This is Sloane’s story.
Her journey began on St. Patrick’s Day, the day of luck, except it seemed there wasn’t enough luck to go around for this tiny baby goat that lived in the pasture next to my backyard. She was standing in one spot screaming, and every step she took was backwards and to the left, putting her in the same spot over and over again.
She was barely a month and a half old and standing there completely helpless. Her eyes were glazed over and because of her backwards circles everyone suspected she was blind. I called her owner who in turn called a veterinarian and described the goat’s symptoms. The vet recommended we give her a shot of Banamine, an anti-inflammatory painkiller similar to Advil, which would help ease her pain, but he didn’t have positive expectations. He said she wouldn’t live through the night. I spent that evening in tears while praying hard for the goat kid. I could not understand why the vet wouldn’t suggest another option, one that possibly included some type of treatment and a more optimistic outcome.
The next morning she was alive. She was on the ground and unable to get up, but alive. I called the owner again but the vet still said she had little chance of surviving. At this point Jerry and I were both getting a little frustrated. We understood there wasn’t a good chance for the goat, and most people won’t pay high dollar vet bills to treat random goat kids when the veterinarian is telling them most don’t survive with similar symptoms, but how could we just let her lie there and suffer?
March 18, 2014
The next morning I decided to text a friend of mine in vet school. I explained her symptoms and asked if he knew of anything we could at least try. The first thing he thought of was a worm called Haemonchus Contortus and he recommended an antihelminthic wormer such as Panacur. We were willing to give anything a try and after a few phone calls to friends who worked in veterinary clinics we got the Panacur. Jerry administered the first of three doses to the kid then we both got online and started reading about this worm. Our research led us to information about other goat illnesses including goat polio and listeriosis. Listeriosis is a disease that affects the brain stem and the recommended treatment is radical antibiotic intervention; it takes a TON of Procaine Penicillin G to break through the blood brain barrier and treat the illness. Polio in goats comes from a thiamine deficiency, and vitamin B, given intramuscularly, is needed immediately. We rushed to the barn in search of medication and found injectable penicillin and syringes, but no thiamine. By 10:30 that night we were making a trip to Wal-Mart for liquid thiamine, but could only find the pill form. After returning home we crushed the pills up and Jerry did the math on how much water to put with each so we gave her the right amount. We went out to the goat house and, at that very moment, became emergency goat vets. It was the start of a very long journey and many overwhelming days and nights.
The recommended radical antibiotic treatment they suggested meant very high doses of penicillin, given intramuscularly, every 6 hours until 24 hours after the symptoms subside. We set our alarm clocks to alert us at 10:00 A.M., 4:00 P.M., 10:00 P.M., and 4:00 A.M. to give the shots. I also gave her a bottle with goat electrolytes as often as she would drink it. She couldn’t move very well or walk at all, but would swallow on her own every time I gave her a bottle.
March 19, 2014
Sloane got her name on March 19, during a drive to the vet clinic to purchase liquid thiamine. The clinic could not sell me the medication without creating a chart for the animal, so I had to select a name. I thought about words meaning things such as courageous, strong, and a will to live. She deserved a meaningful name. After all, most would have been dead three days ago but she was still fighting to live. There it was! I had it. I wanted to name her Sloane, a word from the Irish Gaelic language, meaning fighter. I like using Irish words as names. I train a lot of Irish Labs, my family is from Ireland, plus she did get sick on St. Paddy’s Day. Maybe an Irish name would give her some of the luck she needed!
It was after returning from the vet and giving the first dose of liquid thiamine that we realized she was paralyzed on the right side of her body. She couldn’t shut her right eye and it was caked with dirt. We tried to clean it out as best as we could with saline solution. I found a plastic box top to lay her on to try and keep her eye out of the dirt, and a blanket because she was shivering. This is where she stayed for the next couple of days.
Friends advised me to rotate her from side to side as often as possible to help her rumen continue to function properly and prevent edema. Because of the paralysis, her head was pulled back tightly to her left flank. This made it hard to rotate her from side to side. When I tried to pull her head around straight so she could lay on her left side she screamed out in pain, and my heart broke each time.
