November 23, 2008

Talking About Trouble

As I stepped outside in the morning fog this morning I took note of all of our goats, all sleeping in family groups, all peaceful. In the choice spot beside the hay rack sleeps "Trouble" a red and white paint colored goat with dark horns that curve back, beside her sleeps her 3 year old daughter, "Annie" who is a carbon copy of her mom in appearance. Annie's head is resting on her mother's back like it is a snuggly pillow. I couldn't help but smile at this goat, sleeping beside one of her daughters; she has been a part of this farm for over six years now.

How do I introduce "Trouble"? She is a 7/8 Boer doe bred up from Spanish stock. She is our second oldest goat and our herd Queen. This is a prestigious position, "herd queen" is the dominate female in a herd of goats, she is the boss and all the other female goats in the herd follow her lead. Trouble has overcome much adversity in her life to get where she is today, six years ago I didn't even know if she was going to survive, let alone lead the whole herd someday.

I guess I should start at the beginning. "Trouble" came to this farm many years ago as a 3 1/2 week old bottle baby, she was one of triplets and her breeder pulled one kid from each triplet birth and bottle fed them. Soon after bringing her and her half-sister "Sunny" (who was another bottle baby) home Trouble got sick, between the foul diarrhea and her listless demeanor we knew she needed to see a vet. Trouble and Sunny were some of our very first goats and we didn’t have the experience to know she had coccidiosis, in fact she has been our only known case of coccidia we have had in our goats.
At any rate, off to the vet we went with Trouble in tow. We brought a fecal sample, but we wouldn’t need it for no sooner had baby Trouble been set upon the exam table than she let loose with more wretched, foul, greenish-black diarrhea than should have ever came out of an animal that small. Apparently this made Trouble feel much better because she seemed to wake up and get happier as she started wagging her little tail as fast as she could. The awful liquid poop was being flung from her tail everywhere! On the walls, the table, us…well when the s*#!t is flying…literally… it is every man for himself and I momentarily backed up to one door of the exam room as the vet shuffled back out the other, leaving my poor husband holding Trouble at arms length and gagging as he happened to be the unfortunate soul who was holding her on the table at the time and for him there was no escape. For not really being an animal person, at least not like I am he took it all fairly well.
The vet got a fecal sample, it certainly wasn't difficult for him to find one and Trouble was soon diagnosed. We brought her home with medication and a trash bag tied around her backend. We joke about it now, but the fact was Trouble was an extremely sick kid, we got her started on the medication but she quit eating. I had to feed her with a syringe just to keep her alive and I didn’t know if she was going to make it or not, but with a lot of love, patience and work Trouble did get over her sickness and started making slow progress. She had fallen behind her sister Sunny in development but she was catching up fast as she got better every day. Several months went by and Trouble did recover, she seemed back to her old self, running and playing with Sunny and our other goat at the time “Monica”. Just as things was looking up we suffered what was no doubt our worst day in goat keeping we have ever had, it was the day of the big dog attack.

I was in the house one evening when I heard a dog barking, but it sounded far away and I didn’t think too much about it. This was before we had Livestock Guardian Dogs when our goat farm was in it’s infancy with just three goats. Our large house dog “Kody” who had always been so fantastic with the goats was here though and he ran to the door barking and wanting out. I let him out and soon after heard the sound of dogs, as I opened the door just as Kody come running back in and that is when an enormous Rottweiler appeared at the crest of the hill. I didn’t hear or see the goats and my heart seemed to sink into my stomach and my blood ran cold when I saw the second Rottweiler because I knew what that meant for our goats. The second rottweiler had our cat D.C in a tree, thank goodness the cat had the sense to run to the nearest tree. That is when I heard one of the goats bleat and I knew at least one of them was still alive. I grabbed a couple leashes and Jamey, my husband told me “you can’t go out there”, but I had to save my goats.

