Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Old Dog, the New Kid, and the Long Drive Home

Well, apparently you CAN teach an old dog a few new tricks.

The Nubian doelings (Faun and Fiona), though small, are doing well.  Their appetite is beginning to become more vigorous, an important part of barn life.  As it's been since moments after their birth, their brother, Frankie is leading the little Nubian herd in terms of vitality.  His loud, insistent cries cannot be ignored at feeding time, just like his mama Faith's.  Nubians do have distinctive voices!

Last night, when I arrived at the barn after school, little Frank bounced over to greet me, yelling all the way to the stall gate.  He screamed for dinner while I milked Faith, screamed while I got hay, and then drank an entire 16 oz. bottle of his mama's milk.  And I still heard screaming, which sounded just like him; therein lies the REAL story for today.

Nubian voices are piercing; the little voice I heard was equally piercing, so I followed it to its source: a fairly large Toggenberg kid was under the manger, apparently unable to extract itself.  I pulled her out, and set her under her dam to nurse...and she fell over.  He rear legs were immobile and cold, stiff to the touch.  After trying to work them a bit, I concluded that she must have been injured in the stall somehow; those clammy, wet legs were lifeless. I bundled her in my coat, and she occasionally let out a bleat, getting weaker now; her head flopped to the side.

After showing Kathy the kid, and discussing the situation, we came to the conclusion that she must have had her back broken sometime during the day; she had been a vigorous eater just yesterday!  We opted to do the humane thing, so I wrapped her in a towel, placed her on the seat of my truck, and headed for the vet; I nearly turned back once, as she had become unresponsive.  I thought nature had taken its course, but a flutter of her eyes told me differently.

When I arrived at the veterinary clinic, the vet happened to be in the lobby.  I told him who I was, and that we had called ahead.  He asked me to put her on the floor so he could take a look.  He lifted her up, and though she didn't move her legs and fell right over, her tail waggled; this was NOT a broken back!  This baby had been neglected by her dam for just one day, and had come very close to death.  Apparently, when malnourished, a newborn kid will have trouble maintaining its body temperature in cold weather.  Our baby was slowly dying right before my eyes...but there was hope.

The doctor taught me how to use a gastric tube to feed her.  I have never done this before, but when circumstances demand it, we can do nearly anything to preserve these little lives, can't we?  He told me it was crucial to get her temperature back to normal, and to get warm milk into her belly.  I bundled her up, got into my truck, and headed out.

I knew that everyone at the farm thought she was a goner, and I was desperate to tell them otherwise, so I did what I know is wrong to do: I used my cell phone while I was driving.  I had a starving, hypothermic kid beside me, the means of saving her, and no time to spare.  I thought it was warranted.  Apparently the police officer who saw me try to make that call thought otherwise; luckily, he was in an exit lane at the time, but he did cut through a parking lot to tail me...and tail me he did, for the next 8 miles; he was wily; he exited and reentered on a second short ramp, then paced himself just behind me...but I saw him back there and behaved myself.  With one hand on the kid, and my eye on my rear view mirror, I quit trying to call the farm and headed for home (just under the speed limit!), where I knew I had the time and supplies I needed.  I ditched the officer about a mile before I arrived, and blew into the house, kid-in-coat, to begin working on her.

.....to be continued... (photos to follow)

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