Saturday, February 28, 2015

Life and Loss on the Farm

We've had an unusually warm winter, minus the 3 inches of snow that we got at the end of November. And because of the warmth, new life is popping up around me everywhere I look. The ornamental fruit trees are in full bloom, the lilac bush in our backyard is budding out, as well as some of the trees around the property. But as anyone with a farm knows, with life...comes loss.

I've been attempting to write this blog post for the past week...but the words weren't ready to come out. And to be 100% honest with you, they still aren't ready. As an animal owner, I know that at some point each wonderful creature, be it feathered, finned, or furred...here on this farm will at some point pass away. But I can honestly say that I wasn't expecting to lose one so soon.

Last Saturday started out as any other day here on the farm. I woke up in the morning, fixed four bottles with 16 ounces of whole milk and 3 tablespoons of kefir milk. I filled the sink with warm water, set the bottles in it so they could warm up slowly. I walked around the house kind of like a zombie...little did I know I would end my day the same way.

After the bottles were warmed I threw on my jacket, slipped into my mucker boots...and just as I'd done for the past weeks, I made my way down to the goat pen to feed the kids. Edgar, Allan, Betty and Rue all came running to the fence line bleating at me because I hadn't fed them in what they were sure was 3 years. Goats are liars, you know. :)

I popped the bottles through the fence as they lined up perfectly like they always had. It seemed no matter how I fed them, through what part of the fence, they always lined up from left to right in the following order; Rue, Edgar, Allan and Betty. And I'd gotten the feeding down to a science...well actually they had! It took them just under 3 minutes to slurp down 16 ounces of milk, and then lick their faces wondering why there wasn't another 16 ounces waiting for them. After they finished, I gave them each a tussle on the head and made my way back up to the house. I always looked back just in time to see them take off running through the pen...jumping, twisting and kicking the entire time.

The morning went on as it normally did. I puttered around the house then headed into town to go buy groceries. After making it back and eating some lunch, I wanted to build the kids another jungle gym type thing for them to play on since they destroyed the last one. Goats are hard on things, and I know this will not be the last time I rebuild this thing. So at around 1 PM I made my way down to the shop. Walking past the goat pen they all ran to the fence, expecting me to have milk for them, because they were SURE that is was feeding time. Truth be told they still had about 2 hours before they got their lunch. This was the last time things around here would be normal that day.

What I'm going to share with you is very personal, and I'm not sharing it with you to garner sympathy, but I'm doing so in order for you all to learn from the loss others suffer so that you may never have to be in the same position. So...here we go. **deep breath**

At around 2 PM I loaded up the jungle gym and pulled it up to the goat pen. On the way up I could hear them all bleating for me, letting me know they were hungry. I got to the gate and noticed it was just Allan, Betty and Rue. I looked around and saw Mr. Edgar, doing what I initially thought was, basking in the sun. I called him and he didn't respond back, and normally he's very talkative. So I walked into the pen and called him again. He tried to get up, but was on a bit of an incline and he rolled onto his side and back. Now I've seen them do many not so graceful moves, including this very thing when they try to get up too quickly. But this time was different. He righted himself and managed to get up, but I noticed that he was salivating quite a bit. I walked over to him, pet him, and then observed him for another minute.

He was having quite a bit of trouble walking, he'd walk backwards, stumble a bit and then lie back down. I knew this wasn't good so I grabbed my phone and immediately called the lady from the dairy. She asked me a few questions, like if there were any poisonous plants in the pen, if he'd eaten normally that day...and then she asked if I could take him to the dairy so she could see him. And of course I dropped everything I was doing and by 2:30, Edgar and I were at the dairy.

She immediately said she didn't like how full his stomach was, for having eaten 5 hours before that. Her first thought was constipation, so it was now time to get things ready. She gave him a shot of C & D Antitoxin, which would help destroy the clostridium bacteria in his gut. Before starting my research on goats I had no idea that their guts were so complicated. Cartoons and television shows all perceive goats as eating machines that will eat anything and everything in front of them without any harm. This isn't the case. Their gut is a very temperamental thing, and it's the very thing that is keeping them running. It acts as a large furnace that heats the body, and the rumen is what breaks down all the cellulose, which is why they can eat plant matter that we cannot.

After that shot, she gave him some penicillin, and prepared to give him an enema to get him unstopped. After the enema she got a few rather hard droppings out of him, and we stood there watching him. I got down to his level, and was petting him and talking to him the whole time. He was rather docile, and wouldn't move much...and this was not normal for this normally big bundle of energy and mischief. She gave me a baggie full of electrolyte powder and told me how to mix that up, and said that he shouldn't get milk for the next 24 hours. She told me to keep my eye on him, try to get him to drink the water with electrolytes and to give her a call in the evening to let her know how things are going.

