Last weekend our farm family suffered a tragedy. Our two Nubian goats became very sick with bloat and Cajeta our little momma passed away. Bloat is often times caused by overeating, a change in diet, eating foods that produce a lot of gas and even certain types of weeds can create an imbalance causing bloat. They say if a goat is stressed from a move to a new place it can weaken their rumen making them more susceptible to bloat. I’m not sure what caused our two babies to bloat, maybe a combination of different things, but they did and it was fatal for Cajeta.
It was a Thursday night and our son could hear the goats outside screaming. When we went to check on them we knew immediately that something was wrong. Their abdomens were obviously distended and they were screaming and grinding their teeth. It was a sign of bloat and the treatment for that requires you to administer oil orally to break up the tension of the bubbles in the stomach so the goat can expel the gas. You should begin massaging the goats sides to help them burp and fart. In extreme cases you should call a vet immediately so they can make an incision behind the bottom of the ribs on the left side to release the gas.
I had read enough times about this dreadful illness and the way to treat it but I didn’t prepare for it. One of the very first things you should always do as a good backyard keeper is prepare an emergency first aid kit. Take a good-sized plastic container and fill it with the items you may need so you have them on hand and close by in case of an emergency. When you are dealing with animals you need to act quickly because they are masters of disguise and by the time you realize there is a problem you probably won’t have time to run back into your house looking for the necessary supplies. You should also have a list of emergency contacts like a vet that deals with livestock in place. You can laminate it and hang it inside the barn so it is readily available. Learn from my mistake here people and put together your emergency first aid kit as soon as you bring any animal home, or better yet before you bring them home.
Because I was ill prepared to deal with this emergency situation I had no way of getting oil into my goats safely and correctly. I tried to do the best I could at the time by using a makeshift syringe, which was a pastry bag I filled with oil hoping I could get it far enough into their throat and stomach to relieve this gas they were suffering from. This proved to be an almost fatal mistake because the oil went into baby Bambi’s lungs rather than her stomach, although I didn’t know it at the time. We needed help and we needed it fast so I ran to our neighbors that own a goat farm and she came right over with some things to help with the bloat. She had a syringe and some Kaopectate and managed to get it into both of the goats. Cajeta and Bambi seemed to settled down after the Kaopectate and I prayed that by morning they would be feeling better and this nightmare would be behind us.
My hubs and I took turns that night staying in the barn with the girls. It was cold, it was dark and it was long. We kept watch, massaging their sides and administering more Kaopectate as seemed necessary. When morning came it was obvious that they were not going to get any better and we needed professional help. I called our vet and left a message with their answering service. Then I called just about every other vet in Connecticut and did the same thing. Come to find out our vet gave up treating livestock several years earlier so that left us having to find one that did.
When I finally did find a vet to come to the house it was going to be a few hours before they could even get to us so they told me I needed to drench the goats in the meantime. What this meant was that I needed to give them a mixture of dark beer, Kaopectate and epsom salt administered orally. Well of course I didn’t have any dark beer or epsom salt and the hubs and boys were gone for the morning so that left me alone with the animals and a trip to the store wasn’t going to happen. Luckily I did have a carpenter that was at our house working in the bunk house kitchen and he was kind enough to run out and get me what I needed. After I drenched the goats the only thing left to do was wait and tend to the other animals.
By the time the vet arrived little Bambi was foaming at the mouth and Cajeta was vomiting profusely. After her initial examination she concluded that they were indeed suffering from bloat but it appeared as though Bambi now had pneumonia, from the oil in her lungs, and Cajeta may have ingested something toxic. We worked on these two goats for 5 hours, doing everything we could to try to save them. At one point we held Bambi upside down while the vet pounded her lungs trying to break up some of the oil that she was drowning in. She gave them each antibiotics, Bambi got a steroid to help with any inflammation in her lungs and she ran a IV into Cajeta who was getting weak and dehydrated from vomiting continuously. When she had done all that she could she told us that the rest was up to them now. If they made it through the night and into morning there may be a chance they would survive but their condition was guarded to grave.
My hubs and I spent that entire night in the barn with them trying to keep them comfortable and administering medication every 4 hours. My hubs had to inject them with antibiotics into their muscle, a painful and difficult task and he had to also inject saline under their skin to keep them hydrated. They had both lost so much weight already that the injections were very difficult and came to be something we all dreaded. After the saline injections they would shake and shiver and I would cover them with towels and blankets trying to keep them warm and dry. We did all this with a flashlight because we had no power to the barn yet, the two of us silently praying, while the other two goats, Shaniqe and Dutchess watched with wondering eyes trying to make sense of what was happening.
Morning came and they were still with us although their condition remained the same. The vet stopped by to check on them and bring us more saline. She was quite surprised to find them both still alive and told us our next task would be to try to get them to start drinking. They needed fluids badly. That day our oldest son came to lend us a hand. He and the hubs worked to get a heater and a light installed in the barn and we all took turns trying to get the girls to drink and keep them as comfortable as possible. The hubs continued their injections every 4 hours and I stayed right by their side making sure they were warm and dry. That afternoon Cajeta managed to stand up and go outside in the fresh air for a few minutes. She even took some water on her own. It was very encouraging and she seemed to be feeling a little better. Bambi was still foaming at the mouth and struggled to breathe. She would cry out and choke and cough and we would have to help her to bring up the oil that was in her lungs. Her cries were growing weaker and we watched helplessly while she barely hung on. Our son ended up staying with us that night helping us keep watch around the clock.
