A Tale Of Hope, Prayer and Perseverance
It’s been quite a while since I’ve last blogged. The ongoing tasks of getting the myriad of vegetables and fruits planted for spring and summer growing (its an endless list), doing daily battle with the weeds (we weed by hand) and opening our downtown Nashville store have kept me in whirling dervish mode – but events of this past Saturday night compel me to sit and share the following story – a story of hope, prayer and perseverance.
I was in Chattanooga at an Intensive Grazing seminar Friday and Saturday. I left midday Saturday to get back to the farm. On my way back I got a phone call from an affable fellow telling me he had picked up 2 of our Pyrenees wandering about (Pyr’s tend to get the walkabouts – but that’s a story for another time). So the Pyr’s were safely ensconced and I was on my way to rescue them from their well intentioned, albeit misguided rescue. I picked them up and got back to the farm around 8:30 pm… As usual the official greeting crew of our two golden retrievers and one sort of bird dog mix met me at the gate (they are 3 of 10 dogs roaming the farm, the majority being rescue dogs)…
Anyway I proceeded up the drive parked the truck and the rest of the dogs came to greet me as well… Once the requisite tumultuous hello’s had been addressed all around I looked out at the farm through the dark, just scanning the horizon as I often do. During that quite moment I heard a faint noise that at first was, indistinguishable. I listened hard, not sure at all what I was hearing – and then I heard it again. It struck me it was a noise of distress. I thought it must be one of the goats. It’s odd. We have 7 goats and without realizing it you come to know each one of their bleats. One is distinctive from the other. But this bleat was more of a muffled cry indicating pain or suffering or both.
We once had a goat get its hoof trapped in the fork of a tree and I thought – that must be it so I ran to the gate and ran into the pastures with my Iphone flashlight app as my light source (as limited as that is)… There was nothing in the pasture and it was hard to count heads in the dark – but again I heard that horrible, mournful bleat. Where was it coming from???
And then I saw one of the Pyr’s standing outside the pasture by one of the barn buildings and I knew. If you don’t know what Pyrenees are for or do – they are livestock guardians. Their job is to protect the livestock from predators. Well ours were whisked off by a well meaning, likely city dweller and deposited miles from our farm and their job. With one more mournful bleat echoing into the darkness, I raced and jumped the fencing, and found one of our new baby goats (just 8 weeks old) lying on the ground bleeding from a series of puncture wounds on his neck and hindquarters. Somehow he had gotten out of the pasture and had been attacked by either our dogs or a neighbors dog – but in any event he had been attacked and was clearly near death.
At first I didn’t know what to do; with the Pyr’s we had never had any of our animals attacked. I thought do I get a gun a put him out of his misery??? But how could I do that? This was Haylee’s goat. I owed it to the little guy, Bambi (his given name) and to Haylee (a beautiful, wonderful 12 year old girl) to do the best I could for all of us.
Just so you know how we came by these two new baby goats, it was in the most wonderful way.possible. One night Haylee’s mom Sara, who is my partner at the farm, was making dinner for all of us. We had harvested some arugula from the field and Sara wanted to wilt it with a bit of goat cheese. I suggested the best way to get goat cheese was to go to our friend’s farm that produced goat cheese and get it straight from the source. So we piled into the truck and off we drove the 3 miles to Dustin and Justyne’s farm at Noble Springs to get our cheese. During our greetings and introductions one of their goats birthed 3 little kids one doeling (female) and 2 kids males. Now males are of no use on a goat dairy (as you would gather)… So Haylee having witnessed the miracle of the birth of these two baby boys looked wide-eyed and we knew – we now had 2 more goats at the farm. As they are separated from their mom at birth they are bottle fed twice a day for eight weeks and then weaned. The little boy on the ground had just been weaned.
