Posts Tagged ‘death’

Last Saturday, Hubby went out to do chores, and found our buck laying dead in the barn.  Just…dead.  There was no sign of illness or injury; no blood, pus, mucous, cud, diarrhea, lumps, bumps, bruises…nothing.  He was found laying on his side in the straw, but there was no sign that he’d had convulsions or anything.  No indication at all of what might have happened.  The buck was a little on the skinny side, but had been eating and drinking normally as of the night before, perky and being a nuisance when the boys were being fed.


I immediately called our breeder to ask if he had any ideas.  He asked us about our worming program.  I had postponed worming, because I picked up the dewormer after the does had been bred; the directions on the package indicated it wasn’t to be used in pregnant cattle (there are never instructions for goats, alas), and I couldn’t find any information about whether or not it might be safe in goats.  He also asked about supplementation.  We give a bit of fortified goat ration, and a blue cobalt salt block, but the breeder informed me that this probably isn’t sufficient – our area is deficient in selenium, and the goats probably also need more copper and maybe calcium than the ration would contain.  Between those things and the extreme cold (it was -35 that night), the breeder indicated he might have just died due to poor condition.  Of course, he could be fine on all counts and just have dropped dead of a heart attack or aneurysm, too, and there’s no way to know for sure, short of a post-mortem, which I’m not willing to pay for at this point – we’ll need that money to buy a new buck.


I have this nagging feeling like we might have killed our awesome boy through ignorance and neglect, though, and we’re both pretty cut up about it.   He was such a docile and friendly buck, and we’re breeding for attitude, so he was perfect in that regard.  He’d really become a pet, as we knew we planned to keep him more or less forever.   We’d gotten completely attached.


On Saturday, I finally sucked it up and tried eating goat cheese.  With Baby M having such a violent and extended allergic reaction when I eat any cow products, I had been too chicken to try any alternatives.  I have been working up my courage since before Christmas.  So I made up a pizza on a gluten-free crust with home-made goat ricotta, mushrooms, onions, pineapple, and peppers.  It was absolutely divine, after six months without a bite of cheese.


Baby M did not react at all.  I would have been dancing a happy dance if not for the black cloud hanging over our heads with the loss of the buck.


I’ve been finding a way to work cheese into pretty much every meal since…


Tuesday, while I was out doing chores in the girls’ yard, I got this creepy feeling like I was being watched.  I glanced around at the girls, who should have all had their heads in their grain buckets; the three older does were all looking to the north, ignoring their grain entirely.  I looked around, too, and didn’t see anything…until it moved.  A huge coyote, slinking out of a derelict building that is not at all far from the girls’ pen.   I’m certain it was a coyote and not a wolf, but it was a seriously large coyote.  And bold!  It sat down in front of the building and just watched us.  I charged that general direction, yelling and flapping my arms; the coyote moved a few steps and sat down again.  I grabbed a chunk of snow and threw it…if my aim had been better, I might have had better effect – but the coyote just moved a few more steps before sitting down again.   Eventually, it wandered off, but the girls and I were all spooked.


After chores, I got the dogs, and went exploring around the area.  The coyote had been into the compost pile; Hubby knew something had been digging in there, but had blamed Poppy, or thought maybe it was a skunk.  There were pretty well-established trails in and out of the bush, suggesting this critter has been hanging around for a while.  I am not sure what our next course of action should be.  We could try to trap or shoot the coyote, but I don’t know if it’s worth the hassle.  There are still all the foxes, plus plenty of other coyotes, waiting to take this one’s place.  I am not so worried about the goats, especially since they go in the barn at night, but the cats are at risk, and the chickens are pretty vulnerable.  The snow has effectively reduced my five foot fences to about three feet – even the non-drifted areas are up well past my knees, and the snow around the goat and chicken yards is packed fairly solidly from us and the critters walking on it.  My biggest worry is when the goat kids come.  The goat yard is easily approached from the bush, and a kid would be pretty tempting for a hungry coyote.  I haven’t seen the coyote since that day, but we know it’s still hanging around.


