Friday, July 17, 2015

Little Sister's in the Garage with a Bucket

Katherine is away at summer camp for EIGHT (count ‘em, 8) weeks on the other side of the country and she left me in charge of her dog, her cat, her fish and her goatherd.   I swear the goats watched her leave and made a plan.
They waited two weeks, so I could feel like I had things under control.  “I got this,” I congratulated myself one day when I finished feeding the gang.  “No problem-o.” The very next morning it started.  Of course it was the 4th of July.
I had on my cute little sundress, wedge sandals, and makeup (mon dieu!).  I was ready for the parade, the picnic and the fireworks downtown.  So why did I think that it was the perfect moment to go feed?  I do not know.  Cocky, I suppose.  So I pushed my wheelbarrow from the hay barn to the buck pen to the doe pen to the baby pen and finally to the adolescent pen.  In each pen I did a quick head count, like everyday. 
Sponge Bob
Everyone was present and accounted for…until I got to the adolescent pen.  Uh oh.  The littlest goat on the property (3 months old) was M-I-A.  Oh Lord, not that one.  She is the only baby doe Katherine kept out of the last kidding batch and the only baby doe we have ever gotten out of one of our Fancy (pinky up) goats.   Her name is Little Sister (that’s her barn name—I can’t remember her show name, whatev’). 
My mind raced through scenarios: Mountain Lion? Unlikely -- it would’ve had to jump three fences and run through two livestock guardian dogs.  Too much work.  Fox? Little Sister isn’t that little.  Hawk? Maybe…A friend recently posted on her Facebook page about a raptor taking a Chihuahua.  Roughly the same size.  I looked everywhere; and as Murphy’s Law asserts, she was in the last place I looked.
She didn’t look so good…

I scooped her up and put her in the “quarantine pen” in the far corner of the property – tip toeing through the poopy field in my sandals, of course.  I refilled her trough with fresh water and gave her a little pat on the head.  Good goaty.
Tippy toe back to the waiting car.  “Are you sure you want to go?” David asked.  “Yeah,” I answered hesitantly.

For once in my life, I had no children! I know, it’s hard to imagine.  David and I had slept in, I had put on makeup, I had fed the goats, I had sequestered Little Sister.  We started off down the road for the parade.  We were off schedule by about 20 minutes (I hate that), but we had a secret parking spot at David’s office so we weren’t too worried.
Traffic slowed to a crawl several miles out of town, but we forged ahead. Pioneers in the storm, heads bowed against the wind.  I should explain here that my town really gets into the Fourth of July.  It has been ranked one of the “Top 10 Small Town 4th of July Celebrations.”  People stake their claims to seats along the parade route as early as 6:00 AM.  The longer you wait, the worse your view – and the harder it is to park.  Then we hit the police roadblock, detouring people away from the parade route--and blocking our secret parking spot.
All the while, my anxiety level about Little Sister crept upwards.  What if she took a turn for the worse while I was out lollygagging at the parade?  I could never forgive myself—neither would Katherine.
“It’s a sign – let’s go back,” I said.

Back at home, Little Sister was lying down in the middle of the pen, exactly where I had left her.  Looking most woebegone.   I was out of the car and up the stairs to my room, changing into sweatpants before David had even parked the car.  With my hair pulled back and my legs suitably covered, I was ready to take on the sick goat.
Remember now, the goats are Katherine’s deal—not mine.  She gives them shots, treats their ailments, manages their feed schedule, enters them in shows, grooms them, disbuds them, neuters them.  Yup, neuters – in the goat world it’s called “wethering.”  I’ll tell you all about it in another blog, I promise; here’s a hint à 

I know nothing.  I drive the trailer and sign the checks.  I pick up meds at the vet according to whatever shopping list Katherine has given me; I usually just hand the receptionist Katherine’s list and my credit card at the same time.  I toss hay out of the wheelbarrow.  So what do I know about a sick baby goat?  Nada, zilch, niente.

Of course it’s a Saturday AND a holiday, so my chance of getting our goat vet to come out was next to none.  Besides, who needs no stinkin’ vet?  I’m a goat herder.  Yee haw.  David and I could figure this out.  We are both well educated, clever adults.
So I set up Little Sister in the garage in an “x-pen” with a fresh bucket of water and a little blankie (cozy cozy).  She stood there just the same—head hanging, eyes half closed, tail drooping.  While David whipped out his phone to do some online research, I ran around the property looking for all of Katherine’s stashes of goat meds.
It turns out Katherine keeps the goat meds all over the place.  There’s the batch in the refrigerator, there’s the batch in the green box in the garage, there’s the batch in the toolbox in the kidding barn, there are the random bottles on shelves in the barn and the garage and Katherine’s bedroom.  I gathered them all up and lined them up on the floor of the garage, along with the boxes of syringes and needles.  God Bless Katherine, the refrigerator box included a notecard with a (partial) inventory.  But it didn’t say what the various meds do.  Hmm. 

