A Country Life
All we need is a miracle
Pandora was the first goat to join the Collins Clan and she has been a much loved pet ever since. She had been specifically acquired to allow our younger daughter Sophie to train and show a kid at the school’s agricultural day.
While she was blonde in colour, she was far from dumb, taking out the supreme championship award on the appointed day. That meant automatic entry into the regional agricultural show and she performed very well there too.
Sophie quickly formed a love-bond with Pandora. From the day she arrived, Sophie would visit her goat every evening, taking her a treat or two as part of the ritual. Pandora, alert to her Mistress, would bound across to the paddock gate as soon as she spotted her. She would bleat whenever Sophie spoke, a baby responding to the sound of its mother.
A year later, we had a second goat to care for and Rambo won many agricultural awards too. He wasn’t as bright as Pandora, but we felt he had a certain charm and became a winner based on his Anglo-nubian handsomeness. His boundless energy, unique markings and big floppy ears were off the chart on the cuteness scale.
Rambo was the mischief maker of the two, the escape artist who could create havoc in any situation and chews things he ought not to. He even got the family dog under control at an early age, stomping over the top of him to reach the best sunny spots. There was an air of defiance when he disobeyed human “STOP!” commands, like the time he stole a plastic peg from the clothes line. He ran to a safe distance, looked his pursuer in the eye and deliberately proceeded to crunch and swallow.
It was a typical Friday afternoon when Sophie returned from school, prepared her ‘goatee snacks’ and ran out towards the
paddock. I was busy preparing dinner and my husband was away in the South Island on a motorcycle jaunt and not scheduled to be home for at least three days.
It didn’t take long for Sophie to return. She was out of breath with an alarmed expression. “Something’s wrong with Pandora!” My first thought when I saw Pandora was “Oh no, she’s had a stroke!” Although only four years old, she was down on the ground, her head tilted and almost locked onto her right flank, her eyes flickering, and she appeared to be paralysed down one side. I called the vet and flagged that our goat may need to be euthanised.
While waiting for the vet to arrive, I googled her symptoms and was faced with a list of possible causes to her obvious neurological emergency: listeria, goat meningitis, goat polio. All were very serious and life-threatening. Listeria, if not caught early enough, was likely to have a fatal outcome.
Whatever it was came on fast and poor Pandora was unable to stand despite attempts to get up onto her feet.
It was easy to get into self-blame mode. Did I give her some mouldy food? Should I have checked her earlier?
Our vet was there within 20 minutes, a lovely young woman who had fulfilled her childhood ambition and tackled her chosen career with great passion, knowledge and care. She diagnosed possible thiamine ( Vitamin B) deficiency as the most likely reason for the goat’s flickering eyes but there was uncertainty as to the cause of the neurological symptoms. Listeria was the most likely scenario, or possibly an inner ear infection.
She suggested a remedy and gave us hope for saving our much-loved pet. It was a no-brainer for me. We would attempt to get Pandora back to good health and so began her Vitamin B therapy and daily injections of a high dose antibiotic.
The vet returned the next day to check on her and provided lessons on administering her drugs. We were instructed to lift Pandora onto a hay bale to get the blood circulating to her left side as the invasion of bacteria to her brain meant that she was immobile. Her only movement was from the series of kicks from her strong hind leg which only enabled her to move in a circle in a clockwise direction. Her repeated attempt to move wore a bald patch on her leg and soon she had an unsightly bleeding scab on her left thigh.
Trying to lift a heavy-weight, semiparalysed goat onto a hay bale was a back-breaking process. Pandora resisted any attempt to lift her and when she was straddled across the hay bale it looked far from comfortable. We were unable to keep her still but all too quickly she was on the ground again.
Sophie and I worked to create shelter and shade, keeping her living area comfortable and clean. We followed our vet’s advice and banished Rambo to the adjacent paddock. When you have a sick goat, it’s possible that a healthy animal can become aggressive towards it.
One thing we knew for certain was that Rambo would disrupt any makeshift shelter. This had been created using sheets and shower curtains straddled
our vet was there within 20 minutes. SHE suggested a remedy and gave us hope... it was a no-brainer for me.
between the goat hut and fence line. Clothes pegs (Rambo’s favourite snack!), bungies and crock clips were all used in our construction process. The need to straddle Pandora across the hay bale seemed to fall off the radar as we naively thought she would be ok left in a position she was most comfortable in. At least the clean fresh hay provided some food.
