Saturday, February 4, 2012


So I sit writing, exhausted from a different worry. Patches suddenly became ill a few days ago. I noticed she seemed lethargic one evening, but no apparent reason. The next evening it looked like she was about to miscarry her two-month old fetus(es) – goat gestation is 5 months. She was obviously feeling badly. I gave her some meds hoping all would be well. But a couple hours after evening chores, I decided all was not well. Of course it was now after hours, but the veterinarian hospital has 24 hour emergency service.
I hefted all 86 pounds of Patches into the back of the Subaru. She didn’t help, but she didn’t fight me either. None of my farm helpers were available to assist me, so you do what you have to do. This also meant driving up the mountain, in the dark and cold, it was already only18 degrees, to a place I’d never been. I had a vague idea of the location. Usually the vet makes farm visits, but since it was cold and dark (no electricity in the barn), it was best to transport the goat to the vet. After various treatments the vet sent us home with an armload of shots and a book length list of instructions. Patches was somewhat better yesterday morning. Eating and drinking, ears more perky, but then she crashed again. Oh, forgot to say she wasn’t actually pregnant, just a horrible uterus infection and anemia. This morning was another emergency trip to the vet. After many more shots, fluids and other miscellaneous treatments the prognosis is wait and see. She may pull through and she may not. I tuck her into the barn with a goat coat and cozy straw to keep her warm. Her sister lies down next to her. “Sleep well Sweet Pea, hope you are better in the morning.” She gives me a sad, tired, look and puts her head down to rest.
I go to the barn just as it is light, there is a terrible moaning coming from the stall. I know that sound, there is nothing more to do, just sit with her and hope it is over soon. I let the others out to eat and sit down with Patches’ head in my lap, she quiets some. She was waiting for me to be with her. Milky Way, her sister, stands nearby, eyes sad, watching. She is calmer now, although pain still racks her body every couple minutes, no more moaning just heavy, long, labored, breaths that come slower and slower. Finally nothing, you can feel the life leave her. Her sister comes in and sniffs her head and nose, then slowly walks away to go eat with the others. I sit there a few more minutes….. Better get up, the others need to be let out and fed. Life goes on, the yearlings come bouncing out of their stalls, the chickens are loudly squawking to be let out into the sunlight, and the cats need their treats. As I feed everyone, a few goats walk in to sniff Patches and then go back to eating. Animals accept the death of their own much easier than humans do. As long as they have a chance to see/smell the one that has passed on, they can move on. I finish the chores, filter the milk and put it away. Now it is time to deal with the remains. Milky Way is lying in front of the stall guarding her sister’s body, but moves aside when we enter. Patches will go to the forest to return to nature. Her remains will nourish the woodland creatures and the cycle will go on.
So why have I had a goat farm for the last 22 years? What is it about these inquisitive creatures that has me hooked, line and sinker in to this life? Could it be their silly smiles or the way they lean against you as they causally chew on your zipper, shoelace or shirttail? Could it be the amazing acrobatics of the kids bouncing and dashing around the corral, leaping onto anything that is somewhat horizontal: the overturned water bucket, the back of an adult goat or a human bent over to pick up a piece of string?
The cycle of life continues, the countdown to a new kidding season is on. First ones are due April 17th. Some does are beginning to look slightly more round, I’ll know in a couple weeks who is actually going to have kids. I know which ones were bred, but the question is, did it take? We’ll know soon and the excitement of having the tiny kids creeping, then leaping around is what makes it all worthwhile. So why goats? I had no choice, the goats chose me.


  1. I am so sorry. I get it. But still... there's just a level of sadness that understanding cannot console. And it just becomes... part of it all. And I am just so sorry for your loss.

  2. Thanks for your kind words. Every loss is hard, at least this one I was able to prepare for. The worst is when you open the barn in the morning and find a dead one that was ok when you put them to bed.