Sunday morning came and Cajeta, who we thought was getting better had taken a turn for the worse. She too had started to foam at the mouth, was unable to stand and was barely able to breathe. We called the vet but the doctor on call wouldn’t be able to come out for about an hour so that left us to do whatever would could to save her. We watched as Cajeta struggled to survive. I have to say it was by far one of the hardest things I have ever had to deal with. The barn grew silent, all but little Bambi who as weak as she was crawled closer to be with her beloved Cajeta and Cajeta shed tears and kicked her legs as she took her last breath. My husband worked over her for almost 10 minutes trying to administer CPR, pumping her chest and willing her to breath. It was at this exact moment that the vet pulled into our driveway, the exact moment that Cajeta took her last breath. Go figure.
There was nothing that we could do, nothing more that we could have done. My husband is a strong man. I have been with him for over 30 years. In all this time together I have only seen him cry once and that was when our first child was born. Until the day Cajeta died and that made it twice.
We buried Cajeta in the woods on the trail that the goats loved to walk on. It was another bitter cold, rainy day, reflecting what we were all feeling. We were tired, we were dirty, we were cold, hungry and defeated. Our son helped with what he could and then he had to get home to his family. As my hubs and I went about tending the other animals our daughter came to make us dinner and clean up the mess in our house. I took my first real shower in days and realized that every part of my body hurt. When I was warm and dry I packed up some clean towels, blankets, a pillow and a book and headed back out to the barn to be with Bambi. I was moving in. I think I was out there for about 20 minutes when I heard the hubs pull up with the tractor. He was coming to get me and Bams and bring us both back to the house. I sat inside the bucket on the tractor and hubs wrapped Bambi in a blanket, put her in my arms and drove us home. He carried Bambi into the house and placed her gently inside a spare dog crate that he had set up in our family room. This way we could keep watch over her in our warm, dry home, I wouldn’t have to live in the barn and Bams wouldn’t have to be alone. After Bambi was settled in I had a bowl of the most delicious soup my daughter made and stuffed myself silly with her best ever chocolate chip cookies. Then I curled up on the couch with a warm fluffy blanket and fell sound asleep.
Bambi stayed with us for a week growing stronger everyday eventually drinking warm water on her own, making friends with Dutch who was thrilled to have a playmate in the house (he loves playing with her long, soft ears) and exploring my kitchen. She was never far from my side and if I wasn’t right where she could see me she would cry…”MAAAA”!! I loved having her with me. Bambi is a miracle. Our little baby that at only 8 months of age has already been through so much. She is strong, she is sweet, loving and trusting. She misses her Cajeta and still looks for her always.
We have since been able to move Bambi back out with the other two goats. The vet has come and checked out our entire farm family giving them all a clean bill of health and remarking on what a miracle Bambi really is. He said he never would have believed it if he didn’t see it. Her lungs are almost clear now and although she still wants to be inside with us she has assumed her role with the herd. All three of them.
It has been a hard lesson learned. I have blamed myself for so many things. I question why every day, thinking that Cajeta didn’t need to die. I live with “If only’s”. If only I had an emergency kit prepared, if only I called the vet sooner, had a proper syringe, or knew better. The only comfort I have through all of this is knowing deep in my heart that Cajeta was loved, she lived with us for only a week but she was truly loved. And I know we tried. We tried as hard as we could, equipped with what we had and what we were told.
I carry with me the love and support of family, friends and even strangers. My neighbor that I didn’t even know but dropped everything to come and help us when I showed up at her doorstep late that Thursday night. The many people I called who offered advice on what I should do along with words to comfort me. The carpenter that immediately ran to the store to get me the supplies I needed to drench the goats. The doctor and her assistant that worked the whole day trying everything they could think of to save our two goats. My sister that drove over an hour to be by my side on Friday. I didn’t know that she was coming, although I should have because that is so typical of her. When I saw her walk into the barnyard that day I was overcome with emotion. So grateful that she was there. She would help to make it better, she always has. She stayed the day with us helping any way that was necessary, offering me a shoulder to cry on and a hug for comfort. My children also came, our oldest son who helped with the heating and lighting in the barn, he got down and dirty with us, he helped take the night shift so we could get some much-needed rest and he helped when the time came to say good-bye. I am beyond proud of the strong, caring man our son has become. Our daughter who came to take care of us, making sure we had something to eat and lending a hand to clean up the house so I wouldn’t have to deal with all that on top of everything else. She is a wonderful daughter, sister, mother and my friend. Also my Facebook family and friends that helped me with encouraging words and prayers. My hubs, my husband. He worked around the clock never wavering from the task at hand. He showed compassion with these animals and gave me strength. He was tender when he gave them their injections, never wanting to cause them more pain. He was thoughtful when he worked to provide heat and a light source in the barn hoping to make things a little easier and maybe a little more comfortable. He was loving when he came to bring Bambi and I both into the house on that cold, rainy day that we lost Cajeta. He carried me through.
It has taken me a long time to tell this story. I felt it had to be told but I just couldn’t seem to find the right words. I hope that now I can put it to rest and move on.
Sleep peacefully my little Momma Cajeta. I promise to take good care of Bambi for you.