Helen the Goat, a Truly Small Comfort
It is true, we take comfort in the smallest things. I take comfort and solace in my goats. They are the kindest, most affectionate creatures I’ve encountered. However, there is one goat in particular who has captured my heart. One of our babies born this year has the kindest little soul, the calmest demeanor, and the sweetest disposition. Her name is Helen and she is a love. Helen is a special needs goat. When Helen was born, she was very large and very slow to begin life. She was the second born of twins. Her brother, who was born first, was even larger but he was still born. We have found that often when babies grow too big in utero, they do not survive the birthing process. It’s a sad lesson we have had to learn the hard way but sometimes it just happens and we have no control.
Little Helen’s back legs seemed to be a wee bit too long and they appeared to be a bit bowed. She was very slow to feed and had a very week suck reflex. With our aid, she was able to nurse from her mama but she never really seemed to be a strong eater or catch on to where the milk supply comes from. Thus, Helen became our special bottle baby. We supplemented her with milk from whomever was over producing, insuring she was indeed getting enough nutrients. Usually, by the time a baby goat is 24 hours old, they have figured out their food source. Helen, not so much. Even now at almost 10 weeks she still looks to the front and side of her mom for her milk supply. Helen should also be weaned at this point but with her delay, we feel it is best to allow her mama to decide when she is ready.
Helen is a white goat with black spots. She is an unusual color combination for our herd. I’m not sure but I think Helen may be hard of hearing or partially deaf. Unless she is paying attention to her surroundings, she is often left behind, easily startled, and just not quite present…for lack of a better term. I’m aware that white animals often have issues with hearing or eye sight, I question this about my sweet Helen. Even Helen’s little horns grow more slowly than the other baby goats. Also, Helen does not have the ability to run and jump like the other baby goats. The fastest pace I have witnessed with her is a trot. She makes sad little attempts at jumping but it just makes me gather her up in my arms and cuddle her. She loves to cuddle and sit quietly. We spend a lot of time sitting quietly and cuddling. We also spend a lot of time rescuing Helen. As with any group, there is a pecking order. Helen, is definitely at the bottom. My goats are a bunch of selfish jack asses when it comes to Helen. She is frequently left alone in the barn, the field, or the pasture. She cries and cries and nobody even makes an attempt to come to her rescue. Eric, Jordan, and I take turns, “going to get Helen” throughout the day. We go to wherever she has been abandoned, pick her up and carry her to wherever the herd has wandered. At first, it was sad and frustrating but she was small so it was not a big deal. Now however, she is more than fifty pounds and that is quite a bit of goat to carry for any distance. She never squirms, fights or fusses, she just accepts her ride and is content to be back with her herd.
I know dear reader, you will find it difficult to believe but by the time 3-4 o’clock rolls around each day, I have had more than my fill of nonsense from the Bibbed Wonder and his new trusty sidekick, the Bear. One can only filter so much chaos, tormenting and shenanigans with a sense of humor. By the time late afternoon arrives, I am the epitome of unpleasant. Between dirty little fingers being shoved under my nose asking what was scratched last, to pokes in my general backside partnered with shouts of, “Bum Thumb!” I have had my fill…and that’s only what I must endure from a day spent with Eric. Jordan is equally creative at being annoying. After our afternoon chores are complete, both minions know enough to leave me alone and give me some, “Helen time.” Helen and I sit in the sunshine on the back wall of the barn and we say nothing. She does not argue with me about school packets, appropriate songs, or lacking technical devices that are or aren’t appropriate for an 11-year-old. She does not make up funny songs about my hair color, my new found obsession with comfort clothes, or my inability to remember what I ate for breakfast. Helen is nice. I like Helen.
Helen sits with her dim little eyes locked on my face, cuddles into the crook of my arm, and we just “are.” No nonsense, no shenanigans, no barrage of senseless noise. Sometimes she chews loudly and burps, I will take goat burps over bum thumb any day. Yes, Helen is a love.
I am struggling to keep my word. I promised Eric I would not get attached to any one baby goat and I would not ask to keep anymore goats. I think even the Bibbed Wonder is struggling a bit over Helen. She has to go to a good home. No, not just a good home, a special home. Helen needs to go where she will be safely enclosed and secure from predators. She will have to be with someone who will visit her multiple times a day. She will have to be one of two goats at her new home because she will always be last in a large herd. She has to have a person who can offer her as much comfort, love and quiet as she offers. It does indeed have to be a special home. However, as long as this virus thing is a concern, I don’t have to think about a new home for Helen. Actually, now that I give it some thought, perhaps I should consider rehoming the Bibbed Wonder and the Bear. I can’t think of anyone I would inflict
"Bum Thumb!” on…one can daydream though. For the time being, Helen and I will just continue to “be.” Not everything about social distancing is perfectly awful. As always, please continue to stay safe, stay smart, stay calm, and wash your hands…especially the bum thumb!