Fudgie's story will be a work in progress, so be patient as it is developed! Thanks!
The morning of Saturday, February 23rd, started out normally (what ever “normally” might mean on a goat farm). We (husband, Alvie and myself, Susan) went out to do chores about mid morning and all seemed well with the goats (about 100 or so at that time). By late afternoon, though, I noticed that one of our does acted as though she was in labor, though she wasn’t due for another ten days. Not a good thing. But, sure enough, her udder was filled out and she was doing her “baby talk”. So, we watched and waited.
Evening came and went and she was dawdling along with occasional contractions. Finally at midnight, with some help, she delivered a pretty little buck. Being early, he was unable to stand up, but was hungry, so we helped him nurse, which he did eagerly.
It was very cold out, in the upper teens, so once he had some milk in him, he was whisked to the house for a rubdown and blow-dry in front of a ventless gas heater. Soon he was sound asleep in a cocoon of towels, and our attention turned back to the mother, who we felt sure had another baby in her. She wasn’t doing anything at all, and finally about 3:00 A.M. she passed afterbirth. So, that was that. She was put in a little stall with a heat lamp, a “jug” in goat people language, and we went to the house to rest for a while.
At about 5:00 A. M. I took the baby boy back out to the barn to nurse (he still couldn’t stand up). When I looked over the stall door, to my great surprise, there was another baby!! But was it alive? It just lay there on its side perfectly still, as thought it was dead. I yanked the door open and leaned close enough to tell that the baby was taking shallow, feeble breaths. I put the little boy down, grabbed up the new baby, and tore to the house. She was so cold a thermometer wouldn’t register at all. We quickly filled the kitchen sink with very warm water and submerged her, all but her nose and mouth. Alvie went back to the barn to tend to the boy while I kept the girl under the water, draining the cool water and adding hot continually as her body started to warm up. She was breathing better but not making any attempt to move.
As the minutes passed, Alvie came back with the boy and put him back in his nest of towels by the heater and came to help with the girl. Finally there were signs of life, a little movement of legs. No sounds, but she was visibly coming around. What joy we felt! This was a lovely little dappled girl and we were determined to save her.
Within a couple of hours she was out of the water, dry and, unlike her brother, was able to stand on her own. We hustled her out to her mother so she could nurse, but were we in for a surprise! When we held her up to the teat and put it in her mouth, she flat refused it, pulling back, screaming, and fighting us for all she was worth. We’ve had reluctant babies and slow learners before, but nothing like this! Here was this little 5 lb. baby who has just come back from the very brink of death, and now she won’t eat.
So, now what? She needed nourishment, her mother’s colostrum, and soon. We tried again, with the same result. Finally, Alvie milked Buttons (the mother), and we took milk and baby back to the house to try a bottle. Same result. Pull back, scream, and fight. Finally, as a last resort, we tubed her. Her brother couldn’t stand up (yet), but would eat voraciously; she could stand up just fine, but refused to eat. We had our hands full with these two. Buttons just went along with the program, making plenty of milk and cooperating nicely with the strange way her boy nursed, and being milked for the girl.
Alvie named the little girl “Fudgesicle” because of how cold she was and for her coloring. It seems to suit her, though it isn’t a very fancy name. She was born on Sunday morning, we assume around 4 A.M. She first had nourishment about 7. Later we tried to get her to nurse her mother or a bottle, but still to no avail, so we tubed her again. She didn’t resist the first tubing at all, fussed a little at the second one, and fought the third one. All the while we tried the bottle or helping her nurse. No go.
The next day, Monday the 25th, we tubed her early in the morning, with much struggling on her part – she still wouldn’t take the bottle or nurse. We decided that as much struggling as she did from being tubed, we would let her get really hungry and try nursing or a bottle again. We couldn’t tube feed her forever. It worked! She refused her mother, but finally took the bottle. What a relief!
You know how babies will urinate shortly after eating. Well, after her bottle, I took her outside and set her down, thinking she would move around and eventually do her thing. But she just stood there, not moving at all, not looking around, not turning her head. She just stood there. What was going on? No other baby ever acted like that. They’re always curious about their surroundings and checking them out. Not her. She stood still, not moving a muscle. Her behavior was strange enough that it finally occurred to me to check her vision and hearing.
