pygmy and a Boer goat, and a rooster named Zaxby.

"Madison did a really good job of transitioning her," Erica Boles said. "She would bring her out here for a little while and let her get used to being outside."

Still, living as a normal goat hasn't lessened Lula's attachment to Madison -- "She really thinks Madison is her mom," Erica Boles said, "and when she sees Madison outside, she'll start yelling" -- and vice versa. Madison still takes Lula for walks on a leash at least every other night, the goat sporting a pink leopard-print collar -- "It's actually supposed to be a dog collar, but it's a goat collar," Madison said -- and the Boles' neighbors along Pine Needle Drive and Craig Drive all know the tiny goat's name.

"Everybody, at a certain time, they all come out to see Lula," Madison said proudly.

But the best part of having a goat for a pet?

"Being able to have something that loves you as much as you love them and having to take care of them in a special kind of way," Madison said. "They're so curious. They just jump all around and they're always happy. They're so fun to be around."