Saying so long to Bubba

Feb. 03, 2014 @ 04:42 PM

The ram on the lam is out of the slam.

But the future, although brighter for Bubba now that he’s no longer attacking his own reflection in shiny Durham neighborhood cars or chewing shrubs, remains uncertain.

On Friday morning, bidders gathered on Dave Artigues’ farm in Rougemont to get a look at the celebrity sheep.

Not a goat, they quickly point out. In case any doubts existed before, Bubba the Goat on Twitter is an imposter.
He’s a sheep. But what kind of sheep?

Not the woolly kind, to be sure. Instead, Bubba – estimated to be between 4- and 6-years-old – is a “hair breed.” Literature handed out before the auction by Artigues said: “Although his exact breed is a matter of speculation, the sheep farmers we harangued seem to agree that he is likely a Barbados or Katahdin (or a cross thereof).”

We apologize for any identity issues or mental distress Bubba may have suffered from ever being labeled a goat.

The literature also explains: “Bubba is most certainly a feral animal, and should be understood as such. He is fearful of humans, but has grown more interested in and slightly less wary of people with predictable daily contact. He would rather flee than fight, but if he feels trapped, he will charge and ram structures, and may threaten to charge people if he is truly panicked.”

Clearly, a wild sheep isn’t for just any average pet owner. I didn’t take any cash along for bidding. My dog Huckleberry does enough damage around our house.

“He can easily go over a 5-foot-fence if frightened, so accommodations should be made by his buyer to prevent him from returning to the wilds of suburbia,” the flier read.

The bidding, managed by Capt. Will Oakley of the Durham County Sheriff’s Office, started at $100.

Only two people placed bids. The first was Justin Van Kleeck of Hillsborough, representing the North Carolina Network for Farm Animal Rescue and also Red Dog Farm, an animal rescue organization in Greensboro. The second was Elaine Walker, a physician assistant at a mental health clinic who also has a farm in Orange County where she raises goats and sheep for wool.

Sheriff’s officials wanted to raise enough money to cover the $850 in expenses that the department incurred in the pursuit, capture and treatment of Bubba since last summer. Any extra beyond that would’ve gone to Durham Public Schools, as required by law.

Unfortunately, the bids maxed out at $300, with Van Kleeck the victor.

“It would’ve been nice to get all that money back for the county,” Oakley said. “But it all helps.”

When it became obvious that she couldn’t outbid Van Kleeck, Walker asked: “You’re not going to eat him, are you?”

“No,” Van Kleeck said.

“We’re vegans,” a woman with his group added.

Nobody wanted to eat Bubba, they said. Everyone wanted to save him.

“I’m pretty disappointed,” Walker said after the auction. “But I’m glad he’s going to a sanctuary.”

Marilyn Murchison’s Durham home provided Bubba with shrubs to nibble and cats to stare at. She attended Friday’s auction so that she could get a sense of closure.

“I’m so grateful to everybody who opened their hearts and wallets and found his forever home,” Murchison said.

Virginia Fitt, a spokeswoman for Red Dog Farm, said that Bubba will be adopted as a companion animal after receiving veterinary care while in a foster environment.

“Red Dog has a rigorous adoption process that requires providing veterinary and farrier references and verification of adequate facilities to care for the animals,” Fitt said.

Any adoption agreement will include specific provisions barring Bubba’s transfer, sale or other commercial use.

“We hope Bubba’s wanderlust will be cured once he’s a loved family member of someone with the experience and facilities to provide him compassionate life-long care,” Fitt said.

Artigues recommended castration for Bubba, noting that it might calm his aggressive tendencies. He’s a picky eater, but seems especially to love bok choy, roses and decorative shrubbery.

“I just want him to live out his days around his own kind,” Artigues said. “He’s been under a lot of stress. He’ll make someone a good pet, for sure. He just needs some space.”

The trickiest part of Friday morning’s auction came after bidding and payment, when Bubba had to transition from shed and cage to a waiting trailer attached to a truck.

Sheriff’s officials turned part of the cage into a makeshift chute leading to the trailer’s open sliding back door. Van Kleeck and his companions braced the fence in case Bubba tried to blast through.

But, after a few panicky false starts, Bubba eventually hoofed it ever-so-casually into the trailer without trying to escape.

And so Durham County bids a fond, if slightly nervous, farewell to Bubba. Who knows if our paths shall cross again?

“It’s been fun to have a legend on the farm,” Antigues said.

Wes Platt can be reached at wplatt@heraldsun.com or 919-419-6684. Follow on Twitter at @HS_WesPlatt. Connect on Facebook at facebook.com/wesplattheraldsun.