We heard about Arthur, who had reached that certain age in the life of a young goat, just as we were mourning the loss of our old goat. It was kismet. Against the odds, Arthur managed to have a future after all, not that he was grateful. I was just starting to wear the little bleater down when the Grandfather Horse stole him from me (here). I’m cranky about it because goats are an antidote for a Type-A personality with a time obsession. Not that I have those issues. As long as there’s a goat in the barn.
It’s all Fun and Games…
Right away Arthur started sleeping around. He showed no concern for my feelings at all. Sure, he still came to me for a handful of grain now and then, but I had to coax him way too long. I don’t mean to sound petty but he didn’t seem to understand that I had saved him from being someone’s soup.
Every day he’d wantonly throw himself on the ground, reclining with an ear carelessly tossed over his shoulder. Or nap spine to spine with someone, anyone, randomly moving through the herd. He was carefree, seductively sprawling without a concern for decorum. Egads. I don’t care about decorum either, but it irked me. Sometimes he was too busy head-butting the mini to even take grain from my hand at all. It was embarrassing. Then a month ago, he discovered my fingers were capable of scratching that itchy place on nub of his head. It was a miracle; he had no idea I had any real talent. It was a huge step, but still, he made me beg to do it.
…until someone gets hurt.
Then it happened. I came out for some evening air, and he was laying half-way under the Grandfather Horse. Obviously, that wasn’t unusual. I went to give the Grandfather Horse a scratch, and that’s when I noticed a fully weighted hoof on one of Arthur’s back legs. It had been there a while; Arthur wasn’t struggling. It took an effort to release him; old horses get planted sometimes. Arthur was quivering and there was an unnatural twist to that leg. The skin wasn’t broken, but the leg felt all wrong. Not to mention that it was all wrong that Arthur even let me touch it.
I grabbed a rope and pulled my Grandfather Horse out of the run, so Arthur would be safe. Naturally Arthur struggled to his feet and limped after his horse. The injured leg never touched the ground; I could see the feather hairs on that leg quivering. We went into the north pen, away from other horses at least. Arthur hobbled to the manure pile–it’s his favorite place. And I started making the calls.
This is my biggest fear; I hate this part. I’ve got an animal in pain and I’m calling in all directions. My equine vet has helped with my goats in the past, and the after-hours answering service tells me that he is the one on call… but they won’t take a message, insisting he’s an equine vet. I let her know we have a goat history, but she is firm. And it’s too late to un-say “goat” so I hang up. I call another emergency vet but they refer me to yet another number to call. I leave a message for that vet and follow the directions to text them 911 as well. Then I wait. While I wait, I make two more calls, leaving messages. Then I wait some more. It’s dark now. There’s a toenail moon and the ducks on the pond are making a racket but Arthur is laying quietly. He’s not himself. It’s either a good sign or a horrible one but since no one is calling back, I hope for the best. I bring a bucket of water and some hay, which Arthur ignores. So I scratch his head and wait some more. I hate this part.
Phone silence continued while Arthur reclined in his fluffy manure bed, the Grandfather Horse dozed close by, and I finally retreated, cursing under my breath.
First thing in the morning, I rushed Arthur in. Have I mentioned that Arthur isn’t great on a leash? He has two speeds, braced or a dead run, and he flip-flops them without warning. After screeching and stalling our way through four rooms, leaving a trail of bodily fluids and tell-tale droppings, we slam to a stop for x-rays. The broken bones were easy to see. Even from across the room.
This vet used the same nose cone to deliver the anesthesia that they would with a big dog, and once he’s knocked out, three of us lift him on the table. An hour later, Arthur and I are screeching and stalling our way toward the back door with a huge cast on his leg. When he sees our horse trailer, he bolts, launching himself in a three-legged broad jump through the air and miraculously lands inside. The vet bill was a little more than twice what I expected, so after I paid it, I took a flying leap into the cab myself, and we headed home.
Arthur had a rough afternoon, but just as he was starting to eat, the vet called and wanted to re-do his cast. Neither of us were as well-behaved on the second trip, but he’s home now, resting in a goat prison with Edgar Rice Burro.
I’d like to gloat an I told you so! to that goat, wantonly sleeping around without care for hooves or hearts, like he did. But I’m just six months out of a cast myself. Okay, it was a Velcro boot, but close enough to recognize that limp. He can barely peg-leg it along; he’s lost strength just like I did. He picks up the cast to scratch his ear and it’s too heavy, so he sets it down with his head still tilted sideways. An unrequited itch.
The Dude Rancher asked if I thought Arthur would take more care in the future. The way he jumped up to follow the Grandfather Horse before the hoof-print faded, I can’t imagine he will. Truth is we’ve all got some pretty bad habits around here, but at least none of us are quitters.
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.