WILSON — Janet and Larry Marker are a pretty easygoing couple.


Janet is a traveling nurse and Larry is retired. They live in a house on the outskirts of Wilson that has a fenced-in backyard and a plot of land further back that is about the size of a city block.


In March, Janet came home from her latest contract in South Dakota and two days later the COVID-19 pandemic hit with a vengeance, keeping her from her travels. While many folks are stuck at home trying to keep themselves busy, the Markers have taken up a new hobby, raising kids — the four-legged kind.


For nearly a month, the couple has been bottle-feeding and raising baby goats.


Another Wilson couple raised goats and sheep, but the wife died of complications from cancer. There were about 250 animals to care for, so the Markers asked if their neighbor needed some help.


“We decided to take care of these baby goats, that need to be bottle-fed, in honor of our neighbor who loved caring for these animals,” said Janet.


They started out with two, which they named Bonnie and Merle after Janet’s late parents. That has since turned into half a dozen. They have added Petey, Billy, Lady and Shaggy to their small herd.


“They’re a lot of fun,” Larry said. “They’re really cute.”


The goats range from three and a half weeks to just over a week old. Their mothers aren’t available to feed them, for reasons ranging from rejection of the offspring to the mother’s death. So the Markers have to bottle-feed the babies every four hours, 24 hours a day. In one case they’ve even had to utilize a syringe rather than a bottle. Janet’s skill and expertise came in handy as one of the goats was born with a problem with its leg. She put the leg in a splint and every day changes out the dressing and cleans it.


“It obviously ruins your routine,” Larry said. “They’re just like kids.”


The goats have an immense amount of energy. They run and jump and play all day long. The Markers have two hunting dogs and a cat as well. The goats love jumping on their canine siblings, and they love their adoptive parents.


“We’ve got a backyard that looks like a kid playground,” Larry said. “They just follow us like we’re their mom and dad out in the field, then follow us back to the house.”


Volunteers have stepped up to help out the sheep and goat farmer since his wife’s death, and the sheep are getting ready to birth lambs any day as well. The Markers have taken in all they can, and now they have the difficult task of deciding the future of their goats.


“We’re going to buy them, now we’re trying to decide how many of them we’re going to keep,” Janet said. “They’re just so much fun, they are like having six little babies. We’d like to keep them all, but we don’t think we have the room for them.”


They will purchase them and then look to find homes for them with families who will keep them as pets. Until then, they will continue to raise them as their own.


Two of the baby goats brought smiles to the residents at a local nursing home.


“They are just so happy and it is good to see good stuff instead of sad COVID stuff,” Janet said. “They are a lot of fun and sweet, and we wanted people to know that there is something good going on in the world.”