There has been so much piling up that it’s almost hard to tackle writing a blog post about it.  However, in short, it’s been a rollercoaster of a week – we’ve been down (way down) about the loss of our buck, up about the possibility of me being able to eat cheese again, and worried about that stupid coyote.  Bleh.  I’d rather things were boring…


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Trouble At The Henhouse.

Just after hitting “post” for my last blog entry, there was a terrible noise in my front yard.  it sounded like roosters fighting, except our two remaining roos have been physically separated so that they quit damaging each other.  I got up and looked out the front door, and there was a fox savaging one of my hens.  Oh, damn.


I ran out to chase the fox off, then ran back in to get gloves and shoes so I could dispose of the carcass.  However, the carcass started trying to run away from me when I went to pick it up – my hen was injured, but not dead, and able to run from me, which I took to be a good sign.  I scooped her up and took her to the back porch, where I installed her in a rubbermaid container to recover.
While I was doing that, the fox made off with four more hens.  Or maybe the fox made off with the other four first, I don’t know.  I do know that when I went out to round everyone up, there was a terrible racket in the bushes – the fox was doing its creepy fox-shriek, and I could see flashes of its fur through the underbrush.


I went to chase it off, as it was pretty close to the chicken coop, and there was Bobby the barn cat, standing over a hen, holding her ground against a creature three times her size, calmly swatting at the fox every time it tried to swoop in and make off with its meal.  I don’t know if Bobby was protecting “her” hen, or just wanted to eat it herself, but it was pretty incredible to see her face down the fox as it shrieked and charged her, over and over.  It took me a minute to get to her, as I am ungainly and the scrub was pretty thick, but I did eventually chase the fox off and scoop up cat and hen, one under each arm, to go back to the house and check for damage.


Bobby was fine, but the hen, though alive, was in rough shape, with deep puncture wounds under her one wing.  She did not seem to be suffering, so I set her up in her own sick bay next to the other live hen, but she died in the night.   We never found the other three hens.


So our flock has gone from 12 to 8 hens, in one fell swoop.  Very disappointing.  We could shoot the fox, I suppose, but I don’t know how much point there is to that, what with the skunks, coyotes, and wolves, not to mention the neighbour’s dogs.  We knew there had occasionally been a fox in the yard, but it hadn’t shown itself much, and we figured the dogs being loose was keeping it from hassling our critters.  Then, of course, the dogs ran off, and have been mostly tied up since, so I guess the fox got bold.  I guess we’ll be looking at building more and better fences…

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As you may recall, we had one goat, Skye, who had a really rough time birthing, and who was very swollen and somewhat ill after her kid was born. She rejected the kid, but we were really persistent about putting her on Skye, hoping that when she was feeling better, Skye would change her mind about letting the little one nurse.


It worked, eventually.  The doeling, Calypso, got supplementary bottles, but after a couple of weeks of putting her on Skye a few times a day, we actually observed her nursing unaided, with Skye tolerating it, and even pushing other goats away to let the little one eat undisturbed.  Skye’s milk production was not really up to snuff, so we continued with bottles for another week, hoping her milk would come in as she nursed regularly. Her production did seem to ramp up, and we discontinued the bottles, though we were watching little Calypso pretty closely to make sure she was gaining weight and staying healthy.  Success!  Being born a couple weeks after everyone else, Calypso seemed tiny even in comparison to the other kids, but we did not worry about it, as she did not seem to be getting pushed around, and she was growing and gaining weight.


This morning, Hubby went to let the goats out, and Calypso was missing.   He found her body under a bit of straw in the corner where the kids normally sleep.   They sleep in a sort of a dog pile, and our best guess is that she somehow got on the bottom of the pile and suffocated, being so much smaller than the other four.  Random tragedy.  We’d heard of that sort of thing happening, but we didn’t think it would occur in such a small group of goats; we’d only heard of it on big farms where there are dozens or hundreds of goats.