So I loaded him back up and we made our way back to the farm. We stopped outside the goat pen and I had to grab him out of the dog crate and put him back with his siblings. He didn't move much, which still had me worried, but she said it should take him a few hours to bounce back to normal. So I went to the house to prepare 3 bottles of milk and one with for him with the electrolyte solution. His siblings ate like it was their job, and he just stood there, refusing to drink anything. His stomach was still pretty full, so I spent time down there with them...he came over and stood close to me...and his eyes just had this far off look to them.

I walked him up to the house and put him in the dog crate outside the door so he could have some peace and quiet...because Allan was giving him a little bit of hell before I left so I figured I'd let him get some rest. It was at that point that the crying started. If you've never heard a baby goat cry, it sounds like a child screaming Mom.

He wasn't crying that much, it was mainly when he'd either try and get up, or lie down. So I knew he was uncomfortable. As the time went on, I noticed his stomach still wasn't going down...and when Michael woke up he came outside to find me trying to get Edgar to drink some water with electrolytes, as well as getting a little bit of baking soda in him to try and help settle his stomach a bit. He wasn't thrilled with any of this and cried some more. So I decided to leave him to rest as I went in and made Michael's dinner.

At about 7:15 I called the dairy again, told her that he wasn't improving, that I couldn't get anything in him. She told me to try and get some vegetable oil down him and some baking soda. Neither of those ventures were very successful, and she at this point was sure that it was bloat. So she asked me to bring him back to her and she'd show me how to tube him so we could at least get some of the water and electrolytes as well as milk of magnesia in him. So again I loaded the little guy up into the dog crate and drove to the dairy.

It was at this point that something changed in me. I was no longer in the frame of mind that Edgar was having just a rough day...I knew that we were trying to save him. He cried the entire car ride, and I did my best to hold back the tears...it was breaking my heart to hear him in so much pain and feeling helpless.

We got back to the dairy and I got him inside and he started crying, and she said that isn't a good cry...she never likes to hear that cry. So she gave him another shot of the antitoxin, and then we tubed him to get the water and electrolytes down him. She showed me how to do it, then had me do it in case I needed to get more in him later. She then wanted to try another enema, just to get things moving. But before that she wanted to give him a shot of pain killer. While she was getting that ready he went and laid down. She warned me that the usually scream when they get this shot because it's one that stings. So I grabbed his head and pet him while she gave him the shot. He didn't even flinch. It was at this point that my stomach dropped.

She asked me to take him over to her and hold him over my knee so she could give him the enema. The entire time he was whimpering and grunting and crying. I was holding him, petting him and telling him that I loved him and that we were trying to help him. After she was done she was massaging his belly and I was petting his head...and I noticed that his mouth was really cold. She picked him up...and held him close to her.  I looked at her and said, "This isn't good, is it?" And she just gave me the look.

She sat down in the chair, still holding him and she started to cry. I started to cry as well...and all those tears I'd been holding back all day were finally let go. She held him, rocked him and talked to him while I held onto his foot. We sat like this for about 45 minutes. Then she handed him to me. I kissed his head...and I just cried. He was fighting so hard, and just wouldn't let go. I kept telling him I loved him...and how sorry I was.

At about 10 PM, I told her that I wanted to take him home, knowing that we'd done all we could...I wanted him at home in front of the fireplace. So she carried him to the car, I got in and she placed him on my lap. I didn't want him back in the kennel, I wanted him with me. I wanted to hold him, love him and be there for him during this time. I decided to drive to Everett, I had Michael call me and had him meet me in the parking lot. He got into the car and asked what was up.

I completely broke down. I said, "I wanted you to have the opportunity to say goodbye to him, because I don't think he'll be with us when you get home in the morning." As any good doctor would do, he kept asking if there was anything else we could do...could we wrap him in warm blankets, try to get his temperature back up. Is there anything we could give him. I just looked at him and said that he is hypothermic and his body is shutting down. Michael kissed him, and felt his muzzle and said, "Oh his muzzle is freezing cold." I started crying even harder. We sat in the car, Edgar on my lap, Michael's head on my shoulder...petting Edgar and telling him how much we loved him.

I finally said I should probably get him home. Mike asked if I wanted him to go with me, if I was okay to drive...and I said that I'd be able to make it. So he kissed me...and then kissed Edgar and thanked him for being such a wonderful goat. I could tell Michael would have rather been coming home with us to be with us...but he had to go back to work. So we made the 25 minute drive home.

