Beach-loving goats in western P.E.I. don't know they're supposed to hate water

·3 min read
Beach Goats is an interactive tourist attraction run by Devon Saila on a private beach about 30 minutes from Summerside.  (Victoria Walton/CBC - image credit)
Beach Goats is an interactive tourist attraction run by Devon Saila on a private beach about 30 minutes from Summerside. (Victoria Walton/CBC - image credit)

On a private beach half an hour west of Summerside, kids are having fun. But these aren't human kids, they're goats.

"This is going on our fourth summer," said Devon Saila, who runs a business aptly named Beach Goats. "But I've had the goats for seven years."

The herd can be found participating in yoga classes, balancing on stand-up paddleboards, grazing on seaweed or walking along the sandbar at low tide.

"Every new activity that comes along we sort of give it a go, we try something new," said Saila. "We very much want the goats to be happy and to do what they want to do, as opposed to us making them into circus animals."

Victoria Walton/CBC
Victoria Walton/CBC

There are 26 beach goats right now, but that number fluctuates with births in the spring and rescues throughout the year. Each goat has a name and of course, a personality.

"They're like a classroom full of kids," said Saila. "So you have your popular girls, you have your shy girls, you have your wallflowers, you have your sporty ones, you have your annoying ones."

But the thing that separates them most from other goats is their surroundings.

Instead of eating hay from a field, they're munching on kelp and seaweed as they trot down the beach. Instead of hating water like most goats, they actually love it.

Victoria Walton/CBC
Victoria Walton/CBC

"They didn't know any difference," said Saila. "They thought that's what life was, and then as we got more goats, they just copied what the older goats did. And now all of them think that they belong in the water."

While the goats don't go swimming far from shore, Saila said they love to wade in the water to cool off on hot days.

No matter who you are, what you look like, what you sound like. If you want to love the goats, they just want to love you back. — Devon Saila

And to keep the bugs away when out on the beach, the goats often sport clothing doused in bug spray. But Saila said that's not the only reason: "It's stinkin' cute, I mean it's just adorable."

On a recent Sunday morning, the goats could be heard baa-ing on the beach during yoga.

"We do it once a week and it's absolutely the highlight of my week," said yoga instructor Colleen MacIsaac.

Victoria Walton/CBC
Victoria Walton/CBC

MacIsaac says guiding people through poses like a modified downward dog (downward goat), is a great introduction to both yoga and goats.

"There are so many people who have never been around goats or any type of farm animals, this brings them into that world. There's so many people who've never tried yoga, and that's just such a non-threatening way to try that as well." she says. "You just can't help but laugh and smile. And I think everybody needs a break from their normal, regular lives."

Yoga participants agree. Derryl Caillemer was visiting PEI from Ontario.

"You're kind of in the zone of doing yoga, so your eyes are closed. You don't know when they're coming, where they're going. It was nice."

Cassandra Bui was visiting from Quebec, and said it's not an experience you can find anywhere else.

"Goats everywhere on your back, jumping and stuff," she said. "Just happiness, really."

Victoria Walton/CBC
Victoria Walton/CBC

Saila said she often gets feedback that the goats are therapeutic. But right now there's no licensing for therapy goats like there is for therapy dogs.

"We do have some special needs people that come out and join us," she said.

"They find it great because the animals, they're accepting. No matter who you are, what you look like, what you sound like. If you want to love the goats, they just want to love you back."

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