The tale of the goat and the outlier

Being an outlier isn’t easy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

For me, it is ubiquitous in all facets of my life, from the art on my skin and my parenting style to my house and ranch.

Last week, I faced what all ranchers dread: sick livestock. Willie Nelson, my 10-month-old LaMancha goat, had contracted urinary calculi — stones trapped in his belly, causing a blockage and sending his nitrogen levels through the roof. We found him lying in the pasture, unable to walk and jaw slackened with his tongue hanging out. He was so dehydrated he couldn’t bleat. His body was limp in my arms as I carried him to the barn, my two children trailing close behind.

“Mama is he going to be ok?” Elle asked.
“Shh don’t ask that!” Lex whispered.
“I’m not sure guys. All I know is he’s sick and we’re going to do what we can to help him,” I said. My mind pushed down emotion as my brain tried to recall flashes of ailments, tests and remedies I’ve read over the past year.

We ran to the house, the kids’ feet carrying them faster than my own. Two minutes later, we were back in the barn, a syringe of antitoxin and a thermometer in my hand. I gave him the shot, then readied the quarantine stall for Willie. He had come to live at the ranch as a baby, one of the four bucks I adopted in an effort to save from slaughter. One of our Highway Men. The little white goat who steals your heart before you realize it’s skipped a beat.

Twenty minutes later, he had perked up enough to stand. We put him in the infirmary stall with some grass hay and watched as he happily plucked the best bits from the pile. Elle took my hand as we walked inside. She squeezed my fingers gently. That night, Willie was at the forefront of nighttime prayers.

The next two days flew by in flurry of insomnia, injections and unknowns. By Friday morning, he wouldn’t stand again.

Some may have chosen to give up; put him out of his suffering.
But I made a commitment to this animal – to all my animals – to raise them with love and gentleness. To try. To fight. To succeed.

I dropped the kids off at school and made a bed of blankets in the back of my car. Willie didn’t make a sound on the eight minute drive to the equine vet, where a few months before, he and his brothers had been wethered. A few hours, many tests and a procedure later, and we knew his diagnosis and for the most part, his prognosis. He would get better, but it’s now up to us to adjust his feed and care in an effort to help lessen the other stones and prevent more from occurring.

I add ammonium chloride to his grain ration; serve hay for dinner. This weekend, I will cook a special homeopathic ‘soup’ to give him in four doses.

He was always an affectionate little goat, but now, when we are together, he pushes his face against my leg. Thank you for not giving up.

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