That was the problem. She was totally blind and deaf. She reacted to nothing. Pan lids banging together didn’t faze her; waving something close to her eyes brought no response at all. Her eyes were clear and normal looking, but stared ahead unfocused. Poor little thing! No wonder she was scared when we tried to put her mother’s teat in her mouth, or poke a nipple at her! In retrospect, it was a blessing that she refused her mother, because if she had nursed her, we would have assumed all was well and left her in the barn in the care of her mother, not knowing that she would not be able to find her mother again. God has a wonderful way of working these things out.
So, what does one do with a newborn goat that is blind and deaf? First of all, you love them, cuddle them, spoil them, and care for them. They become family and live in the house for a time. You watch them learn things, like finding their way around by smell and taste and feel, and you watch them do what baby goats do - play. For a blind baby, play means jumping and bucking in place, and running in very short bursts, no doubt hoping to avoid hitting anything (which happened often). The kitchen floor presents a special challenge - like keeping your feet under you, and getting lost in a forest of chair and table legs.
...To be continued....
I sure didn’t intend to wait three years to continue Fudgie’s story, but life is what happens while you are making other plans! Fudgie was born in 2013 and it is now May of 2016. How time flies! I’m sure you are delighted to know that Fudgie has done well and thrived these past three years!
She spent the first two weeks mostly in the house with us, with time spent daily in the barn or outside with her mother (Buttons) and brother (who “found” his legs after a few days). Buttons knew Fudgie was special, and treated her well, but they never really bonded as they would have been if Fudgie had nursed her. Fudgie and her brother were very close, but he would drift off to do baby-goat things and she would have no idea where he went.
By the time she was a couple of months old, she had gained a tiny amount of “sight” and hearing (“tiny” being the operative word here), just enough to be scared to death if something suddenly passed in front of her, or a strange noise was loud enough for her to hear. In this case she’d run in tight, panicky circles, not knowing what else to do. She felt danger, but had no idea from what, or where it might be. Her vision and hearing have not improved since then, so we are left to wonder just how much she does see and hear. If we are close to hear and call loudly, she hears something, but doesn’t know where it is coming from. Her vision is worse than that. She bumps into things occasionally, and can’t find her way “home” if she is very far from it and doesn’t already know the way.
By the time she had reached about fifteen pounds, carrying her back and forth to the barn all the time was getting to be a bit much. She needed to learn to lead, so we put a collar on her and began teaching her. She was a reluctant learner at first, as expected, but gradually accepted being lead fairly well. She has always been slow moving, though, wanting to stop frequently, trying to assess her surroundings by “looking” around and smelling the ground.. Patience is the name of the game here!
When Fudgie was able to give up her night-time bottle she started spending her nights in the barn with Buttons and her brother. They had a nice “apartment” in the barn all to themselves, including a little stall (“jug”) with a heat lamp in the corner. Fudgie managed to find her way to the stall and sleep under the lamp with her brother. It was March now, but still quite very at night. In the mornings when I’d bring her bottle, I would stand in the stall quietly (not that I needed to be quite…) and wait. Within seconds, Fudgie would suddenly perk up, get to her feet, calling, and try to find me. She couldn’t see or hear me, but her sense of smell was excellent! And she knew I was the bringer of milk! It was very interesting to watch her compensate for her lack of vision and hearing.
