Saturday, May 30, 2009

There is probably something I'm supposed to be getting out of this besides stressed out

O'un, a.k.a. The Resurrection Queen, has just had her third trip to hell. Her third near-death experience. Her third Vision Quest. The rest of us have had one rough last couple of days.

Just after we sold O'un's half-sister Venus and Venus's two kids, Oun became listless. She had no appetite that night for her grain. The next morning I saw that she hadn't touched the fodder in her manger. She was lying down staring into near space with an "I've lost the will to live" look on her face. Was she that attached the Venus? I wondered. Her belly was swollen and no sounds were coming from her guts.

Matt and I pumped some molasses and yogurt down her and got her out of the sun (where she had chosen to go lie down) and back in her stall. Soon after she was drooling. The vet said he couldn't come until five o'clock. Five o-clock! It was a long hot day. O'un went from being able to stand and walk to lying and staring. To drooling. To sprawled over on her side with her open mouth propped on the pallet wall of her stall, saliva draining away. When the vet got here, her temperature had gone from normal to over 106 degrees. She was super-dehydrated and in nearly complete metabolic failure. Matt and I had to drag her (she was still to heavy to lift) out of the stall area and into a shady part of the pasture with her head and chest aimed uphill.

After his initial assessment and a shot of banamine and because O'un was mouth-breathing and didn't respond to her eyes being touched, I asked the vet what he would do if she were his goat. He said he'd put her down. I was just about to say do it when Matt said, she's been like this before (when she was owned by other people). All the way like this? I wondered. This bad? I couldn't remember her mouth-breathing, only the stargazing and how terminal she had seemed before making her amazing recoveries. Matt insisted on the herculean measures. I wondered if we were torturing her.

The vet's first attempt to tube her failed. He couldn't get the tube down into her stomach. He went for IV rehydration, but he exhaused his chances on the right jugular before he could get it and the left jugular thrombosed soon after the drip started, she was that far gone. The vet and his intern put the rest of the fluid in subcutaneously. We got her into a better position and the vet was able to get the tube down her for more fluids and propylene glycol. he warned us, "they usually die right after I take the tube out. Something about it just tips them over."

O'un didn't die. But the vet was sure that her cranial nerves were already deteriorated and that she was essentially brain dead. Flies could walk across her open staring eyes.

The vet told me to get her into a frog position buttressed with hay bales for the night. He said he thought she had maybe 10% chance of making it until morning (and I was pretty sure he felt he was exaggerating by at least nine). Ronan and I got the hay bales in place and then set up four more to make a bed for me out in the field next to O'un. As I brought all my gear out: the sleeping bag, the quilt, the pillows, I kept thinking that each time I approached her she wouldn't be breathing anymore. And it often looked that way until I was right on top of her; her breathing was very shallow.

Shallow, but the breaths kept coming. At 10:00, Ronan walked out with me to "tuck me in". I woke up several times during the night to reposition O'un because she had scooted herself out from between the bales. Around one a.m. she bleated and her head was up instead of flat on the ground. Despite the fear and stress, I couldn't help but enjoy as I always have a night under the stars. I listened to the frogs and looked at the Milky Way, petted Charm (one of the outdoor cats who was so happy I was sleeping outside and was defending her position against all other cats). I saw two shooting stars with long tails in the low Southeast. The tops of my pillows and the sleeping bag got sopped with dew. It was a lovely night. Later, in the dead of night (about 3:30 a.m., when even the frogs are too tired to croak), the partying down at the lake cranked up (pun intended), but I the rest of the night had been so lovely that I didn't begrudge the idjits their noise as much as I used to.

A beautiful Saturday dawn came with sun rising far to the north of Mount Fujiko, and from 4:30 on I couldn't wait until 8:00 when I could call the vet and ask what to do next. Things still didn't look good. I'd only gotten O'un to eat two mustard leaves. It was a loooooong time until 8:00, but I kept busy with the usual chores plus the preparations for getting Ronan and Matt ready for the Row River Cleanup canoe trip. We didn't all have to stay home, and it's a rare thing for Ronan to spend a whole day with her dad. Despite all the hubbub, Peach, the scrub jay, still got some quality shoulder time in. (Peach is sitting on my shoulder now as I type. She loves shoulder perching.)

Finally I called the vet at 7:59 and he answered. He sounded very reserved when I told him my name and then amazed and frankly puzzled when I said O'un was still alive, now what? He said I could drive up to his office in Pleasant Hill and he would leave some medication in a drop box for me. I asked if we had somehow pushed O'un over the edge by cutting fresh fodder for the goats that had contained rather a lot of hop clover. He said that could have done it because it was rather rich food, but he couldn't say, even Venus's departure couldn't be ruled out as a cause of the whole cascade. He thought, though, that O'un was just a weak goat who had been ruined and compromised in the past and that anything could have triggered the ketosis or bloat into acidosis into enterotoxemia that was his guess for what was wrong with her. His advice was that he had brought more goats back from the brink with just blackberry leaves than with anything else. So that's what I did. All day long: cut a bucket of blackberry leaves. Feed O'un. Feed Peach. Do something else for about thirty minutes. Then cut more blackberry leaves. Check on O'un. Hold the water bucket for her drink out of. Feed Peach. Drive up to Pleasant Hill for the goat meds. Feed. Feed. Feed. And occasionally thing: wouldn't it be great if everyone had a "magic pill" that grew as a weed all over the place. Every prickly leaf seemed to make O'un stronger.

By evening we let her kids see her and she tried to stand but still couldn't quite manage it. Today (Sunday) her eyes are bright and engaged. We can't say if she's going to ever again be the same pushy, butt-headed alpha goat she was last week, but I think she might be standing up some time today. We'll see if her milk returns, too, although her kids seem to be doing okay without her at nine weeks. Matt's pretty sure she's going to dry down permanently.

What am I thinking I am supposed to get out of this? Besides the realization that we nearly killed O'un this time ourselves. Besides the realization that O'un apparently NEVER loses her will to live. Besides that I should not have mistaken her strange strength and ability to come back from devastating conditions (in which her organs have failed and her intestinal walls have all but dissolved) for overall good health: O'un, we now know, is as tough as she is delicate. I shouldn't have bred O'un this one last time ... although I am sure glad that we have a girl from O'un. No, none of those things so much.

What I am trying to get myself to learn is that again and again - and in just the last twelve months I've seen it happen three times - critical situations that I thought could not possibly turn out well, did. I watch myself making reasonably intelligent, logical deductions from the information at hand ... and coming to pessimistic conclusions that were wrong. While I don't want to take this too far into mindless hope and become someone who causes needless pain and suffering for others by not letting them go when they need to go, I really want to learn to adjust my heart and mind to allow for and encourage intelligent hope.

I have an uneasy relationship with hope. I have often joked (with serious intent) that hope was the last creature out of Pandora's Box because it was the worst and most climactically terminal disease. I think that humans have used hope - in something better always coming around the corner and then in something better coming in a life after this one - to destroy the only Paradise we know for a fact exists (when we're not busy transforming it into hell). For quite some time now I have lost hope that humanity can evolve into a species that does not destroy the world. My main source of hope has been that we do not have any means of escaping this world and going off to destroy another one. I still don't think I can address that ultimate problem with hope that I have, but I can try to use the lessons of Webster, O'un and even Peach here, to help me with the smaller daily hopes that can sustain me as a happier more highly functional person.

Today I can say, as I did when I woke up next to O'un and looking over the valley at my beautiful mountain: "Thank you for another day in Paradise."

1 comment:

  1. this post made me cry in such a good way. thank you.