Jamey was afraid and he has good reason to be, he still carries a very noticeable scar where he was attacked by a large dog as a child and had to have close too 100 stitches to sew his cheek back together. I have been around German Shepherds since birth and trained one of my mom’s shepherds at 8 years old, so I was foolish and unafraid. I told Jamey they would sense his fear and if he went out it would just make things worse, I told him to call our neighbor and ask him to come over with his gun as we had no gun at the time and to call the sheriffs dept.
These dogs were someone’s pets loose on a rampage, I could tell by how well fed and healthy they looked. So I started giving them commands, “No” “Sit” They were apprehensive but I was able to catch both of them and tie them up, of course after tying the large male up he reverted back to aggressiveness and growled and barked at the end of the leash. As soon as that was done I immediately went to check on the goats as my husband met our neighbor in the driveway who had came with his rifle. (The dogs were returned to their owner unharmed) The sheriff’s dept said they could not respond to dog calls unless a person was being attacked and to call animal control, but animal control does not respond to any calls outside of city limits and not out in the country where we are.

I got to Monica and she was standing stock still, but seemed unharmed, although we would later find out she was lame and had a neck injury, but she would recover. I turned and that is when I saw Sunny. She was on her side in a dry ditch we have running through our goat pasture, she was dead and from her injuries it was a horrible death for her. Sunny was my favorite, I had named her Sunny because of her happy, “Sunny” personality but now she was gone. I didn’t have time to grieve I had to find the other baby, Trouble. She was standing beside a tree, leaning against it like she didn’t have the strength to hold herself up. Talking quietly to her I approached her and picked her up, I felt sticky wetness on my hand and discovered she had puncture wounds on her neck and head and she was bleeding and appeared to be in shock. I came around the side of the house carrying Trouble and asked Jamey to call the vet. By this time it was almost dark and well after hours for our vet, but being the wonderful people they are they agreed to meet us at the office after hours. I thanked our neighbor and since things were under control at the house we rushed Trouble to the vet’s office in our car, Jamey driving and myself holding the now 3 month old Trouble.

By the time we got to the vet’s office I had so much blood on my shirt and shoulder the vet thought I had been hurt as well. Luckily I had not, but Trouble was and he and his wife went to work on saving her life. It was touch and go through the night and they ended up keeping her there over night, but by the next day she was doing much better, in fact she was following Scott the vet around the office like a puppy. (They have since moved and we sure do miss them, they were wonderful vets) This was in the summer and the temps were over 100 degrees outside and Trouble was still very fragile and certainly not out of the woods, she had a long recovery ahead of her. So I bought a pair of those pants they sell for female dogs when they come into heat for her to use like a diaper, since she certainly wasn’t housebroken and we kept her in the house while she recovered from the dog attack.

She was a pretty cute kid, prancing about the house in her purple paisley colored pants as she recovered and quickly claimed the sofa her own. She would lie on our laps on the sofa while we watched t.v in the evening and would butt the cat when she thought we weren’t looking. It wasn’t long until she was healthy enough to go back outside and even at 3 months old she was still large enough to leave bruises when she jumped up on our laps if we sat down somewhere in the house. For a long time, well until she was a year old Trouble would still sneak into the house every opportunity she could, if the back door got left open we could bet we would come back in the house to find a trail of goat berries down the hall leading to a near grown goat laying on the sofa like that was just where she belonged.

We did baby her, we couldn’t help it. For several months after the dog attack we thought she might have suffered some brain damage from being shaken by the dogs, she just didn’t act right, she acted a little…slow...for lack of a better word and she didn’t fit in with the rest of the goats. By the time Trouble was a year old our herd had grown and she was an outcast. The other goats picked on her unmercifully; she was an outsider that preferred the company of people over the other goats. She seemed to think she was a person or at least a dog, but she was always there to help us with whatever farm chore needed done, whether it was carrying off our tools, “supervising” all farm work being done or just trying to climb in our laps if we sat down on the ground to work on fence. She demanded attention, like the spoiled child she was and let me tell you it will make people driving down the road slow down and stare when you are sitting outside with an 80lb goat laying in your lap, sleeping contently with her head on your shoulder.