We’re really disappointed.  And sad.  Calypso was the cutest kid, and was our big success story, having been finally accepted by her mom.  We were planning to keep her for future breeding and milking, especially as she was as friendly as the bottle kids (having been on the bottle part-time for several weeks), but had some chance of learning good mothering and being a good mom herself, down the road.  I don’t think there’s much we could have done differently, but you always wonder…





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It was summer of 1995, and I was working away from home for the first time, in a resort town up north in Saskatchewan.  My sister and my boyfriend at the time sometimes came up for visits on the weekends.  One weekend, they came with a handful of fluff – a tiny kitten, with half his fur falling out.  I told them I couldn’t have a kitten where I was staying.  They both welled up and sniffled, and cried “but he’ll die if you don’t keep him!”.  I could not face them both down.

We took the kitten to the vet, who said he probably would not live to the end of the week.  He was throwing up, pooping blood, and his hair was falling out.  He had ear mites and an eye infection.  He must have been separated from his mother, because he did not know how to eat or drink.  He was so tiny, he could curl up in the palm of my hand. I spent two weeks’ wages on eye drops, pills, ear drops, skin cream, more pills, and a special kind of milk that supposedly wouldn’t make him throw up.   The vet did not have much hope, and, to be honest, neither did I, but I did not want to let my sister and my boyfriend down.

I was working as a chambermaid at a hotel.  I kept the kitten in my jacket pocket while I worked, and took him out every hour to feed him and administer the various treatments.  I moved to a place that would allow a kitten.  I found a raven feather on the ground, and tied it on a length of purple yarn to make a toy for him, which he chased all over the cabin most nights.  It was cold that summer, and the cabin was not heated.  The sleeping g bag I slept under was too heavy for him, and he could not get warm enough in his own bed, so he tended to creep up and snuggle on my neck, the only part of me that was exposed for him to warm up on.  Later, when he got bigger, it was hard to break him of that habit, and the best I ever managed was to teach him to sleep on the pillow beside my head.  Another ‘cute’ habit that was hard to break was that he would climb up my pant leg when he wanted to get attention or be picked up.  Once his claws got long enough to go through my jeans and into my leg, I taught him to just put his paws up on my leg when he wanted to be picked up.  He loved being carried over my shoulder, like a baby.   Since he was such a snuggly teddy bear, I named him Pookie.

He survived the week, and the week after.  His fur grew back, and he turned out to be a beautiful long-haired chocolate tabby, with white toes, a white bib, and white on the tip of his tail.  His whiskers were the longest I have ever seen on a cat, and he had tufts of fur on his ears and between his toes.  He was a beautiful cat, and loved all the attention it got him.   Pookie knew he was handsome, and was vain about keeping his white bits pristine white, and his luxuriant tail was his pride and joy.  He was downright vain.  Even as an old boy, when he was too arthritic to keep himself perfectly groomed, he would happily let me pull knots out while I was combing him.  it had to hurt, but he would just sit patiently and purr.  He liked to look his best!

I moved in with my boyfriend that fall, and started going to university.  Pookie came with us, and chased my pens and pencils while I was trying to study at the kitchen table.  Whenever I sat down, he jumped into my lap, to the point of being a nuisance.  My boyfriend felt Pookie needed a friend, so we got  Gwen, another stray, from a rescue organization.  After a couple of days, they were fast friends, chasing each other all over the apartment and playing constantly.  When we shuffled the cards to play cribbage in the evenings, they would both go nuts, and run laps up and down the hallway.

One time, Gwen pounced over the end of the bed and onto Pookie, who was lying against the wall.  He made a horrible howl, and hid under the bed.  We fished him out and took him to the vet…turned out the head of his femur was broken clean off.  The vet told us we had three options.  We could put him down for $20, the vet could go in and clean up the broken part a bit for $500 and let a false joint form, or we could pin everything back together for $2, 000.  We chose the second option, even though we barely had enough money for groceries that month.  Rent was $350 a month at the time.  We called Pookie gold-plated after that.

