In October 2015, we rescued 27 goats from horrendous conditions, in the case known as the “backyard butcher.” Among those sick, fragile rescues were Leah, Vanna, and Jacqueline. As these girls slowly learned to trust humans, the Sanctuary became their home— and we soon realized that these three girls were pregnant!
There’s never a dull moment with goats, that’s for sure: over the course of three days in a bitterly cold January, Leah, Vanna, and Jacqueline delivered seven babies!
On the first day, tiny Jacqueline gave birth to three daughters:Lonnie, Loretta, and Lulu.
On the second day, after showing almost no signs of her oncoming labor, sweet Leah welcomed a single baby: Libby.
On the third day, Kelly Mullins, our Director of Animal Care, got a phone call from Matt, our dedicated caregiver at Route 32: “There are babies in Vanna’s stall!” Kelly rushed over and saw that Vanna was attending to two babies: Tula and Annie. Kelly looked closer and saw “a wet mucousy blob” in the middle of the stall— this turned out to be our beloved Violet. It was clear from the start that something was “off.” Mullins placed tiny Violet near her mother, but Vanna would not acknowledge her third baby, though she gave devoted care to the other two, cleaning them off and nursing them. Annie and Tula were three times Violet’s size, so it was clear that Vanna had rejected tiny Violet, a sad but common occurrence among goats.
Sometimes mothers, particularly those who’ve suffered as much as Vanna had, must make impossible decisions for survival. Maybe Vanna believed that Violet wasn’t going to make it. Maybe she knew she had a chance to keep Tula & Annie alive, but only if she made a hard choice. No matter what, we were going to give Violet every chance we could, picking up where Vanna left off. Kelly gathered Violet up, and tucked her inside her coat to keep her warm.
Mullins rushed Violet to the vet, along with Lulu, one of the earlier babies. Lulu’s mother, Jacqueline, hadn’t been able to supply all three of her babies with enough milk to keep them warm. In Lulu’s weakened state, she had developed pneumonia (common in infant goats).
Kelly had very little hope that Violet would survive, but thought Lulu had a chance. Dr. Ferguson at Hurley Vet Hospital began warming Lulu and administering other supportive meds, but she continued to grow weaker and struggled to breathe. We had to make a hard choice of our own: the kindest option for Lulu was to end her suffering at Hurley.
To everyone’s surprise, the impossibly tiny Violet responded to Dr. Ferguson’s supportive care and she came back to the Sanctuary. Violet’s first night on earth was spent with former Health Care Assistant Kellie Myers. Kellie slept alongside Violet, waking up every two hours to feed her.
Because Violet had been rejected, Kellie committed to raising her. When Violet got a bit older and stronger, the time came for her to join a herd of her own species. She was adopted by Jacqueline, perhaps filling the void left by Lulu. There are so many tough choices that face parents of any species— and there are so many opportunities to build families.
For animal lovers, “72 hours of goat babies” might sound like the best way to spend three days, but just like all aspects of Sanctuary life, it was a balance of joy and sadness, plus hard work, chaos, and exhaustion. We wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re spending the whole week celebrating Lonnie, Loretta, Libby, Tula, Annie, and Violet (and missing Lulu).
Love Spoken Here.