Still reeling.  Yesterday I came home early from work, and when I got here I had this feeling like I needed to check on the new chicks because it was so hot out. I went out to the barn and saw that they were fine but something else was really wrong.  The goats were calling but in a weird voice, and I couldn’t hear Butter.  I rounded the corner and saw Hank and Diego’s little worried faces and no Butter.  Went into the pen and looked around everywhere and couldn’t find Butter.

Then I heard a little sound.  I still honestly can’t tell you if it was from her, but the sound is what made me turn and look back into the barn, and then I saw her.  Her tiny little body had become freakishly wedged between the rock wall and the edge of the sleeping pallet.  She was upside down and severely bloated.  I couldn’t tell if she was alive or dead.  I hadn’t seen her before because she was so wedged in there, and her fur was the same color as the wood chips and rice straw in the barn.

The next hour or so was awful, because we couldn’t tell if she was really dead. There was a lot of rushing around, calling the emergency vet, trying to get her cool trying to keep her upright to help with relieve pressure from the bloat, checking for any signs of life.  By the time the vet got here we were pretty sure she was gone, and the vet confirmed it. No heartbeat. Our baby girl had died.

It’s never easy to lose an animal you have taken into your care.  It’s right to feel a sense of duty towards them, to love and protect them from harm.  They didn’t ask to have you, after all.

Still, it surprised me and Gina both how much we had come to love that little goat.  How losing her feels like a physical blow to the chest.  She had a wise and gentle spirit that was so very different from the boys.  While they are bombastic and totally focused on food and chewing on clothes, Butter would just sit quietly, enjoy a chin scratch, and look deeply into your eyes.  We love the boys, but Butter was clearly special.

Keeping perspective is a challenge.  What did I do wrong?  What if I had gone straight out there instead of checking my email when I got home, would I have been in time to save her then?  Did we let her down by building a pallet with a Butter-sized space between the wall?  Are we unfit to have goats?  Should we just give up?

In the days ahead there will be a lot of thinking, but it’s important to be able to draw a lesson from this experience, without being unreasonably hard on ourselves.  We can prevent this from happening again.  We can close up that space. We can make sure the new kidding shed doesn’t contain similar hazards, but we can’t foresee every possible freak accident.  If we can’t stomach that, then maybe we shouldn’t have animals.  But we know we can.  This is the way of the life we have chosen.  Eggs and Butter, blood and death.  Heartbreak has happened before, and it will happen again.  So we just have to get up, put on our boots, fill the water buckets, set out the hay, toss the grain, collect the eggs.  And then get up, and do it again.

RIP Butter.

10 thoughts on “Tragedy

  1. Oh, I’m so sorry. I know what it feels like just to lose three goslings and a pullet, and that made me cry. But losing a goat? That has to be heart-breaking…please don’t give up! There’s a baby doe out there right now who wants to come home with you.

  2. Thank you both. We aren’t going to give up, although for next time I’m considering trying to find a doe with a slightly less angelic personality, just in case…

    • Oh no! So sorry… I watched our runty sick-chick die this week, and it was rattling but not altogether unexpected- she’d been sick off and on and never really kept up with the others, who are super healthy and growing. Nothing compared to your loss! Part of farming, but still hard… sounds like you did everything you could!

  3. I am so sorry to hear this! When I left on my fishing trip I had just watched your goat video and looked at the absolutely wonderful picture of Butter. And now when I come back, I see this has happened. My heart goes out to you, but you seem to have an amazing attitude about it. I am definitely afraid that when I am both raising animals and a veterinarian that I am going to struggle with tragedy. Best of luck, and your blog is really shaping up to be a wonderful place to stop and read.

  4. so very sad and yet I agree with the girl and the goats–your attitude is amazing and it generates hope that we can learn, not only about technical solutions but about our relationships to these creatures and to death and loss, responsibility, and vulnerabilty. Thanks for letting us all into this really hard moment.

  5. Aw, thanks for asking. Been looking on craigslist, but really I would like to get another doe from the same breeder, which means telling her about what happened to Butter. I will tell her no matter what, but I’m really dreading it.

  6. Sorry to hear about little Butter, don’t be hard on yourself. These things are part of the peril of loving and having animals. You can’t blame yourself either. You can take every precaution in the world and things can and will still happen. I grew up with cows and there are many memories of terrible moments. BUT, there are also endless memories of wonderful moments… so hang in there, shed a few tears, remember the fun little doe, and keep on farming!

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