Katherine has done a ton of online research about medications and vaccinations and supplements and schedules, etc. etc. And I know she has told me about her findings in great detail at many dinners over the past year.  But, truly, the information went in one ear and out the other.  It’s her deal; I’m just a supportive mother.
Now I was sitting on the garage floor trying to channel my “Inner-Katherine.”  What would she do in this situation? Besides get on the Internet… which David was already doing (she’d have been proud of him).  I checked in with my goat pals via text: they asked hard questions like, “what’s the goat’s temperature?” and “what does she weigh?”  Ugh.  I found the thermometer.  Unpleasant for both me and Little Sister, but I determined that she only had a low-grade fever.
Symptoms: distended belly, lethargy, not eating or drinking, dull coat, depressed. Aha! BLOAT!  I’ve heard of that one.  Ok, now what to do about it?
Goat Bloat Game
(why would you create a video game about taking your goat to the vet, I ask you? People are weird.)

OK, dig through the box: Therabloat sounds promising.  Of course nothing has directions on it.  More Internet searching for dosages.  David found video clips on YouTube and lots of blogs and websites about goat treatments.  He was vocalizing a stream-of-consciousness thing in the background while I fumbled through the bottles and vials trying to remember when I had seen Katherine use them.
Then David stumbled on a word I had heard from Katherine before: ANTITOXIN.  I remembered a conversation Katherine had at the large animal vet clinic (not our normal goat vet that we love and respect, but one that took care of my horses):
Katherine: “Um, hi. Um. Could we get some, um, {mumble-mumble}-antitoxin…for our, um, goats?”
Vet: “Why?”
Katherine: “Um, ‘cause we need it if the babies are, um, sick?”
Vet: “What?”
Katherine: “Yeah, I read on the, um, Internet that it can help sick bottle babies?”
Vet: “There is no reason that you would ever need to treat a baby goat with that strong of a medicine.  It wouldn’t work.  So, no.” [Translation: go away]
Katherine: “Um, ok.”
Back in the car Katherine fumed.  This encounter was early in her goat herding career and she was just building up her confidence, so I suspect she was as flustered at her own nervousness as she was with not getting the medication that she wanted.  She is, by nature, quite shy.  But she is also quite resourceful.  So at home she logged onto the Internet and found the contraband drug at  (Why didn’t we do that first? Why did I have to drive 30 miles to the vet? Anyway…can’t wait until she gets her driver’s license.) 

Shazam! That’s the answer.  Antitoxin.  I dug through the refrigerated box again and pulled out a little vial of something-or-other antitoxin and I drew up a bit into a syringe.  Two problems there: I totally guessed at the dosage (“that looks about right”) and I had no idea that there are at least TWO types of antitoxins.  Antitoxin, schm-antitoxin. 

I was poised to inject Little Sister while David talked away in the background… “Not sure that’s the right one…something medical-ish (David’s a doctor)…something chemistry-ish….something about countering a reaction in the rumen….something about tetanus antitoxin being used to treat a deep penetrating wound.”  Hold on a minute.  No deep penetrating wounds here.  I had drawn up Tetanus Antitoxin thinking it was the same as CD Antitoxin.

I'm pretty stubborn and once I get an idea in my head it’s hard to sway me from my course on pretty much anything—dating, child rearing, marriage, injecting goats.  But what David said and the way he said it so calmly and so logically got through to me.  I put the needle down and rifled through the box again.  There it was: CD-Antitoxin.  Well, hot damn.

Chalk one up to med school.  David explained the basics of “enterotoxaemia” to me.  Basically, the goat eats so much that its rumen [read: stomach] can’t keep up with the digestive process so it just gives up.  Then the naturally occurring “Clostridium perfringen” bacteria, always present in the rumen at some level, grow way out of control and eat through the intestinal wall into the peritoneal cavity.  Then it’s all over for the poor little goaty.  Very painful, says  I imagine so.  (David figured this all out on his own while sitting on a desk chair in my garage, reading from his phone.  I was impressed!)  Enterotoxemia article... if you want to know more

I remember Katherine talking about being able to diagnose baby goats with this disease by their terrible smell.  The smell of death and rotting.  Fortunately for Little Sister, she did not yet have “the smell of death.”

Next question: dosage.  Dr. David to the rescue again.  He’s good at math, too.  I drew up the CD-Antitoxin, and injected Little Sister without a second thought.  I distinctly remember a time when I could not, would not give a shot.  I erroneously believed that only vets are able (allowed? capable? smart enough?) to give shots.   But Katherine inspires me—if she can do it, so can I.   
Crisis averted, I sent Katherine an email at camp.  Usually I send her goofy cards via snail-mail with the weather report and tales of the farm.  But this situation demanded a degree of urgency, so I clicked the “email your camper” on the camp website.
So, the email arrives at the office at camp, they print it out and deliver it to the camper.  I can only imagine what the Camp Director thinks of us…”Little Sister bloated and I gave her Therabloat and  5 cc of CD-Antitoxin subcutaneously.  She’s in a pen in the garage with a bucket of water.”  Good thing they didn’t call Child Protective Services on me.  
Other moms are probably writing, “The country club snack bar had gelato yesterday!  Cape Cod isn’t the same without you.”  Not me.  Not anymore.
(postscript:  Little Sister is doing much better and fully recovered from her bloat! Katherine is still at camp and now I am dealing with pink eye in goats...)

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