One milestone of major proportions was learning to drink water from a bucket or trough. We had no idea how much learning animals do by observing others do things. For instance, goat babies (and other animals) learn to drink water by watching their moms and other goats. They see it and they try it. Not being up on all this, I assumed Fudgie would just “discover” the ever-present bucket of water in her area, realize it had water in it, and start drinking from it on her own. By the time she was four months old, it was obvious this wasn’t going to happen. She thought all liquids came from a bottle with a nipple on it, and it would just showed up at various times! She was no longer getting milk, but was getting water regularly. She really needed to learn how to drink from a bucket! I let her get good and thirsty, took her to the bucket and tried to gently press her head down so her lips would touch the water. She didn’t like that a bit, and pulled back forcefully every time, never getting near the water. Finally, I cupped water in my hand and put it to her lips so some would get inside her bottom lip. She tasted it and licked at it. Over and over I did this. Finally she licked my hand to get more moisture. Gradually (over a few days’ time) I lowered my hand to the water, with her following it, until her lips were touching it. She jerked back a time or two when her lips touched the water, but came back for another try until she tasted the water. She didn’t sip the water like goats mostly do, but lapped at it, tentatively at first, dog-style. She still drinks in that manner, with a few sips thrown in, so it takes a while for her to get her fill, but that’s just her way. The “great water-drinking milestone” came the day she was moving around outside and bumped into the water trough. Checking it out, she discovered the water and started to drink! All on her own! Well, what does a good “mother” do at a special time like this? Run for the camera, of course! What a great day that was! Soon she wasn’t getting water in a bottle at all, which greatly reduced my work-load! We were both happy about that. She could get water any time she wanted, and I didn’t have to bring it! How good is that!?
When Fudgie was first born, and it was discovered that she was blind and deaf, of course I called our vet to ask about why and what could be done if anything. I suspected it had to do with being so cold and almost losing her life from a lack of oxygen. The vet confirmed that, and when asked about Fudgie’s ability to reproduce, she said conception was unlikely. Bummer. What a pity not to have babies from such a gorgeous purebred doe. We abandoned all hope of that, not giving it any more thought. Fudgie would simply be a special-needs part of our family.
Though she was kept out of the general population of goats due to being picked on, she was able to be with the other youngsters her age. It was funny to watch her at the feed trough. She had no reverse gear, so if she wanted to move, she simply went right or left along the trough, wiping out any kids that were in her path. They soon learned to simply back away until she passed, then go back to eating, which action they might have to repeat several times during a meal.. They made adjustments for her because she walked where and when she wanted, no matter who was in the way. She was every bit as big as they were, bigger than some, and pushed her weight around, not intending to be mean, but just not understanding “goat etiquette”. Sometimes she’d have to be rescued when she got herself into a corner or tight place she couldn’t get out of. Many times, simply backing up would free her, but she didn’t understand that. Taking care of a special needs animal takes dedication and commitment.
She has never been able to be with the herd itself for several reasons. First, of course, being a prime target, she got picked on unmercifully by bigger goats, and didn’t know where the blows were coming from or how to avoid them or defend herself. Second, she couldn’t follow them as they moved around. She had no idea where they went. Third, she would wander off and not know how to get back. So, the best thing for her was to have her own paddock and housing where she could learn her way around and be safe, sometimes with a companion and sometimes alone.
As time passed and she got bigger, some of her peers began picking on her too, so she spent more and more time on her own. She didn’t seem to notice that she was mostly by herself during the day. She had a spot in the freezer area of the barn where we kept our feed, and would eat from a trough set up in there just for her, and would sleep there at night (before she had her own area). For a time, our buck, who we were feeding extra to, ate in there with her. He wasn’t very much bigger than she was. When eating, he focused strictly on food, and paid little attention to that strange-acting doe that was in there with him. He’d been eating twice daily with her for weeks without any attraction to her at all, until one morning when he was let in, he immediately jumped on her and bred her! She had shown no outward signs of being in heat that we could detect, but Thunder sure knew she was!
Five months later, under close supervision, she gave birth to a lovely dappled boy! Surprise, surprise!!
When her baby was born, Fudgie seemed to know what had taken place in some way or other, because when we moved her baby up under her nose as she lay there, she immediately began “talking” to him, nuzzling him and licking him. The licking part was haphazard, though, so we helped dry him off. In a short while, Fudgie got up and stood perfectly still as we checked her teats to make sure they were open and milk was flowing. We helped him get started nursing and still she didn’t move a muscle, standing perfectly still as if afraid of stepping on him if she moved. She seemed to know we were helping her and cooperated fully. Thankfully, the birth had been easy, there was only one baby, and he was healthy, active and aggressively hungry! This made the whole process easy and enjoyable.