Dad always liked Pookie.  When he was a teeny kitten, Dad fed him a big can of tuna.  The fish must have weighed more than the cat did, but Pookie made a heroic effort to finish it off.  He was so full he could barely walk, and Dad joked about it for ages.  One time, when Dad came to visit, though, he made a very realistic kitty hiss.  I was holding Pookie at the time, and he launched off me so furiously that I was bleeding quite heavily and thought I might need stitches.  He ran and hid under the couch.  Dad had just been teasing, but for ever after, Pookie hid under the couch when Dad came over.  Even a can of tuna was not enough to coax him out.  He had a very long memory.

I eventually broke up with the boyfriend, and won the custody battle.

When Pookie was about eight, I got a dog.  She was a husky, about 55 pounds, and young and bouncy, though not really a puppy anymore.   I brought her home from the shelter, worried about how the cats would react.  I brought her into the kitchen to get her a drink, and Pookie came around the corner.  Tail held high, he sauntered over to sniff noses with the dog.  he was pretty cocky.   he would shove his way into her food dish and steal her goodies.  It’s amazing he never got bitten.

When Pookie was twelve, my husband and I rescued a couple of kittens.  They were tiny and grungy and sick and scared and underfed.  I expected Pookie, now an arthritic old puss, to be grumpy and standoffish.  Imagine my surprise when, not a week after we rescued the kittens, to find them snuggled up to the old boy in his favorite chair.  Gwen had passed on about two years before, but I had never really realized how much he had missed her.  The kittens were ‘his girls’, and he was cozy and protective with them.  Even just before he died, Pookie would flatten one or the other of the kittens under a paw to lick her ears if he thought they needed attention.  They would all sleep together in a heap, and the more feral of the two kittens was always seeking him out for comfort:

He was a Mama’s boy, and would get snarky with me if I went away for more than a couple of days, and would ignore me for a day or two after I got home.   Sooner or later, though, he would be curled up on my pillow, purring me to sleep as always.  He had the loudest purr.

Pookie moved around quite a bit.  From his kittenhood in Saskatchewan, he moved to Alberta for a few years, then to B.C. for a year.  Back to Alberta, and home to Saskatchewan just a few months before he died.  I wonder if he knew?  He was a lap cat to the very end, and the day before he died, he was snuggling with me on the bed, in a sunbeam.  He was not sick, or in any unusual pain.  He was old, and arthritic, but still jumping on the bed and being a nuisance and bugging for scraps of people food the day before he died.  I really thought I would have more time with him.  He was such a good pet, loyal and loving.

On Friday morning, I woke up at 4am.  I went to the bathroom, but heard something not right in the livingroom.  Pookie was stretched out on the floor, panting.  I knew right away that it was the end for him.   We debated taking him to the vet, but a half-hour car ride would have been cruel, so I stayed with him, petting his head and soothing him.  At the end, I gathered him up in a towel and held him on my chest.  He did not suffer for long, and did not really seem to be in much pain, except for at the very end.   The dogs and kittens sat with him, too, so he died at home, with his loved ones around him.   After he died, we curled him up in a box in the livingroom, and went for a walk with the dogs, so the kittens could say goodbye, too.  I think they know he is gone, but they are still poking around the house, making funny little noises and being overly friendly – they miss him, too.   Hubby and I took him out and buried him at the Farm, under the maples and the lilacs.  He had never been there, but that was the final destination for all of us, and I like to think he will still be sort of ‘around’ when we move there for good.

It is hard to say goodbye to a pet I’ve had almost half my life.  I got him when I was a teenager, and he would have been turning sixteen right about now.  He has been there through the good and the bad, through breakups, get-togethers, several jobs,  a dozen moves, and more.  He was a constant – no matter what, if I sat down to read a book, he would curl up in my lap and purr.   When I was crying, he would always come to snuggle.  Right now, as I lie here on the bed, typing on my laptop, there is a cold spot at my shoulder where he should be.

Goodbye, Pookie.  You were a good friend.  I will miss you…

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