|A night vision camera has revealed that the goats do the same in their pen at night and during the day - NOTHING!
|For the first few days, we considered sleeping over at the stables very romantic.
Right on the heels of our trip came the quarantine. Sid had hoped till the last
moment that he would be able to make a business trip to Texas, but the airline
had canceled his flight. Vaulting club began on Friday with the idea of
disinfecting their props, but then closed down quick and hard. California
schools shut down quick and hard. We were being good sports, calling it flu
break — expecting that things would return to normal in two or three
weeks. Well, they did not, and by the time I was writing this the institutions
threaten with a second wave — only, there wasn't even a first one here!
One does not even need to be very paranoid to think cui bono?
Fortunately, we have our goaties and they managed to keep me thinking about
completely different matter for quite a while.
I had never doubted that my goats are not only incredibly beautiful, but also
severely intelligent. Apparently they had been able to search the internet for
all possible articles on pregnancy, birth, and post-partem complications with
goats, and subsequently tried my readiness for all those eventualities.
Their intelligence is also demonstrated by the fact that they had picked only
those maladies, which would not truly endanger both themselves and the babies,
and would merely exercise my nerves and heart musculature. I only ascribe to
my peak physical condition that I had not suffered a heart attack.
Goats gestate for 145 - 155 days. In the previous round my goaties
gave birth after 147 and 149 day respectively, hence I reckoned that it would
suffice to start watching Twilight from the 146th night on. John, the occupant
of an RV near the goat pen, had offered and then installed a webcam to give me
better insight. Thus I could even at eleven in the evening peek from my bed at
home to the pen whether everything was OK. I have to say that I was also
generally curious what my goats do when I'm not there. How surprised I was when
I found out that they do NOTHING. As in, really nothing at all! Just laying
around, ruminating, sometimes the shuffle over to the feeder to test the hay
for change in consistency — and that's about all. I suspect them that they
had hacked John's internet and secretly browse Netflix, for otherwise I can't
really explain such sloth.
|It had still rained frequently in April and sunsets were pictoresque (though a wet sleeping bag was less nice).
|Hazel needed a human touch till the last moment.
On Sunday, day 146 of Twilight's pregnancy, Lisa and I packed our sleeping bags
and set out to a spring-time night action at the stables. We generally did not
expect success, for Twilight did not look like ready to give birth, but chance
is the providence of adventurers, and a complicated birth, or unfortunately
stuck baby goat can quickly become a big problem. For several ensuing days we
remained at ease, but by the end of the week I texted our vet, like, what should
we do, and whether she could have a look at our goat. Her answer set me back
— she would not look at our goat on account of being stuck in New Zealand.
Hence I embellished our waiting for baby goats by calling subsequently all
possible and impossible veterinarians in the vicinity. I also shamelessly bugged
all my associates, to reveal who takes care of their animals.
The basic issue is, a vet is either licensed for "small" animals
— i.e. household pets such as a dog or a cat, or for "large"
animals, which is the remaining group of farm creatures.
Yet in our context, even the farm vets specialize mostly in horses, looking down
their noses on goats; or they admit outright that they dare make no diagnoses.
One familiar vet, who specializes in small animal surgeries, explain it that
a diagnosis is pretty much interpreting from settled tea-leaves, and that he
did not have the nerve for it — while being a surgeon, where he knows what
to do and what effect it brings, is more satisfying for him. My horse vet, who
used to care for Neddie, knew horses. He knew exactly what to look for and how
to decipher minute hints, into a diagnosis. Farm animals are difficult, because
when they are hurting, they try hide it. An injured dog will moan, but an
injured horse will keep quiet, while staying out of sight, so that no predator
picks him out for being weak. Finding out what such animal suffers from is like
solving a mystery.
My problem with finding ANY vet was nothing compared to spotting one, who would
be PERMITTED to call on us during stay-at-home order. Our enlightened ruling
comrades in Sacramento had forbidden all non-urgent visits and treatments.
Castration falls within those non-urgent things (e.g. including stray cat
neutering ordered by the city). Obviously, some goat that is "merely"
pregnant is not urgent. Eventually I had found a vet, who was willing to claim
that an overdue goat in day 156 of pregnancy is in mortal danger and it would be
possible to see.
After a night interrupted by an alarm clock, and watching a webcam, whether
Twilight had not changed her mind about the birth, I had just fallen into
deep sleep phase at 8 am, when Toni called whether I was at the stables, and
if I could help Frank with Hazel. I ran down to the pen and saw it was bad.