We loved her but Trouble needed to learn she was a goat! She did learn this, and over time she surprised us by not only fitting into the herd but eventually becoming the matriarch of the whole herd and she out grew her “slow” behavior and started acting like a regular goat. Except for the round spots of white hair where rottweiler teeth had punctured her head and neck, one would never know what all this goat has been through. She is a strong, healthy, six year old now, quickly approaching her seventh birthday. It is really a miracle she survived first coccidia and then a vicious dog attack, but she did and I am so thankful for that. She is an integral and much loved part of our herd and she went on to give us lots of beautiful kids, her colorful bucks are almost always the first kids chosen by buyers and her beautiful daughters are always some of my favorite kids each year. Trouble was our first goat “Grandma” in the herd, and we now have Trouble daughters and Granddaughters gracing our herd. I can’t imagine Shiloh Prairie Farm without her; it is amazing and beautiful to see her here today, sleeping beside the hay rack with her kid using her as a pillow.

(The picture is of Trouble as a 2 year old, pregnant with her first kid at the time. You can see more recent pictures of Trouble by spending some Quiet Time with the Goat Herd.)


Anonymous said...

I always enjoy hearing your goat stories Jennifer;)

Joanna said...

First, I love red goats. I have three Nigerian Dwarf Dairy does but none are red or have red in them. I'll be looking for red next Spring.

Secondly, thank you for the nice writeup about Trouble. Dogs, coyotes, whatever, I'd be out there like a mama bear protecting her young.

Diana said...

An incredible story! I never thought that people who keep farm animals go to so much trouble for one single individual. Very inspiring. Today I read James Herriot's "Let Sleeping Vets Lie" about a similar case when an Alsatian had rampaged through a sheep flock and some 50 sheep had fallen down seemingly dead (afterwards it turned out that stressed had caused some sudden calcium difficiency and it was a happy end for a story, but nerve-wracking anyway, I am sure). I cannot even imagine what you must have felt running out and knowing that Rotweilers (of all dogs!) were running loose! God I would be SO scared! How can people let such animals run anywhere without any surveillance?
A very touching story, and so well written!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* Tonia said...

I think most people who keep farm animals go that extra mile but also know when its a lost cause and its better to end the suffering... I know I have splinted legs and done all kinds of things to save an animal. Neat story!! I had one of those 80 lb lap dogs... or a few them!!lol My first 2 goats were babies!! We would sit out in the field with them and they would lay all over us. My Sunshine Is now queen of the herd!! Only one is as bossy but she defers to Sunshine.
I posted the Meme on my blog!! Have a good evening!

Jennifer said...

Thank you Amy!

Thank you Joanna! I like red goats too. Rose is my favorite colored goat in our herd, she is a dark red with black points and a black stripe down her back. I love the color that SweetPea and your other buff colored Nigerian Dwarf goat is too, they are such a soft, pretty color.

Thank you Diana, That sounds like a very interesting story, I will have to check it out someday. People that let their dogs run loose when they have neighbors with livestock or poultry just drives me nuts, I don't know why they do it either.

Jennifer said...

Thank you Tonia! It sounds like you have some very special goats in your herd too.

Becky said...

I enjoyed you story. I don't have any goats but I have a goat dog and a couple mini horses. Goats are on my things to get list.

Anonymous said...

Trouble sounds like my kind of gal!
She is a tough cookie.
I enjoyed your goat story and Trouble's picture.
I wish you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving, Jennifer.

Jennifer said...

Thank you Becky and Pam!

Juri said...

Oh, I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed this story about Trouble!! I had tears of sadness and tears of joy throughout the story! Happy Thanksgiving to you and those you love!!


Shiloh Prairie Farm said...

Thank you Juri!