Fudgie’s mothering techniques are a bit different from most goats. At first the two of them were kept in the freezer area, a long, narrow area with a wider spot at the far end. They did well there for the most part. Fudgie would call and call if she lost track of the baby (who is still known as “Fudgie’s boy” though he’s going on a year now). He might come or might not, according to his interest in milk at the time. If he didn’t come, Fudgie would pace the area “looking” for him. When he did come to nurse, sometimes he would announce his coming by going in front of her first, as many baby goats do, but sometimes he’d just make a dive for her udder unannounced, and startle her enough that she’d literally stand up on her front legs, rear-end in the air, and he’d just have to grab hold the best he could until she came down. If she didn’t want him to nurse at that time, she’d repeat the rear-in-the-air process over and over. He managed to nurse though, growing round and healthy with plenty of milk. A few other babies would come in the area to find left-over food or play with the baby. Fudgie’s boy liked the company, but the others’ presence seemed to confuse Fudgie a bit. One or two may have even tried to sneak a free meal once in a while.
The day came when the baby, now three months old and acting “bucky”, was moved to other quarters for weaning. Fudgie spent a day or two mildly looking and calling for him. They didn’t experience the “separation anxiety” as most weanings do. Neither of them was frantic about it. This was likely because they were apart most of the time anyway. He was very independent and off doing his thing with the other babies, only coming to her for milk. She couldn’t follow him around as other mothers do with their kids, so she and her baby weren’t as “close” as they might have been had she been more independent and able to keep up with him.
Fudgie now has her own area and housing, safe from any goats who would pick on her. We put a nice, high-powered, brown buck in with her to “keep her company”. He’s been with her for several months, and happily, she is “expecting” again as we had hoped! We are excited to see what this union will bring!
Fudgie has taught us a lot about caring for a special-needs goat! Especially one that is, for all practical purposes, blind and deaf. They need to be protected from other goats, predators, and even themselves sometimes. They need to learn practical things in different ways, things other goat kids learn as a matter of course, like drinking water, avoiding trouble, getting themselves out of a tight situation, eating the right kinds of things, and even coming in out of the rain. Goats don’t like to be rained on at all and will run for shelter even in a sprinkle sometimes. Fudgie has no idea where rain comes from, so doesn’t know what to do to get away from it. We try to keep her penned up when we know it is going to rain, or go bring her in when the rain catches us by surprise. Occasionally she just gets wet.
So, this is Fudgie’s story as of May 2016, and also, to some degree, our story, too. She’s part of our “family” and we do what’s necessary to make her life happy and safe. Finding “goat-sitters” isn’t easy, so it is confining at times, too. But it is worth it.
Below are some pictures of her as she grew from baby-hood to mommy-hood. I’ll try to do a better job of updating at least the pictures!
At 11:00 PM on Tuesday, June 7, 2016, Fudgie gave birth to beautiful twin girls! They both weighed in at 6.6 lbs. One is solid reddish-brown, like her daddy, and the other, viewed from the right, is solid reddish-brown; but viewed from the left side, she has a white stripe on her side, a few white dots, and one white foot. The births were easy, thankfully, and Fudgie knew just what to do, talking to them and licking them. We had to put them under her nose, but she did the rest. Her mastitis is cleared up, but that side doesn't produce milk, so the babies have learned to share. At two weeks they are gaining nicely and their weights are within a few ounces of each other, so no need for supplementing with a bottle.
Their vision and hearing are normal, and they are lively and curious. They just discovered a way out of their area, which we have not found as yet. Since they can get out anyway, maybe it's time to make a way for them to come and go. They need to be able to socialize and play with the other babies their age. They'll go back to mamma when they get hungry, and all are put in their "apartment" in the barn at night, which they can't get out of (maybe).
This pretty well wraps up Fudgie's story. She'll be with us for the duration, what ever that is, and have more babies, we hope. She's special in more ways than one, being an example of handling a handicap with determination and (as much as can be expected from a blind and deaf goat) with grace.
If you have read all this, thanks and we hope you enjoyed it!
Below are a couple of pictures taken today, June 29 2016. The babies are two weeks old.