Death is a harsh reality.
Yes, it’s a necessary part of life. Jesus said:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” (John 12:24)
Without death, you couldn’t HAVE life. And in some instances, death even has its own unique beauty to it.
I understand all that.
But it’s still hard to lose a loved one — whether it’s a person or an animal.
Unfortunately, our “rural” lifestyle regularly forces us to come in contact with death. Whether it’s a chick that didn’t quite have the strength to hatch from its shell, or our Holstein steer, Rump, who’ll be facing the butcher-block in November, death is a regular visitor here on the old homestead.
It makes sense though; the more intimately you deal with life, the more you’ll be exposed to death. Even if it’s just the plants in your garden, when you take an active role in cultivating and caring for living things, you’re gonna have to deal with losing one every once in awhile.
That being said, remember how we welcomed two bouncing baby goats into the world on Thursday? Well, the little black one, “Skunk,” started to go downhill pretty fast Friday evening.
He’d been eating and playing and frollicking like normal all day long, just like a healthy little kid should. But when I got him and his sister out of the dog crate to give them their evening meal, he didn’t want to stand up.
I thought he might still be a little sleepy, since I did just wake him up. (And let’s face it, I know exactly how that feels — I feel the same way every morning!) So I gently picked him up and brought him into the kitchen while I mixed up the bottles.
I got out the milk replacer, heated some water, whisked it all together, and divvied it out into the two separate bottles. But he was still acting pretty lethargic.
His sister was bounding all over the kitchen, sticking her nose into every little nook and cranny, her tail wagging as exuberantly as any puppy’s. But Skunk, on the other hand, just stood there with his ears back, his head drooping. He had a sad, far-away look in his eyes. And most depressing of all, his little tail wasn’t wagging at all. It was enough to break your heart.
When I put the rubber nipple in his mouth, all he’d do is gum it a time or two, and then spit it out.
I’m no goat expert, but even I could tell that he wasn’t doing too good.
Not knowing exactly what to do for him, I decided I’d hurry up and feed Edelweiss her bottle and put her back, before she got a chance to pee or poo on the kitchen floor. But, as luck would have it, I wasn’t fast enough. Edelweiss peed AND pooed on the kitchen floor — and by the time I got it all cleaned up and disinfected and put her back in the garage, poor Skunk was having a hard time standing on his own; his back legs just kept giving out on him.
I tried feeding him the bottle, to no avail. So I busted out the syringe and force-fed him a bit. But he still wasn’t snapping out of it.
I could see he was fading fast, and it was time to turn on some tough love…
Every time his back legs gave out on him, I’d grab him roughly by the scruff of his back and stand him up again. I’m sure it hurt the poor little guy; he would scream and cry when I did it. But that little jolt of pain and adrenaline seemed to bolster his strength a bit.
Over and over again, he’d slowly slink down to the floor, and I’d reach down there and pick him back up. He’d stand strong for a minute or two, and then slowly fall to the floor.
It definitely wasn’t looking good for him.
When 11 o’clock rolled around, he had pretty much given up. He couldn’t stand, and he wasn’t even crying out when I picked him up by the scruff. I kinda figured that he was nearing the end, so I did the only thing left for me to do: I sent my prayers toward heaven and turned my eyes toward “Google.”
With Skunk nestled in my arms, I quickly scanned through dozens of scientific research articles, blog posts, and forum discussions — and they all seemed to be prescribing the same treatment: warm him up!
For the next hour or so, I was playing a frantic game of “Ring Around the Rosies.” I’d pop a towel in the dryer, warm it up, wrap Skunk in it, and then start the dryer again with a second towel.
Midnight came and went, without any noticeable improvement. In fact, things seemed to be getting worse. Skunk’s breathing was getting shallower, and he was having a hard time keeping his head up. Plus, I was exhausted. I had only gotten a few hours of sleep the night before (see Goat Drama: Part II for details), and it had only been a couple of days since my other nearly-all-nighter with Vin (Goat Drama: Part I), so I decided to call it quits with the hot towel treatment.
Instead, I put that stinky little goat kid inside my shirt, right next to my skin, and slumped exhaustedly into my ugly orange armchair. I figured all I could do at this point was help him stay comfortable (and pray) until the end came. It might sound kinda strange, but I even talked to him quite a bit — pleading with him to stick with me, and telling him about all the stuff he had to look forward to: lush, green weeds in the pasture (and lots of ’em), running and jumping on the woodpile. That sort of thing.
There were a couple of times through the night where he appeared to stop breathing on me, so I’d frantically rub and/or pinch him until he started back up again — but eventually my own tiredness got the better of me. I drifted off to sleep in the armchair (with Skunk still tucked inside my shirt), more-or-less resigned to the fact that I’d be digging a little hole in the morning to bury our poor baby goat.
I didn’t sleep long though. Just a few exhausted, dreamless hours. And I was awakened abruptly with a punch to the trachea!
My eyes were still trying to focus, when I took another punch — this time to the chin!
That little baby goat had miraculously come back from the valley of the shadow of death, and decided he was hungry. He’d wriggled his way up through my shirt and… PUNCH! He rammed his little nose into me a third time and started sucking on my chin! Talk about a wakeup call!
It’s been nearly two weeks since then. Skunk and Edelweiss are still doing great. Vin is producing a fair amount of delicious milk for us (only out of her left side, of course). And although life is totally hectic, and each day begins and ends with bottle-feeding two crazy little goat kids, I’m happy to say that the goat drama has subsided.
(For now, anyway!)
As always, I’ll keep you posted.