So with the little guy on the ground and the Pyr’s standing guard over him, I ran to the house got towels, a sweatshirt, a glass of bourbon and went back out to set up for a long night’s vigil. My first call was to our local vet, who I considered a friend. I got the answering service and explained the circumstances. I was told they would get right back with me – oddly I never, ever received a phone call from them….???? My next call was to our farm vet, Jennifer Hatcher, who is much further away. They have an emergency after hour’s number, which I called and got Alex Hagan, Jennifer’s assistant on the phone. I told Alex what had happened and we discussed the various options – I told him I would call him back. Next I called Sara. She was at a concert with a friend but it was her daughter’s goats and I needed to know what she wanted me to do. It didn’t hurt that Sara has a degree in Animal Science and worked as a vet tech in Colorado. I was clearly out of my element and just working on instinct and an overwhelming desire to save the little guys life – for him, for Haylee and I guess really, for all of us….
I was able to reach Sara, she was an hour away but at least on her way. I hunkered down with the goat and kept pressure on his neck wounds to stop the bleeding as he and I shared stories and a bourbon. I had serious discussions with him during those very, very long hours; that he needed to fight as hard as he could to live because there was no way I was going to explain the alternative occurrence to Haylee!!!
Well Sara finally arrived and ran to us – she went to work thoroughly examining all of the little guys wounds. Honestly, it didn’t look very good for the little guy… Sara then called Alex and they discussed the situation and various scenarios. Fortunately, Sara had recently brought her vet kit to the farm so she had some med’s in there that would help alleviate the pain and swelling.
What happened next is a bit of a blur – but happen it did. Sara picked Bambi up and started running towards the house. I asked,” what are you doing” – she told me “Bambi needed to get out of the cold”. I was further instructed to throw a bunch of towels into the dryer to make them warm and to get some old quilts.
So I ran to do what Sara needed me to do.. I happened to ask – “where are you going with the goat”???? “To your bed was the reply”… My bed????!!!! Really???????
Well with warm towels and 2 comforters I ran down the hall to find Sara lying in my bed next to the goat holding his neck and keeping pressure on the wounds. I did as instructed and covered Bambi with the warm towels and we laid him in the comforter so he would be comfortable. And I took up my position on the opposite side of the little guy. And for the rest of the night till 6 am we took turns holding the little guy – dozing off and coming awake to anguished cries. We noticed small changes in his breathing and horrible gurgling noises, but we didn’t mention these things to one another, we just held on. We kept our all night vigil and held him tight and when morning finally came – we whisked him to Alex’s and Jennifer Hatcher’s office where Alex put drains in the little guys wounds, injected antibiotics and shaved and cleaned more wounds – he did everything he could.
The little guy was still going to need to dig deep to make it and survive. Well we put him up in a stall in the big barn in a dog crate with his brother Thumper (yes Haylee named them Bambi and Thumper – what names would you expect a 12 year old girl to come up with????).. Goats do not like to be alone – they become depressed, not unlike people – so in went Thumper happy to see his brother!!! On my first visit to the stall later in the day I was sure he had not made it. There were flies all over him and he was motionless. I knelt at the crate and prodded him gently and then one eye opened. He was still with us!!! The little guy was a fighter!!! I took a bowl of water and tried wetting his tongue and then sprayed some fly spray and went on to other chores.
Yesterday was Tuesday. I came up to feed him a bottle of milk and electrolytes and found him standing, shaky as could be, but standing none the less in his crate. Today I went up for morning feeding and found him standing in the stall ( I left the door to the crate open just in case) and walking very gingerly, but walking!!!! Haylee is on her way, right now, to feed Bambi his afternoon bottle.
So today I will construct a gate to keep Bambi safe in the stall while he recovers but one that lets him see the rest of the residents of the barn, especially his brother. We hope in a short period of time he will be joining his buddies in the pasture!!!!
Life can be very hard to understand and a farm is nothing if not a microcosm of life and all that it holds for us: The turning of the seasons, the miracle of birth and joyous life, growth and harvest. And yet there is also the inevitability of decline and death But it seems with a measure of hope, a dose of prayer and a big heaping, helping of perseverance – you can find your way and take a walk in the pasture.