March 20, 2014
I began reading more and more and found some pretty cool information on physical therapy for goats. Her muscles needed to be worked to keep them mobile, and movement is important for ruminants because of the digestion process. Goat physical therapy began immediately.
I worked her legs back and forth and massaged her entire body. I gently massaged her neck while attempting to pull it straight. When she cried and let me know it hurt I took a step back and just rubbed her neck. Each time I could move it a little farther. Before long I could straighten her neck out all the way, but not turn it to the right at all. I read more and more about the outward signs of pain in goats and realized her teeth grinding was all because of the excruciating pain she was in. I began to wonder if I was being cruel. Should we have put her down in the beginning? Was I prolonging the pain for her and just dragging out the inevitable? I spoke with another veterinarian and told her Sloane’s story. I detailed each day and the vet said if she didn’t make any improvements by Friday that it was probably going to be time to let her go. It broke my heart to hear that, but it hurt more to think I was prolonging pain for this sweet little girl. I spent countless hours sitting and holding her in the goat house and praying for God to heal her. She had an incredible will to live. She just needed His help.
Friday morning Sloane was drooling profusely and had some greenish, black stuff in her mouth. I spoke with the vet and told her about the drool. She asked if Sloane was still drinking from a bottle and pooping and tee teeing OK, and if I could move her legs. I told her I could and she was, so the doctor said that day wasn’t the day. Can you say sigh of relief and renewed hope! I was overjoyed. This little fighter wasn’t about to give up. She had the good life coming to her and she must have known it. The vet told me to give her a shot of Ivermection and Dexamethasone. We got a hold of the drugs and gave them to her immediately.
March 22, 2014
Saturday morning I woke up hoping to see my little girl bouncing around the pasture with the others but was sad to find her lying in the same spot she had been all week. I started to clean the dirt out of her right eye with saline solution and suddenly she shook her head to get rid of the water on her face. I jumped up and ran, with tears in my eyes, to tell Jerry to come and see her. I squirted more saline solution in her eye and she shook her head again! She even drank her bottle more vigorously, nudging at it to get the milk to come out faster. She was wiggling around forcefully enough that she was coming off of the plastic box top so we put her in a cardboard box to keep her out of the dirt!
By that evening, she was lifting her head up on her own and chowing down on some hay. We feared that she might be blind from the illness but she could most definitely see. While I was videoing her that morning she actually turned and looked at the camera. Joy doesn’t even begin to describe what I was feeling at this point. She was beginning to get stronger. I could hold the front part of her body up and she would push up with her back legs. She was making goat physical therapy into a serious workout with “butt ups” instead of pushups.
March 24, 2014
She tried to stand up all morning this day. She kicked and kicked and couldn’t actually accomplish it, but she was trying like crazy. The more she tried the more her muscles tensed up and her head pulled back to the left. We made a sling from fabric to try to help her walk. It went around her belly with little leg holes but wasn’t useful at all because her head was always pulled so far to the left.
At this point we were still giving her shots every six hours and now she had developed an eye infection from the dirt. I found antibiotic eye ointment and began putting it in every four hours.
March 25, 2014
One week after she got sick Sloane began to brace herself on the side of the cardboard box and pull herself up. She couldn’t really stay standing once she was up, but it was progress! By the end of the day she was practically climbing out of the box so Jerry and I fixed up a dog kennel for her to stay in.
March 26, 2014
Wednesday morning she greeted me by standing up in her kennel and walking!! The steps were backwards…but they were steps. My baby girl was walking. I took her out into the grass and set her down. She stayed there for a while and ate some grass until eventually she decided she was going to stand up and walk. She walked, albeit backwards, around and around until she was exhausted.
March 27, 2014
Thursday she appeared to be extremely tired and didn’t fight the shots like she usually did. She had TTed in the kennel and it was all over her. She was shivering and her temperature was 100, low for a goat kid. I took her inside and put her in a warm bath. After about 25 minutes in the tub her temperature was back up to 103 so I pulled her out, toweled her off, and laid her on a heating pad while I blow-dried her hair. She slept there on the floor for several hours.