Thankfully, we were blessed with stunningly good weather and Pandora was eating grass offerings, fruit, dehydrated banana pieces, peaches, apples, bread, chopped carrots and hay. She was taking water from a syringe and occasionally drank from a small bowl. Her bowel and bladder were still working so I knew that we were managing to keep dehydration and starvation at bay.
We set up an automatic fly sprayer to keep the annoying insects away, and occasionally I would douse my hands with insect repellent, then smooth my hands over her coat which worked a treat at keeping the tiny black sandflies off her.
By Day 5 Pandora’s neck had only a slight tilt and her eye flickering had stopped, but she was still unable to turn her head fully to the left. My husband was home when our veterinarian next visited our property. She noted that Pandora seemed brighter but emphasised the need to keep the left limbs moving. We rolled Pandora across a towel, using it as a lifting aid, and then plonked her back on top of the hay bale. I shuddered at the sight of the nasty wound created by the lack of mobility and shuffling on her hind quarter. Pandora was still showing paralysis in her rear left leg and significant weakness in the front leg on the same side, and the vet suggested that she be put down in a couple of days if no improvement was seen. A goat unable to walk was not a sustainable option.
D-day (Decision Day or Destruction Day) was set for Friday, exactly a week after she’d gone down. The high dose antibiotics were still being administered but the thiamine injections had now been phased out.
We were informed about another goat showing similar symptoms which had been put down after five days. This was a blow to my confidence and we were now on borrowed time. I felt sick to the stomach knowing I had wasted the opportunity to try to get mobility and feeling into her left legs. I devised a plan to roll her right over onto her back then onto the other side, to give me access to her weak limbs.
During daylight hours, my visits to Pandora increased to every hour to feed, water and roll her. Goat physio consisted of gently stretching the weak limbs and extending them to a naturally straight position, then folding them back to their restful state. The first time I moved her the poor animal showed no resistance but gave out pitiful bleats and groans as I massaged her limbs. However, she seemed to accept that this was something she had to endure.
Pandora’s groans quietened during the day as I repeated the routines, gently tugging on the limbs to increase circulation and strength. On the fourth roll Pandora made a little attempt to roll back to her more comfortable position but then settled. I noticed that she wasn’t groaning during her massages but seemed to be drifting off into a dreamy snooze.
On the Thursday she progressed, pulling her limbs back into her body herself, but Friday morning arrived with no signs of standing. The veterinarian was booked to put her down at 3pm.
I continued my regular visits and exercises. By 1pm Pandora was able to look up, was kicking me with her weak hind leg and making a valiant attempt to get up using this limb.
My heart jumped for joy. I rushed back to the house to find my husband with the front loader on the tractor, heading out to the paddock to dig a burial hole. The vet was on her way.
I felt an urgent need to stall the euthanasia decision. I intercepted the vet at the entrance of our property, hopped into her vehicle and enthused about the sudden improvements to Pandora’s wellbeing. Once she was convinced that there were no welfare issues, apart from not being able to stand, a life extension was granted to the following Monday.
“Miracles do happen,” were the vet’s parting words.
Adrian devised a plan to try to get Pandora onto her feet. He made a hammock-like contraption using a fadge which he attached to the front end loader using ropes. Pandora was suspended across the hammock morning and evening on the Saturday and Sunday and was lifted so that she would have to support her weight on all fours. By this time she was lifting her head and moving
D-day (destruction day) was set for Friday, exactly a week after she’d gone down. We were on borrowed time.
it both ways and took this opportunity to graze at a few tufts of grass from her standing position. Adrian wasn’t convinced of the progress and announced on Sunday evening he couldn’t see any improvement. I prayed hard that night for a miracle.
Monday morning, dawn. I went across to see Pandora, only to find her around two metres away from her shelter. There were no scuff marks on the ground and it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps she had moved to this position herself. I gathered up a bouquet of red clover and tossed it just outside of her reach. Her back quarters went up and she elbowed across on her front legs to reach the food. When this food source ran out, she stood up.
I cannot express the joy I felt letting everyone know that we had our miracle. Although Pandora limped for the next couple of days and fell over when she brushed against an electric fence, she went from strength to strength. She’s now back to running, climbing up gates and doing what normal goats do.
goat physio. Rolling Pandora, ready for
Pandora inspecting her shower curtain Rambo is behind shade. her, keeping an eye on things.
Lifting Pandora onto her feet using the front end loader on our tractor.
Pandora and Rambo today, happy and healthy.