Posted in Raised by a village

How’s Bert?

“How’s Bert?” 

“He’s showing signs of being a goat each day.” 

Last month, when Bert and Ernie were born, I never imagined the weeks of daily bottle feeding. And let me clarify that I say “bottle-feeding” as a nicety. Bert never latched on to a synthetic nipple, and I tried 3 different kinds. When Jim took Bert to the vet, she taught Jim how to run  tube down his esophagus, add a syringe and slowly inject 60 ml of milk replacer into the rumen. Jim them taught me. Each morning at 0530 and at night, Jim held Bert in a laundry basket on his lap in the kitchen, I ran the feeding tube down that little goat’s throat.  I  pushed 2 syringes full of warm milk replacer into this adorable little goat’s  first stomach. I removed the tube, sanitized it and the syringes for the next feeding preparation. Bert settled for the night in the laundry basket under the table. This was the twice daily “bottle feeding” routine that we maintained for nearly 3 weeks. 

One day at the office, a coworker asked about Bert. Another coworker walked into the room as I said, “He’s doing much better, we give him a bottle, and he sleeps through the night on a blanket in a laundry basket under the kitchen table.”  The other coworker asked, “do you need an air mattress? Or do we need to take up a fund for a crib?”  

I replied, “no, I don’t think my goat would appreciate an air mattress, but thank you.” 

Each morning, we put Bert back into the pasture and his bleating brought Julie Andrews running as if to say, “my baby, you brought my baby!”  Bert now trots a little and is able to keep up with the herd as they browse the pasture. The donkeys are the kid-sitters as ZsaZsa teaches them the art of jumping onto the backs of donkeys like a circus trick. I don’t know how many kids Julie Andrews has had in her lifetime, but she seems to be tired…and Bert’s early struggles were more than she could handle until we stepped in and helped him get a second chance. 

I tell you these things to show my frailty of humanity. This week has included the unexpected death and funeral of a beloved sister-in-law, news of a cousin’s  health scare, work projects that stretch my Excel formula-writing skills, and juggling volunteer responsibilities that would make a time-management guru openly weep. Bert has been my gift of seeing a sutuation from both sides: of not giving up and understanding how easy it is to give up. We could have easily left him and then buried him at a day old. But we chose to fight for a second chance. And this time, we’ve got a goat on the mend.  

Bert is a sweet goat. He is friendlier than others and still lets me carry him for a bit. Although,  he is beginning to smell like a goat, dirt and grass, more than my sweet milk-replacer baby. 


Posted in farmlife, goatlife

We Called the Vet 

After four nights of 3 am bottle feeding baby goat Bert, we did all that we could, and then we called the vet at 6:45 am. I expected to leave a message, but surprisingly, my call was answered by our mobile vet and I explained that Bert had an elevated temperature,  faster than normal breathing, and weakness in standing.At 4 days old, he’s behind the curve because he did not get colostrum within the first 24 hours of his life. That first mother’s milk provides mammals with immunities to fight off infections for the first critical weeks. Without that nourishment and fluid, he’s fighting exponentially harder than his twin brother.

It’s been a roller-coaster with 3 am feedings and supplements. I’ve rationalized our decisions to this point and have been my biggest critic. Did we wait too long, should I have done something else, I am hardest on myself. 

I wrote down everything that we’d given Bert, a brief timeline of events. Jim took Bert to the vet’s place and I headed to work. Steeling myself for the worst, and knowing that going 23 hours without food is a poor prognosis, I hoped and prayed that he would either be ok or free of pain. 

About an hour later, Jim called to say that Bert was in better shape than the vet expected. He still refused a bottle, so she taught Jim how to tube feed him. The vet gave Bert an antibiotic shot, some additional anti-inflammatory medicine and said that he has and touch of pneumonia, but we did everything right. He may be a little more susceptible to infections, and he may be small, but his prognosis is good. I have to give him another shot in a few days, and to call the vet with any questions.  

At lunch, I called to check on Bert and Jim said that he perked up at the he sound of the other goats and when he heard his mother screaming for him, he actually tottered to her and she stood for a few minutes to let him nurse. Wonders never cease. I arrived home after work to find Bert napping in the hay, snuggled to his brother Ernie. When Julie Andrews spotted me, they stood up and started nursing again.  He’s still a little wobbly than the others, so we brought him inside to sleep in a laundry basket for another night while his lungs clear. He won’t take a bottle, so we tube fed him again late tonight and he’s sleeping in the laundry basket. He’s making huge strides and his eyes are clear, his coat is soft and his breathing has normalized. 

So in terms of John Wesley’s teachings, we did all we could and then we reached out for help. Our mobile vet is a blessing, an asset to the community and we consider her an extension of the family. Buy that’s a story for another day.