Later that day I put her in my front yard to eat some grass. She actually took a few forward steps, but remained very sluggish. She wasn’t very interested in the bottle of milk anymore, and didn’t want water from the bottle either. I took her to the large water bowl in the goat pen and stood her next to it. She leaned over and got a big drink! I decided to make up some electrolytes in a bowl and she drank those also.
March 28, 2014
Friday she was still lethargic, didn’t fight the shots at all, and couldn’t hold herself up well. Her temperature was low, so I put her in a warm bath and on the heating pad again. She didn’t stand up on her own at all and didn’t even try much. When I held her she was like a limp noodle in my arms. I began doing research and read about things called enterotoxemia and Floppy Kid Syndrome. I found that milk replacer, which I had been feeding her, could be very bad for kids. The website recommended giving the kid baking soda, a shot of something called Bovi-Sera, and not feeding any milk for 36-48 hours. I did all of the above. She continued to eat grass and hay like it was her job.
By that evening, I had coaxed her to get up and walk by placing her on the wooden deck, with luscious grass just out of reach. She got herself up and made the short walk to the grass to have a bite. Although progress seemed to have slowed over the past few days, she was still making baby steps toward being better.
March 29, 2014
Saturday was a better day. She began walking more and taking most of her steps forward, although they were all to the left. I started to include a daily walk in her goat physical therapy and we spent hours on the gravel with her walking and following my hand full of grass. It was very hard to get her to walk in a straight line, but she could do it. I began giving Rooster Booster as a B vitamin supplement and probiotics to help her overall health.
This was the day I realized she knew me, recognized me, and wanted to be with me. She was in the front yard and as long as I was outside with her she was happy. If I went inside she bleated at the top of her lungs until I returned. My neighbors were a little unhappy that evening and the next few days! I didn’t care what the neighbors were thinking, though. Sloane was happy. She even began to hold her tail up for the first time. I learned it means goats are happy when they hold their tails up.
March 30 – April 2, 2014
Over the next week Sloane spent a lot of time in the yard. I could sit her in the middle of the yard and several hours later she was still there. She was walking, but sadly she couldn’t really go anywhere. Every step she took was forward and to the left so she kept returning to the same spot in the yard.
One evening I went out and just sat in the yard with her. She ate some grass and eventually walked over to me, crawled in my lap, and laid down for a nap. Did I mention she laid her head on my arm?? It was the sweetest thing. I didn’t ever want to get up. I read online that if a goat comes and lies beside you they have accepted you in their herd. I’m Sloane’s herd now. She trusts me and loves me and I couldn’t be happier.
April 3, 2014
By the end of the week Sloane was meeting me at the kennel door in the mornings and walking out on her own. She was walking straighter, shaking, bending down to scratch (which she hadn’t done before) and even following me around the yard. I spoke with the doctor about when to stop the medicine. Everything we read online said to continue until 24 hours after the symptoms stop, but it had been 14 days at this point and she was so much better, yet still had a few symptoms. The doctor advised that we stop the meds and see what happened. We did and I was a nervous wreck all night.
Friday she was doing pretty well. Well enough, that when I put her in the front yard and went to pooper scoop the back yard (expecting her to stay walking in her little circle) she managed to wander all the way across the yard to my garden and enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet of expensive flowers! I then found a nice puppy playpen for her.
She continued to get better and we spent more and more time walking around and working on getting her stronger. If I walked in the grass she would always stop to eat so I found that taking her to the barn worked great. She would follow me all around up and down the barn aisles. Goat physical therapy continued with exercises such as climbing up on and down from a wooden block.
April 16, 2014
An equine vet that visits the barn occasionally met Sloane about a week after she got sick and then again on Friday. She was shocked and couldn’t believe it was the same goat. She ended up telling me she never thought the kid would live but didn’t feel it was her place to tell me that a few weeks ago. What she told me this time was that she didn’t know if Sloane would ever be strong enough to go back and live with the herd. That made me pretty sad but Jerry made a very good point. He said, “Baby, the vet told us that she didn’t even think the goat would live, and others said the same thing. And look at her! She’s ALIVE. So don’t you underestimate her. It’s very possible she will be fine to live with them again one day.” (That’s why I picked him. He’s pretty awesome.)
