They chewed through brush, leaving tunnels in their wake.
They stole an unattended pizza and let an office dog take the blame.
They lurked around their home every night and disappeared every morning.
They were the missing goats of Riverwalk — as daring a trio as Ridgeland has ever seen.
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Pygmy goats Billie Jean and Billy Joel and Nubian goat Carolina, also known as “Pepper,” disappeared Dec. 2 from their home at Carolina Morning Firewood off S.C. 170 in Ridgeland. The free-ranging shop pets may have been looking for adventure beyond their Riverwalk home and its familiar, towering piles of logs. Or they may have gotten lost after wandering off in search of greener pastures, having eaten most of the fresh grass on their own property.
Either way, they were missed by Brandon and Chelsea Thiess, who have owned Carolina Morning since 2010 and the goats for a year and a half. They went on the goat-shopping expedition, to a woman in Georgia they heard about through friends, after brunch one Sunday and brought the little livestock-lawnmowers home to join the couple’s 26 chickens.
And for a year and a half, they provided weed-wacking, land-clearing, affection and entertainment for the low cost of grain — until early this month, when the Thiesses got to their office at Riverwalk Business Park and the goats were gone.
And they stayed gone all week, never spotted standing on the short piles of lumber, on the tall piles of trees or on the office stairs. Not even on the office desks, one of the few places on the property they’re not supposed to stand.
Disappointed, the couple took to Facebook’s Bluffton/Okatie Buy Sell group to widen their search about a week after the tribe took off. Brandon Thiess, 32, even advertised a cash reward for information leading to the return of his pets.
“I paid for them in the first place, and I miss them, so I’d pay a little more for them now,” he said last week.
“Missing goats not dinner,” Thiess named his post. He was kidding. But when another man joked that the animals went well with gravy, Thiess got a little worried.
“That’s kinda sick,” he wrote. “Please don’t eat people’s pet.”
But to many people, goats are not pets. And they might even be dinner.
And it’s some of these people who ultimately found Billie Jean, Billy Joel and Carolina.
At some point while they were hoofing it around the Riverwalk Business Park and the surrounding area, a man picked them up and sold them to a family in Estill for their Christmas dinner, the Thiesses say.
Luckily for the goats, Billie Jean was pregnant. The family postponed their plans when they discovered the little pygmy had a kid on the way, meaning the goats were all alive and well when the seller — having learned who the animals belonged to — asked for them back.
The Thiesses and their shop goats were reunited last Wednesday. Now they’re back to climbing things, staring at people and wandering through the Carolina Morning office in search of a scratch on the neck and a handful of grain.
They get fed three times a day now. It’s a bit more than they used to get, just a little insurance to make sure they know where the grass is really greener — with their people.
“It was a great Christmas surprise,” Chelsea said Monday of the reunion. “I think they’re happy too. I wish they could talk. I’m sure they’d tell me all kinds of things.”