Residents of Gage County and visitors to the area can now go glamorous camping or “glamping” with goats and other animals, due to a local rescue shelter’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jen Schurman has run Shepherd’s Rest Goat and Sheep Rescue near Pickrell for four years now, and said at the peak last December, she was caring for roughly 90 animals.
Schurman said the pandemic cancelled the shelter’s events last year like goat yoga and school discussions, and the restrictions on veterinary care meant adoptions were put on hold, as well.
“Our vets have been wonderful, as far as helping us, but during that first six months, really, after COVID hit, they weren’t even making farm calls,” Sherman said. “So we couldn’t get everybody wethered, which is the goat term for neutered, because we couldn’t get the vet out to do it. So that was a delay. But we have adopted out five so far this year, and we’ve got a couple more that are just at the end of their socialization process, that are already adopted but just haven’t been taken to their new homes yet because they needed a little bit more work on their social skills.”
Schurman said the spring of 2020 was the most difficult, because she tested positive for COVID when little was known about the virus, making it difficult for her to find volunteers willing to help care for the animals.
“People were afraid ‘if I touched the hose and she’s touched the hose, am I going to get COVID?’ So I was having to work through while I was off work with COVID, and I was really sick,” Schurman said. “I was having to continue to take care of everybody. I did have a couple of volunteers who worked in healthcare with me who were willing to come out, but aside from that it was pretty much me pulling everything.”
Schurman said the cost of feeding the animals alone is roughly $525 each month, so the rescue needed a way to make income considering the pandemic. She said she started working with a company called Harvest Hosts, that alerts people who own RVs and campers where they can camp.
“Then basically, you just give them a tour and they get to enjoy the property,” Schurman said. “In our case, a lot of people that participate in Harvest Hosts are like wineries and more commercial businesses. With us, we don’t really have merchandise to sell, so we just allow people to make donations for staying.”
Schurman said campers can also play with the goats and help care for them if they want, or they can just enjoy walking the trails and having peace and quiet. She said the rescue also works with a similar organization called Hipcamp, and that they have one camper available as an Airbnb, with a second one being renovated.
“We averaged, I think, about 19 nights a month that we had campers,” Schurman said. “That revenue is what saved us, is having those folks come, and the donations that they made is what kept us going.”
With their events being cancelled, the camping has had a huge impact on the animals still being socialized to different people before they get adopted.
“And also, I think another important part is a lot of our campers do have pets,” Schurman said. “Our goats are used to our dogs, and our dogs are humongous, so it gets the goats used to smaller dogs, medium sized dogs, it gets them more experienced to know that those things also aren’t scary. You don’t know if they’re going to end up ultimately being adopted to a home that has dogs, so all of those things are really helpful.”
Goat yoga has been able to return this summer, typically taking place at the rescue on the second Saturday of the month, and at the Gateway Mall in Lincoln on the last Saturday of the month.
Schurman said goats make a good workout partner and therapy aid because they were domesticated thousands of years ago, and are cued into human expressions.
“There are studies that have shown a goat will remember a person five years after the last time they met them, so there’s a lot of natural connectivity,” Schurman said. “Plus, goats are a neutral therapeutic palette, where people don’t have negative experiences like some do with dogs. Obviously, I love both, but it allows the animal to go in and do the work without having to fight through that negative background that somebody might have.”
More information and upcoming events can be found at the Shepherd’s Rest Goat and Sheep Rescue page on Facebook, or at shepherdsrestrescue.com/