Recently I took an unplanned break from blogging. Life just got the best of me for a bit. If I am being honest, parenting three growing boys, homesteading, and even being a goat Mom can be overwhelming at times. Last week was stressful and discouraging. I felt failure in almost all the corners of my life. I woke up one morning and walked out to my goat shed hoping to be greeted by my sweet little goat babies. Playing with my goats and petting them has been a wonderful experience that both the goats and I have benefited from. Instead of gleeful goat sounds I was met by a desperate cry, “MAAAA !!” from my sweet little Denver. I immediately knew something was wrong. Denver was unable to stand and was obviously in pain. I kept thinking, “How could this be, he was fine yesterday? !”. Going over my goat checklist in my mind, I thought maybe it was his feet. I had planned to give them their first trimming since bringing them home during the long weekend. Hurrying, I got my new goat trimmers out and trimmed his feet. Denver, who is usually full of spunk, was very still and kept looking me in the eye, almost saying, “Help me Mom”. If you have ever been around sheep or goats when they are sick, they have a way of looking at you that lets you know something is very wrong and their cries are heart piercing. When the trimming was done, it seemed to help. I thought maybe he would be better soon. I kept checking on him and noticed he was straining and pawing at his sides. He couldn’t seem to urinate or poop. My husband suggested that I google his symptoms. And there it was, Urinary Calculi, or what we humans would think of as bladder or kidney stones. I read that it was really rare for young goats to develop UC issues. I was hopeful maybe some other methods would help him go to the bathroom. I tried apple cider vinegar, mineral oil, and some goat vitamins. Everything seemed to give him some relief. I kept questioning my carefully planned out goat diet. There was not too much protein, so surely it wasn’t UC.
Finally, after watching my goat become more and more uncomfortable, I decided to call the vet. I picked up the phone and called the same veterinarian practice my Dad had used for almost my entire life. I left a message on their large animal emergency line. I wasn’t even really sure, was my cute little Denver considered a large animal ? I quickly got a call back from Dr. G. Dr. G was one of our vets during my farm girl days. I felt like crying on the phone but held myself together.
Instantly it brought so many memories back for me. If you have ever been a homesteader, farmer, or an animal lover you probably have experienced the loss of a pet. When I was a young girl my Dad had gifted my younger brother and me a cute little Holstein heifer that was orphaned. We raised her as a bottle calf. She became so attached to us that she would frequently follow us and quickly became almost like a dog. We led her around our yard pretending we were training her to become a show cow. I named her Ruby. Ruby had a very sweet nature and loved to be scratched behind her ears. Whenever we arrived home from school, we were greeted by her calling for us in a lot close to our driveway. One day when we were not home, Ruby, probably looking for us, got out of her pen and got hit by a passing truck. When we arrived home on a Saturday afternoon, my Dad found her lying in the yard barely alive. Knowing how hard it would be for us to tell Ruby goodbye, my Dad called the vet line, like he did so many times before for mares, dogs, and cows. Dr. G took his call.
I remember my Dad loading our bleeding calf in the back of our truck and asked me to ride in the back with her (way before seatbelt laws). My younger brother and I wrapped our sweet Ruby in Dollar Store rag rugs and held her in place on the way to the vet. It didn’t take Dr. G long. He took one look at Ruby and knew there was no saving her. I remember his deep, comforting voice as he told me, “Little girl, you need to say goodbye to your cow”. I remember him silently standing in the room as I told our sweet cow goodbye. I cried and wondered why God hadn’t listened to my prayers asking him to save Ruby. My Dad reminded me on the way home that everything that lives dies. I knew it was true, but it still hurt.
Flash forward thirty something years later, Dr. G is on the phone telling me it is probably an UC issue for my little goat. He told me that he would give me some anti-inflammatory shots and hoped that Denver would pass the stones. Dr. G warned that if the crystals didn’t pass, my sweet little goat would need surgery or he wouldn’t make it. My heart sank. After learning how to give him anti-inflammatory shots, I carefully monitored him throughout the weekend. He got better but was still unable to urinate; only little dribbles would come out. Sadly, little Denver’s sides were swollen from his full bladder that he could not release. I knew something was going to have to happen for him to make it. My emotions were raw. I stressed and cried feeling like I had done something wrong to my sweet little goat. The one thing I feared about becoming a goat Mom was happening- I was failing. My husband sweetly told me that I reminded him of my Dad. He said my Dad was always beside himself when a horse was sick, and questioned everything he did. His sweet comments made me reflect and cry even more, missing my Daddy. I could hear my Dad say his version of John 16:33, “If you have a car, you will have car trouble” So, I am sure he would have said, if you have a goat you will have goat problems. Because of my faith and because when I don’t know what else to do, I pray. A couple of my friends were on standby, waiting to offer emotional support or to come help me, some with goat experience and some with Hettie experience.
Early Monday, I met Dr G behind the Vet’s office at the same spot whereI told Ruby goodbye. He told me the sobering news. Surgery would have to happen soon, or my little goat wouldn’t make it. There was a team assembled this time with a couple of vets and assistants. They kindly showed me an ultrasound of this bladder which was lit up with crystals. I decided to go ahead and let them operate. I had an opportunity to tell my sweet little goat goodby, and promised to pick him up soon. Later on that day I got a call that Denver was recovering, and I could pick him up the next day. Sadly, because of the nature of the surgery, the procedure will most likely shorten his lifespan. Still, all in all, I was thankful that my goat had survived and had some relief. Now every time I feed him, he looks up almost as if to say, “Thanks Mom” and then he pees.
I couldn’t help but to reflect on heaven during my whole ordeal. I thought of my parents, my farm girl days and of course my sweet cow Ruby. I am not sure what heaven will be like. I do know it is more magnificent than I can imagine with my limited intellect. I sometimes wonder if I will just spend my days worshiping God the Father and Jesus, or if I will be living a version of my best earthly life. I wonder if I will be a farm girl again with pain free feet that can go barefoot on cool summer grass for hours. I wonder if I will sit at the foot of the giant maple and watch Ruby eat grass. I wonder if I will hold my unborn child and learn the color of their eyes. I wonder if I will cook in the kitchen with my mom singing hymns in harmony. I wonder if my dad will twirl me around again, excited to see me. I feel certain there are lots of beautiful unknown things waiting for me on the other side. In the meantime, I will try to live my life here with a heavenly perspective, trying to take every hard day and moment with grace.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.