Edgar cried the entire way, he was in so much pain. I kept talking to him, telling him we were almost home. We got home and I carried him into the house, and I set him on the floor in front of the fire place, kissed his head and told him I was going to get some towels to place on the floor so I could wrap him and keep him comfortable. When I walked back into the room he looked at me with those pain filled eyes and cried out. I collapsed on the floor in a heap with the towels, crying and telling him how sorry I was. I made my way to him...picked him up, wrapped him and held him in front of the fire. I scratched his ears, kissed his head...and promised him that I'd take care of Allan, Betty and Rue. That is was okay for him to let go. I told him that he was such a good goat, and that I was so sorry for being hard on him, not letting him jump on me only because I knew that when he was an adult he would knock me over doing that.

I rocked him for what seemed to be an eternity. He kept crying, and looking at me as if asking, "Why aren't you helping me? Why aren't you stopping the pain?" And I just sobbed, because I could do nothing else. I could fix this, I could do anything but be there with him. I felt completely alone and helpless.

At 11:40 Edgar took his last breath. I held him and rocked him. Told him I loved him...and apologized to him. I laid him on the floor in front of the fireplace....grabbed my phone and let Michael know that Edgar was no longer with us.

I went out to the car, grabbed the dog crate and brought it into the house. I grabbed Edgar, and held him again. I placed him into the dog crate, curling him up like he would have been if he were sleeping. I took him out to the locking shed, so he'd be safe until the morning when Michael and I could bury him. As I closed the shed door I started crying even harder.

I made my way back to the house and got the bottles ready for the other 3 kids. I made my way down to them...felt their bellies and fed them their meal which was a few hours late. I sat in the goat barn and cried. I reluctantly locked them in for the night and made my way back up to the house to feed Cooper and Puck. Cooper ate right away, but while I was sitting in the chair crying, Puck walked over to me...jumped into the chair and put his head on my chest. I just held him. I wiped my tears and told him it was okay for him to go eat. He walked over to his dish, grabbed a few pieces of kibble, ate them...then walked back over and looked at me and wagged his tail. He repeated this until he was finished with his food.

I walked around the rest of the evening like a zombie...the same way I started the day. I didn't want to go to sleep...because I knew that I would have to get up in the morning and bury Edgar.

I'm sitting here now at my kitchen table...and just to the right of my computer is Edgar's little red collar. I'm not ready to put it away yet. I still find myself grabbing four bottles out of the fridge, looking for four sets of eyes running towards the flashlight beam for the night time feedings. I know that it's going to take time...but I also know that losing animals is a part of this whole process. But that doesn't make it any easier.

We buried Edgar across the driveway from the house behind a retaining wall. I plan to plant some bulbs over his grave, and Michael wants to also plant a shade plant there. I look over there whenever I walk outside to do anything. I'm happy we chose that spot, because I don't want to forget him. He taught me so much. I've slowed down my life since he died. I now spend more time with the goats, I now try to be very hands on. I feel their bellies before and after I feed them. I check them over multiple times a day. I'm going a bit overboard, but the pain is still fresh.

In his six short weeks here on this earth and at B.P. Farms...Edgar wagged that little tail right into our hearts, and the hearts of everyone who ever watched a video with him. He didn't know what personal space was, and was always sticking his nose in my face. He really was a sweet boy, and I miss him, as does Michael. Allan ran the fence line on Sunday morning calling for his brother...and he spent the day looking lost, not really sure what was going on. My heart still hurts for him, but together we are continuing on day by day. And that's the good thing about life on a farm...it never stops. I couldn't just lie in bed crying and hiding from the world. I have chickens, dogs, rabbits and other goats that need my love and attention. And because of them I'm pushing forward.

From this horrible tragedy I've learned so much. The biggest thing is to slow down. We all have a million things going on, but you need to slow down and take time to do the things that are important. And for me it's checking all my animals, being hands on with them and making sure they are doing well.

I want to thank all of you for the messages of support I've gotten in the last week, and how understanding you've been. My friend Karry Ann posted something on her FaceBook page last Sunday that really hit the nail on the head...and with her permission I'm sharing it:
I sit here in my house - miles away from my friends and my heart is sad for the loss of the loved animal of a friend, an animal that I have never seen and will never see, and a friend who I have yet to meet face to face.
I am amazed at the response from miles and miles around the country, when the call for help is sent out. There might not be 'hands on' but there are words of advice full of love for the wellbeing of the sick animal and they bring years’ worth of their own experience.
We might not be there to hand our friend the Kleenex box, but we can be there in words, in thought and in spirit.
When an animal under our care passes on, we question every move we made or did not make. We need someone else to step back and tell us that we did all we could or maybe, 'here are the lessons we all need to learn for next time'.
People who understand our love for our animals will never question what we did - they will always support us and hold us up in our loss because they know the pain that our heart are going through... because they themselves have been there a time or two before. The loss is a lesson big enough - we don't need someone pushing it in our face.
For that reason - I count my blessing today for the loving and helpful community of farming - animal welfare - husbandry people that I am surrounded with here on Facebook.
I am amazed and so grateful for those who will stay up late at night to stand beside the one who is having troubles. Then first thing in the morning we are all checking in again hoping for the best.
The loss for one of us, is the loss for all of us in different ways. We share our loves and get to know each other’s animals so well that we feel like we lose a little bit of our hearts when one of our friend’s animals pass on.