Old horned goat, Hazel, was lying down in front of the pen, and would not get
up, even with our help. When I touched her, she felt cold, apparently strongly
hypothermic. Goats' normal body temperature is around 102°F, and horns
well supplied with blood are warm to the touch. Hazel's horns were icy in the
cold morning. Meanwhile, Toni had arrived, we moved Hazel onto one blanket and
covered her with another; eventually we had to roll her over to her right side
(goats' left side contains the rumen, and lying on it makes them sick).
Hazel did not want to feed, probably could not; but drank a little of warm water
that I had brought her in a thermos. By then I texted the vet whether she could
come soonest, for besides a pregnant goat we had a dying one. Hazel was quiet
only when Toni petted her face; my turn came when Toni went to fetch a horse
tranquilizer. After that, Hazel dozed off.
Over time, several people gathered around the dying goat. Tamara brewed some
coffee, and we swapped stories about being bucked by Hazel, and how she caught
us unprepared. When the vet arrived, she just stated that the goat had indeed
received a horse-sized tranquilizer, and that she would be administering
something similar anyway. It was over in few minutes.
|Casper - age four hours.
|Casper then refused to lie down.
Then the vet could take care of more fun affairs, and live goats. She ran
an ultrasound on Twilight and declared that the babies were small, and had not
yet began to push upward to the pelvis, to be born. And because my goats had
visited the buck for six weeks, apparently Twilight has not caught in those
first days, when we observed her very loud and noticeable romance with Jasper,
but had to use an opportunity during her next round. I felt a bit like an idiot,
but since even an experienced breeder like Colleen had not noticed, how could
I have known. Important was, nothing urgent was happening, we did not need to
deal with dead or stuck babies, drive the goat to have a Cesarean, or similar
troubles. All it needed was patience, and waiting two more weeks for the next
It would seem that Lisa and I could have moved back home, but by then we had
approached another term, that of Licky. Unlike Twilight, she gave off some
symptoms that a birth was approaching, and thus we stayed, especially since the
vet also claimed it would happen within twenty-four hours. To shorten it up
— she was off only by about ninety hours, winter ultrasound and eyeballing
by the new vet agreed there would only be one baby — meaning, it would be
big, and birth could be complicated. Add the feeling that I can also be less
lucky and fail to conjure a vet if thing went wrong...
|Casper is a very relaxed baby goat.
|Young cat Jay was fascinated by the only other youngling in the stable - baby buck Casper.
The birth started dramatically, when I had a sleeping shift and Lisa was reading
in the car. She woke me up that the goat was screaming. I flew, sleepy, into the
pen, and the baby goat's head was already sticking out, so huge, I got woozy
— it looked like my little goatie could not manage. The baby, after birth,
was not moving, not bleeping, we took turns sucking off his nostrils and drying
it up, before it began to respond. Mom goat kept licking it like crazy, which
probably helped a lot. Then the little buck could not stand up on his legs
— they are awfully long and he's huge all over.
After a half hour he stopped trying and stayed down, so I squeezed off some milk
and forced it with a syringe into his mouth. Lisa lifted him up with the help
of a towel — and either the milk helped, or that he could straighten his
legs under him, but he renewed his attempts to walk (a baby goat need to walk
within an hour, and to drink, or it dies). Then the fight with feeding ensued
— being so large, Casper won't fit under his mom and must drop to his
knees, to reach UNDER the udder — which, when legs won't cooperate, is
actually very hard. But he "made it within limit", although he just
sipped a little. For about five following hours, Casper refused to lie down
— apparently concluding that when getting up cost him so much energy,
it was crazy to lie down again. Half asleep, the poor buckling wavered around
on his rickety little legs, rejecting our efforts to let him rest.
In the end he succumbed to fatigue, lied down, and fell into a deep sleep.
Besides our worries, whether he would drink enough, having a style of
"three gulps and enough" we were also concerned about his thermal
regulation. A baby goat with no sibling has no one to cuddle up to and share
body heat. Mom cannot be always with him, she herself needs food and drink,
and thus we tried to take Casper often up on our laps — and with a human
he would fall asleep immediately — apparently really needed the warmth.
Only my goat is crazy, she would come up and wake him up, keep on licking him,
cleaning his butt all the time, and so I hoped she would relent over time.
I think I can be glad to be human and my kids had diapers — I would not
have endured this level of devotion.
|Casper heating up in lap, Licky agrees to be scratched.
|Rocket used to hide for the first few days.