The other goats haven’t been the nicest to Sloane. I guess I somewhat understand though. If she was sick with something that was contagious it was necessary for them to exile her to protect the entire herd. But they were just been plain, old mean in the beginning head butting her and hurting her. Since she was better now I wanted to see how it would go with her loose in the goat pen. I placed her on the ground and one of the other kids came up to her with her ears pinned back and her head ready to butt. Sloane completely blew me away as she pinned her ears back, stood up on her back feet and head butted the crap out of that goat. Are you kidding me? That was awesome. She was getting stronger and stronger by the day. She only had the one head butt in her. She kind of fell afterwards and didn’t try it again. But the one was awesome.
We spent the evening at the barn, just walking and visiting the horses. Sloane followed me around, stopped for some hay, did some exploring on her own, and even climbed a few stairs. She was doing so well. I even found her a cowboy hat and Jerry nicknamed her, “The Sloane Ranger.”
April 18, 2014
Wednesday was such a great day with the trip to the barn, climbing stairs and ramps, and head butting her goat friends, but all the excitement took its toll. Friday wasn’t a good day. When I went to get her in the morning she stepped out of the kennel and her head wrapped around the crate to the left. She used it to support herself and get out then she circled around in the goat house instead of following me out to get her breakfast. She seemed content all day, but not very active. That evening at the barn she kept walking in tight left circles. I could tell it was frustrating her. She wanted to follow me but couldn’t get to me. She would start walking forward but then veer to the left. She would stop, look, and then complete the left circle and try to walk straight until she veered left again and repeated the whole process. It was bad and we could tell something was very wrong.
I called the Emergency Vet Clinic at Mississippi State and spoke with a doctor. She said to give her the same meds again like we used to then bring her to Starkville the next morning. We did just that.
By the time we got her to Starkville on Saturday, April 19, she could barely stand up again. It was so scary. It was Easter weekend so the vet who specialized in goats wasn’t around. They asked me to leave her so she could evaluate her on Monday but told me that it didn’t look good at all. I knew she was in the best hands possible so I left her, even though I didn’t want to. They promised me calls with updates frequently and they held up those promises. The next day the doctor called to tell me Sloane was doing surprisingly well. She didn’t expect to see her up and moving about so much. Monday, the vet called back again to tell me Sloane had recovered just fine and was the life of the party at the vet school. We could go pick her up on Tuesday. I couldn’t wait!
When we got there, they described a lot of different things that could have caused this “relapse” including, most likely, the eye infection. The doctor explained how serious an eye infection was in goats and that it could make them decide to lie down and not get back up, leading to eventual death. They did do another round of antibiotics, something called Nuflor, and gave me Atropine and Neo-Poly-Bac eye ointment for the infection. We went back to get Sloane on April 22 and she was just chilling in the office with everyone, walking around and enjoying herself. They told us they were afraid she was deaf, and blind in her right eye. I asked if it was cruel to make a somewhat blind and deaf goat, with potentially vast brain damage continue to live. The doctor explained that when I brought her in they never expected her to live through the night, but she made such dramatic improvement so quickly, and had reached such a level of “wellness” that they thought she was going to live a long and happy life. They said she was happy, completely content, and free of pain. There was no reason she shouldn’t live her life.
April 22, 2014 until Now
Sloane continues to make vast improvements day after day and we continue to bond through all of the activities we do together. Sloane works dogs with me, rides horses with me, helps with farm chores, cleans the house, and relaxes on the couch to watch a good movie with me. I even found her some outdoor play sets to enjoy. She’s incredibly smart despite the cognitive issues they predicted for her. She’s learning to target, has learned to jump through a hula-hoop, and will hang out on place like all of my dogs!
It’s been a long and overwhelming journey, but every step has been incredible. God heard my prayers and He healed baby Sloane. Little did I know He was doing so much more. He taught me so much and I grew as a person through this experience. I’m so thankful to have such an amazing little miracle like Sloane in my life.