BELFAST — Last winter a goat caused a kerfuffle in Belfast when it escaped during a visit to the vet. Several members of the community, nearby homeowners and law enforcement officers worked to corral the animal, which ended up swimming out into the bay.

It is the topic of a book by local artist Jerri Holmes and her friend Marci Silver. The duo is on their third rewrite of a story that they hope will inspire others the way the goat inspired them.

Just four days after Christmas 2020, Poorfoot, the goat, ran across Route 1 and started swimming into the bay. Laurie Lundgres of Albion, who owns the goat, said it is very unusual for goats to go swimming. “Goats, they come up to a puddle, they don’t want to step in the puddle,” she said. “The last thing I’d think is that he’d actually gone swimming.”

Jerri Holmes’ illustration of the rescue of a goat from the bay last winter for a book she and friend Marci Silver are writing. Courtesy of Jerri Holmes

When she met the two Belfast police officers who helped lure the goat back on land in front of a nearby home, Lundgres did not know the extent of her goat’s adventures. She was able to coax the 5-year-old goat up a set of stairs from the beach with bananas she bought at the Belfast Co-op and get him back to the vet to be seen for an abscess on his chin. The goat made a full recovery.

“When I got there, the police were standing there with the blanket over him and they were saying that they didn’t think he was going to make it, he was so hypothermic,” she said. “And I was really upset about that, because I didn’t even know what the extent of his travels in the water (had been) at this point.”

Holmes’ house overlooks the bay on Battery Road and she recalls it being a brisk day. She was making chili when she noticed police officers outside her house. Her husband went to see if he could help, and then, from her porch, she noticed the goat swimming toward Islesboro.

Jerri Holmes created this illustration for a book she and friend Marci Silver are writing about an incident last winter when a goat was rescued from the bay.

In a matter of minutes, she found herself in her sea kayak in the bay fighting cold winds and waters to help get Poorfoot back to shore while the two police officers were wading through the water to pull the goat to safety.

There were moments where she found herself risking her own safety in her efforts to save the goat, and she thought she might have to leave it and go back to shore after she lost her paddle in the water and had to recapture it. “I said to the goat, ‘Sorry, I gotta save me.’ And I did, I left that goat,” she said. “I thought that goat was going to die. … When I went back to resume the rescue, that is when the goat let me bring him to shore.”

She said it was a true community effort to bring Poorfoot back to safety, adding that if the goat had kept swimming out to sea or if her kayak had capsized, the story could have ended on a darker note.

What makes Poorfoot’s story more profound is the birth defect he was born with, which was the inspiration for his name. He was born with a twisted leg and could not walk immediately after birth, Lundgres said. After working with him for a while, they were able to mostly correct the injury.

All of these factors inspired the themes in Holmes and Silver’s book, they said. It will be a family story that follows the goat with characters based on the Belfast Police Department, Holmes and others involved in the rescue.

Silver first approached Holmes about an idea for the book. Both are developing the story, which Holmes is illustrating. Silver is using Poorfoot’s personality, which is quite different from the way people typically think about the animals, as inspiration for the story.

“I just took on this goat’s personality,” she said. “I just felt it needed a really passionate voice, a risk-taking voice, because everybody’s impression of a goat is that it does not swim, it doesn’t like water, it will stay far away from water. And it (Poorfoot) attracted itself to the water.”

Another theme in the book is survival, highlighting Holmes’ and Poorfoot’s struggles in the water, Holmes said. There were moments when Holmes and Poorfoot shared quiet looks, and other moments where Holmes was doing a lot of turn strokes to try to keep the goat from swimming out to sea.

Other possible themes for the book, Silver noted, are persistence, passion and poise. She has done a lot of research on goats and has found that they are perceptive, intelligent and timid.

The two have not secured a publisher yet , but they said the book is worth writing with or without a publisher. Holmes described herself and Silver as “self-made” — Holmes as an artist who has made a living selling her paintings and Silver as a speech pathologist who owns her own private practice and lives in New York City. They are both confident they will find a publisher, though they know it may take some time.

“Perhaps the most commonly asked question is ‘have you contacted a publisher?’ … We’re doing this, we’re writing this our way,” Holmes said. “We’re making the product we want and then we’ll take it further.”

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