My virtual reality

 It all started when I walked into the Hallmark shop in the Mall of America a couple of months ago.

I was walking among the rows of gift items when my eyes caught sight of the cutest little stuffed animal. It was white, with floppy ears, nubbins for horns and a beard.

Do you know what it was? You can have just one guess!

Have you guessed?

OK, it was a taog (I spelled it backwards, just in case you haven’t guessed yet).

By now, most of you know that I used to raise goats when I was growing up on the farm. It was then that I started my goat collection — everything from goats in paintings to ceramic goats, goat puzzles and goat stuffed animals.

I looked at this goat — a Webkinz — and decided that although it was really cute, I just didn’t have the extra money to buy myself one for Christmas (I’d already bought myself a Christmas gift — a new dSLR camera).

Well, as you can imagine, a few hours later I was wishing I had purchased that adorable little goat.

On the way back to Worthington, Mom and I stopped at every Hallmark shop we could think of, but none of them had a stuffed goat. In fact, few of them carried Webkinz.

I was a bit familiar with the Webkinz. Nephew Blake had a hedgehog Webkinz and spent one weekend at my house playing on the Webkinz website. (Yes, they have an entire website devoted to those cute little critters!)

I told Blake about the Webkinz goat over Christmas, and he told me I had to get it. If I did, he said I could be his neighbor and bring my goat over to visit his hedgehog.

I gave up on ever finding the goat in an actual store, ultimately ordering one online. It arrived in the mail about a week ago, and on Saturday night, nephew Zach and niece Katie helped me create a Webkinz account for my pretty little pet goat.

The box said it was a Webkinz Billy Goat, but when I created the account, I was asked whether my pet was male or female.

I’m now the proud owner of a female Billy Goat — now that’s a first! Her name is Travel’R, named in honor of the goat that was the matriarch of my herd, the girl that would follow me around the yard like a dog, the girl that is buried on the hill in the goat pasture, just west of the barn she called home.

Anyway, my virtual Travel’R is absolutely nothing like my real Travel’R.

According to the Webkinz website, Travel’R’s favorite food is alfalfa fajitas. I can buy them at the Webkinz store for 25 coins, I believe.

When I feed my virtual Travel’R her alfalfa fajitas, a thought bubble pops up and she tells me how much she loves alfalfa fajitas. And then she tells me how much she loves me for buying them for her.

Aw, how cute is that?

Zach and Katie helped me create Travel’R’s room, which is like a room in a house — not a room in a barn.

There were no straw bales available for purchase, no hay manger or water bucket.

Instead, I purchased a couch with pillows and a peach lamp.

The next morning, I logged in to see how Travel’R was doing and, boy, did I get a surprise.

My virtual goat had chewed up the couch! There were holes in the seat cushions, holes in the back cushion and a little brown thing that I can only imagine is a gift of goat droppings!

Uffda.

After the shock wore off, I had Zach help me create an outdoor room for Travel’R — she might enjoy free space with grass, trees and plants a whole lot more than a couch.

Then again, I realized Thursday morning that if I click on my virtual Travel’R, and then click on the couch, she climbs up on the cushion, starts bouncing high up in the air and says, “Wee, Wee.”

Well, this ought to be an interesting adventure.

I wasn’t too sure I’d be a frequent visitor to my Webkinz room, although Blake warned me that if I don’t feed my goat, she’s going to die. Now, I feel obligated to check on her at least once a week. I don’t think she can cause any more damage to the couch, but I put a chair and a dresser in her room on Thursday. I’m a bit curious to see what she’s going to do to wreck them.

I wish I could say she’d leave the furniture alone if I kept her full of alfalfa fajitas, but I know from raising goats in the real world that they love to sample just about anything.

I guess there is a bit of reality in the virtual world after all.

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