Meet Moonpie the goat, a therapy animal who helps children with disabilities

Blakeley Bartee

STATESBORO — With the help of an unusually calm goat, one Georgia Southern University elementary and special education instructor is helping students with disabilities socialize.

Moonpie, a Nigerian Dwarf goat born premature and the runt of her litter, is a certified therapy animal. Her owner, Tonya Cooper, saw therapeutic potential in Moonpie when she noticed how calm the goat remained when interacting with people, according to a GS press release.

“I have three goats because I was envisioning having people be able to visit my farm and play with the goats outside in their environment,” Cooper said in the press release. “But as I realized Moonpie’s temperament was much calmer than the other two, I would take her places, and she behaved so well around shoppers. People really enjoyed seeing and spending time with her.”

Cooper said goats offer a unique approach to animal assisted therapy, according to the press release, thanks to their curious, nosey and attention-seeking nature.

For children with disabilities who struggle with socializing and communication, therapy goats can provide stress relief and improved mood during and after an interaction, according to the press release.

“For students, especially those with disabilities, goat therapy offers them the opportunity to interact without rejection or judgment,” Cooper said in the press release. “It’s hard to explain, but when Moonpie goes into schools to visit with the special-needs students, she thrives. She pushes for interaction with those who are hesitant to interact with her, and once she gets to know them, she will crawl into their laps and just want to be held.”

During one school visit, a nonverbal student was initially scared to interact with Moonpie, Cooper said in the press release. However, after watching the goat from afar, he began to pet and interact with her. By the end of the visit, the student allowed Moonpie to crawl into his lap, and he made sounds to try to communicate with her, according to the press release.

“You just cannot fully understand until you see it for yourself,” Cooper said in the press release.

Moonpie visits the College of Education on the Statesboro and Armstrong campuses at least two times per semester, according to the press release.

Blakeley Bartee, The George-Anne Editor-in-Chief,