Monday, July 18, 2011

A goat update

Missy is in the background in this picture—
I'll work on getting a better, current photo.
Missy—strange, strange Missy—has been the subject of much discussion these past months. You remember her "stroke" in August, don't you? That's what we're calling it, though it was never diagnosed. She woke up one morning with nearly complete paralysis from the waist down, limited sensation in her hind limbs, elevated white blood cell counts, and crashing organs. She was put IV fluids, steroids, selenium, vitamin E, NSAIDs, and a new, grain-free diet in case of rumen acidosis. She was nursed for two weeks, and when it seemed she would almost certainly die we planned to A) have her put down and B) buy back her daughter from a friend, so as to continue her lines in our herd.

Well, I've probably already mentioned that she sprang weakly to her feet not more than a couple of days after we brought her daughter B.G. home, and that she has been up and about ever since.

She's still funny—her right hind limb is nearly useless, so she hobbles with her haunches centered over the left. She favors one foreleg (the diagonal opposite) and has a distinctive, peg-legged pirate gait. She rests more than she stands, but she still rears, leaps, gallops, and grazes every day. She is no longer the herd queen, but she asserts herself socially as much as ever. She's angrier now, and her former distain for human children has advanced to an all-out hatred. She is dangerous to our little girls, and we have to accompany them into the paddock so that they don't get trompled.

Missy sometimes hackles at nothing at all, staring into space and glaring with cold-eyed resentment for five minutes—ten—until her one good hind leg begins to weaken and fall out from under her. She snaps out of her reverie, then, and retires to the shed in good spirits for a bit of cud chewing and a nap.

Anger, dementia, lameness—these sound like grounds for euthanasia, don't they? I would be the first to admit it if she needed a reprieve from life, but she seems quite happy! She obviously suffers some discomfort and/or disfunction of the limbs, but she is no less enthusiastic than she was a year or two ago. She eats her meals with gusto, she's in very good weight, and she interacts with B.G. and the kids all day every day. She has, in fact, begun to feed the kids from her dried up udder. At this point, I don't think she's lactating but rather serving as a pacifier for the third hungry kid while two at a time nurse from their mother. It's amazing, and it makes me wonder if she might start producing milk for this hungry litter of three. That would astound me.

Before we went camping, I was thinking forward to a day when Missy's no longer with us—when the girls can go into the pasture without fear for their safety, and when all our goats can hustle across the field with equal speed. I was almost wishing she were in pain, because I am a firm believer in euthanasia for the suffering. I would put her down if I thought she were not enjoying life.

While I was camping, though, I missed her. I thought about her unique personality, her obstinance, and her friendliness (to grown humans, at least).

If Missy were a mule or a horse, we would have put her down by now. For one thing, her treatment was not cheap and everything costs five times as much for equines. For another, her movement isn't easy. It's somewhat painful to watch her walk, in the way that it's painful to watch an old dog hobble. Like the dog, though, she settles down and rests when she's reached her destination. For an equine, who spends 23 hours out of every 24 on his feet, such a life would be constant discomfort. For Missy, though, life seems full. Her eyes still sparkle, she's still quick to leap to her feet for a back scratch or a flake of hay, and should another goat begin to frolic Missy is always the first to join in that melee. I think she's doing fine.


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