Goat Grief

From the Farm:


Published in the Casper Journal January 31, 2012

It’s officially been four months since twin goats and their mama arrived at our house. Thankfully, I can report that our experience has been relatively enjoyable ... well ... except for a few moments of “goat grief.”
The first month of goat ownership was very fulfilling. I loved looking out the window to our pasture where the goat kids played happily together. “I’m a real farm mama now,” I thought. Whenever my own children went outside to play, the goats would run to greet them, bleating happily. Our life was a picture-perfect farm.
Then, one fall day, my preschool son came screaming into the house. “She’s out! She’s out!” Dropping my mixing bowl on the floor, I ran to the door and saw mama goat Vicki happily standing near the road, on the wrong side of the fence. Luckily, she didn’t seem interested in the passing cars, and was content to simply eat the grass “on the other side” which must have been greener. My immediate instinct was to phone my husband. “No,” I told myself in my best farm mama voice, “I can handle this goat.” With my wide-eyed preschooler and toddler twins watching, I walked around Vicki, blocking her from the highway, and gave her a gentle push in the direction of the open gate. No good. She loved that grass.
Putting all dignity aside, and ignoring thoughts of how I would look to the passing drivers, I put a rope around Vicki’s neck and attempted to drag her back into the field. Nope. She was stronger than I was, and resisted the pulling.
“Wait here,” I instructed my amused children. Running into the house, I came back with an apple. “Goats love apples...don’t they?” I wondered. Just then my phone rang. It was my Las Vegas friend calling for a good chat. “I’ll have to call you back,” I said as I breathlessly answered. “I’m dealing with a runaway goat.” Her high-pitched laugh didn’t add to my confidence level.
“Here, goat,” I said, offering the apple. She looked up from the grass and eyed it, then began walking slowly to me. “Block the gap!” I instructed my capable two-year-olds. Neither one was as tall as Vicki, but they obediently stood between the goat and the open road while my preschooler held the gate open. My apron blew in the wind and I tried to look as non-threatening as possible. Farm Mama vs. Mama Goat. Vicki slowly sauntered to me, licked the apple, and then turned and walked in the opposite direction. I tried several more times, but she always changed her mind at the pasture gate. Finally, I had had enough. I picked up my phone and called for help. I wasn’t smarter than a goat.
That evening all escape routes from the pasture were sealed off, and the following days ensued with no noteworthy incidents. However, a few weeks later, tragedy struck. One day, goat twin AJ jumped from his favorite perch and broke his leg. We were heartbroken. My teenage son, AJ’s owner, was in tears. A trip to the vet spelled out our options: amputation, operation or death. Even goat medical care requires cash, and I suddenly wished for an animal healthcare plan. We spent the weekend debating: How valuable is a goat? Can a three-legged goat live a fulfilling life? “If I broke my leg would you put me down?” was the hard question asked us as parents.
Finally, with the help of generous grandparents and my son’s own hard-earned money, we decided on an operation. Monday morning I called the school secretary to inform her of my son’s delay. “He’s taking his goat to the vet,” I told her. The other end was silent. “Well,” the stunned secretary finally admitted, “I’ve never heard that tardy excuse before.”
AJ was left in the vet’s capable care and my son went to school with a promise that I would call once the operation had started. This time, a different secretary answered the phone. “Please let him know that AJ is in the operating room,” I said. The secretary’s voice immediately oozed with sympathy. “I’m so sorry,” she offered. “Would you like to give the news to your son yourself?” “That’s OK,” I responded, not wanting to admit that the operee was a goat.
In the end, infection forced the operation into an amputation, and AJ returned to our pasture as a tripod. After a week he was bounding happily with his sister again, and my son thankfully accepted the outcome. Watching him suffer emotionally had been difficult enough, and knowing that our pet goat was in pain hurt terribly. But I survived, and this mother is wiser for it. There are no longer just children in our family; we now have nine children and a few “kids.” Goat grief? Perhaps it’s the real “farm mama” test.

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