Thank you Face Book, for bringing together such wonderful people and letting us farm our little farms miles apart but yet only a keystroke away. Thank you to people who understand and give all the help and expertise they can give without wanting anything back, and then for the ones who shed a tear with us when we cry.
Thank you for the people who care enough to know our animals by name just like we do and ask after them or will remember them should they pass on.
I am so glad the world is full of caring and compassionate people and I am so glad I can call them my friends.
Her words still warm my heart, just as the words of everyone who sent theirs to me as well. We here on the farm miss Edgar...but we feel lucky to have been able to have him for the time we did.

Rest in Peace little one. You will be greatly missed.
Edgar B.P.
January 7, 2015 - February 21, 2015


20 comments:

  1. It says alot about how important living things are to our lives that we are willing to go through this pain, whether early or late in a life doesn't really matter.How important is illustrated by the fact that avoiding this pain by doing without isn't an alternative. As I read this I shed tears for Edgar and Michael and you and myself and all the creatures I've cared for and lost over time.

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  2. You are an amazing dad Brian! Sending love your way ❤

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  3. Jeanette BoruszewskiFebruary 28, 2015 at 10:49 AM

    Thank you! Thank you for sharing, I write this in tears. I don't know you or your sweet farm family but my heart breaks for you just the same. (((Hugs)))

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  4. Wow that was hard to read, tears are flowing, for you, Michael and Edgar. I loved watching his little tail wagging and every video and post you share. We have to be willing to suffer the loss when we get animals, they never live as long as we wish they could. But knowing that doesn't make it any easier. So sorry this happened, he was just the cutest little guy. You should be proud that you gave him the best life ever, even though it was way too short. RIP little guy.

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  5. You have an amazing heart and are such a good person. I am so sorry because I understand how your heart is breaking. I too have a collar that a beloved friend will never wear again. The pain changes, but I don't believe "time heals all wounds." You still have the capacity to love, and you do. I have new fur friends, But like people their personalities are totally different. A beautiful piece of your heart will always be dedicated to Edgar. In that way he is with you. May God give you strength and peace.

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  6. My heart hurts still for the loss.. <3

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  7. Christie Von DitterMarch 1, 2015 at 7:40 AM

    That was so hard to read. And the only thing that will calm my tears is knowing that we all share a kindred spirit in how much the loss of our beloved baies can bring us together to share the grief. They take up a space in our hearts from the moment we lay eyes on them. Hang in there Sweetie. You and Michael are good parents and Edgar had much love in a small life. 💜

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  8. :( to be honest I have been avoiding reading this post. As expected, it broke my heart and now I sit crying for poor little Edgar. Life is hard and life is sad, I'm so so sorry for you Brian. I can't imagine your pain. There are no words :( <3 to you.

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  9. Lucy Hahto GoldenMarch 4, 2015 at 4:24 PM

    Oh, Brian....

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  10. I took a while to get around to read this because i knew i would be crying for you loss more than i have to date everytime i see a picture without edgar. I knew i was too curious to never read this post and i am big on research and learning as much as possible till i find my farm way further north of you.
    I am again very sorry for your loss, Brian and am happy to see you have good support with family, friends and your animals.
    I cant wait to see your little silkies and maybe a duck or 2 in the furture.
    Thanks for sharing the good and bad times,
    Amy (kitamerz #ohio2alaska)

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  11. Thank you for your kind words Amy. I still haven't read this post. I didn't even proof read it before posting. And I'm happy that I'm able to share the good and the bad...because it's a part of farm life that not everyone wants to think about. and we do have ducks and geese in our future!

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  12. Thank you so much for your comments. Edgar was a good kid...and it was hard to see him go like this. :(

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  13. Thank you for your kind words Christie. It truly is amazing how quickly they become a part of our lives.

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  14. Thank you for being there for me Miss Karry Ann. I truly, truly appreciate it.

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  15. thank you so much for your kind words, Julie. This collar is still sitting on the table...and I feel it will be for some time.

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  16. Thank you Liz. Yea...it's sadly a part of the farm life...and life in general. But you are right...it doesn't make it any easier.

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  17. Thank you Jeanette. I truly appreciate your comments.

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  18. Dave...thank you for your words. It's taken me a while to get back to these comments...but I truly appreciate what you said. We've all lost loved ones...be them animals or humans...and it hurts no matter what. Thank you again for your comments.

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