from-Swimming with Swans: vignettes of our three year journey between-homes
(Goat Suite Saga #2)
January 2011 (the desert outside Las Cruces, NM)
As it is on any ranch or farm, the livestock does not wait for convenient times to place demands upon the caretaker. Feedings, caring, banding, releasing and other tasks must be done without delay and at times, as stated above, most inconveniently.
My wife Laura and I had the opportunity to live in such an environment for a while. During that period of our life Mama Goat had given birth to two male goats. Because Laura was the discoverer of their birth and instrumental in saving the runt of the litter she was given the honor of naming the goats. She named the first arrival after me, Terry, and the runt, Larry.
At first I was quite honored that she would name one of the goats after me, but after watching his character develop I became all too keenly aware of his flaws. And, I didn’t like the fact that they seemed to also reflect my own character flaws. Fear and mischief were the two main flaws of Terry. I quickly asked if we could rename Terry to be named Scape. Laura was gracious and renamed the goat Terry Scape. Not exactly what I was looking for, but I could call him Scape and introduce him to every new visitor as Scape. I could get away with this as long as nobody else that lived there was present when I introduced him.
I would have been more than honored if Larry had been named Terry. He showed great character. He had a huge will to live. Since he was the runt, Mama Goat soon started shunning Larry. Very rarely was Larry getting to feed off of Mama. This was a problem as he was too young to feed off the hay and sweet feed. It soon became an issue of what we should do with Larry.
At first we bottle fed Larry by hand, hoping that Mama would relent and start showing compassion to him. But, no, she would not relent.
Larry soon learned that when brother Terry was being fed that it was an ideal time for him to run in, grab a few gulps of milk before Mama would either walk away or butt him away. Thus he barely sustained himself during that hard existence of early life. Yet he hung on and seemed to be more determined to live.
After a few weeks a family decision was made that Larry would either have to make it on his own or he would be allowed to die. No more bottle feeding! My cousin Karen and her husband were the owners of the place where we were staying and it was a natural decision. Unfortunately, the timing stunk. They had planned to be away on a four day weekend to Arizona and Larry’s predicament just happened to coincide with this pre-planned trip.
Laura and I got the Larry death watch duty.
It wasn’t what we wanted, but we knew it was right. In fact, the consensus was that Larry would be dead within one to two days. And sure enough it looked like this was exactly what was going to happen.
Each morning I would make my way to the pens before sunrise to feed the goats and to collect the carcass of Larry. Only each morning Larry would still be alive; waning, but alive.
It was as if he was saying, I WILL LIVE, I WILL LIVE! There he would be lying down on the hay preserving his strength, smacking his lips from thirst and hunger, but living nevertheless.
The first day was hard, but expected. The second morning I was sure he would be gone, but no, he was still alive; harder still. I was absolutely sure that by the third morning he would be gone, but no, still living. Not only was Larry checked in the morning, he was checked throughout the day. While he was weakening, his resolve to not give up and to live seemed to be strengthening.
Finally on the third day I decided it was no longer humane to let him just slip away; we either had to put him down or start feeding him again. Thus another family meeting between my cousin and myself ensued over the phone as they were still in Arizona. I let her know that at this point it was becoming cruel and we would either need to put him down or start feeding him again. I believe Larry’s determination got to all of us. We overwhelmingly decided that if he was that determined we should go ahead and feed him.
With that, Laura immediately jumped into action and was out the door with a bottle to start Larry on the road to recovery. Recover he did. To him it was like he just had a three day fast that was planned and now it was over and time to get back to growing and living life to its fullest.
Larry did grow. Over time even Mama Goat must have picked up on his indomitable will to live and allowed him to feed from her. While he will always be the runt in size he is alive and unlike Terry who seems to have a need for human contact, Larry doesn’t. Larry likes humans, enjoys them even, but he is also fiercely independent.
Maybe it is because when life mattered he had to be independent in order to live.