Perhaps I shall spare you a complete description, how I tried to find someone
who would de-horn Carsper. Horn buds must be burned within the first week of
goat's life — it's actually cauterizing blood vessels supplying the horn,
which then lacks nutrition and stops growing. I certainly is no pleasant
treatment, and it is necessary that the person administering it has some
experience. It is, after all, desirable not to fry the baby goat's brains as
well in the process. Alas, this kind of practice has found itself on the long
list of non-essentials — despite — unlike e.g. castration —
its timing is very narrow. We were saved by chidren's summer camps —
after all, they are the reason baby goats get de-horned — for chidren's
safety. When a horn-less goat bucks you, it may throw you to the ground. Being
head-bucked by a horned goat, it's like getting hit by a baseball bat.
I had a blue spot across half of my thigh, so I thought I had a broken bone;
that was the work of Hazel once. My goats are boarding on the condition that
they would play the role of a zoo for children — and hence we need animals
that are save and non-aggressive. Unfortunately I could not have all kids
de-horned at once — Twilight had not yet have her litter — and so
I had to pay the vet's trip to see Casperovi here in our mountains.
If you have been counting along with me, this had concluded our third week of
sleeping over at the stables. During this time, my children still attended
their school, Sid, being an essential employee, kept commuting to his office,
and I spent breaks between monitoring my goats and chasing after veterinarians,
by lining up at grocery stores, kept figuring out how to cook meals from
ingredients momentarily available, tried to steal an hour or two of my time to
do my part time job, and generally had the impression that I would never sleep
properly again in this life. My nights at the stables looked like this: every
hour or three (depending how imminent the birth was), I got roused by an alarm
clock, checking the webcam. In between I napped in a sleeping back in the trunk
of our bus, and tried not to wake Lisa much, who needed to attend school during
the day. It rained half of the nights, keeping us from sleeping in the car
(metal roof rattles). Going to the outhouse (thank God there was one), brewing
coffee on a picnic table, and figuring out, how to position muddy rubber boots
in the midst of our sleeping bags, turned the erstwhile feeling of camping
adventure into a kind of mastering an endurance test.
|Pluto was less shy and did not hesitate to call mom.
|Brothers checking out the neighborhood.
Yet the Twilight's second term was approaching, so Lisa and I could not simply
pack up and leave. Toni saved us in the end, by offering us to stay in one of
her guest cabins, which got freed up due to the quarantine. It's truly just
a cabin — but it has a roof, beds, heating, windows, a toilet,
mini-shower, a microwave — simply incredible luxury. It also offered
an incredible view to Santa Cruz Mountains, with Loma Prieta often dominating
a sunny morning above a picturesque inversion.
Lisa and I spent about three nights, when on Sunday night I gathered that
Twilight would soon give birth (after a month of watching goats' asses
I was a damned expert). I left Lisa in the cabin, and moved my car in front
of the pen, to that I would hear when it comes. Goats can't be heard in the
cabin, and checking once per hour over the camera is not enough — goat
birth can go bad in the space of few minutes. By five in the morning Twilight
started to scream, I called Lisa, and we ran into the pen. The first baby
got out with no problems and was functional like by the book. Get up on little
legs, find the udder, draw nutrition, all this our baby buck Pluto accomplished.
|Pluto and Rocket have very similar colors - being different in their faces.
Then — nothing was happening. No second baby, no placenta. An hour later
I could not hold it and I called veterinary emergency. They pulled my goat vet
out of her bed, and she said that it can take even two hours, and if nothing
happens in another hour, she would stop by while making her morning rounds.
Caretaker Jen promised to make coffee, I wanted to fetch milk from the cabin,
but half way up the hill I heard Lisa call that we had a second baby. It shot
out like a rocket, she said, and thus the second buck got named Rocket.
He had a problem, got born with sprained hind legs and could not properly stand
up. He had crawled anyway all the way to mom's udder, but would always hide
somewhere out of sight during the first day. We had to watch him, and make sure
he'd come out of his corner and get some drink; sometimes we had to push him.
Rocket started walking on the second day, and therefore Lisa and I cleaned up
our borrowed cabin, and moved finally back home. Rocket stayed the most shy
and least sociable baby goats, and despite over time outgrowing his older
brother, he remains the baby in the herd. The one who cries when left behind,
waiting for others to come back and rescue him. I thought that by getting
through with Twilight's twins I had the worst with goats behind me, but I was