By Teresa Michaud
Dakota is a tiny wonder. She was born with trauma on her left hind leg. The vet explained to us that the trauma was in the form of abnormal pressure on the growth plate right above the fetlock joint. This took place several weeks before she was born. In other words, her foot grew crooked. I was the one who unhooked her tiny left foot from the hock of her right hind leg a moment after she was born. She was quick to stand and nursed almost immediately. She had a strong mind and took care of herself.
At first, she would stand lopsided with her weight on the cannon bone. She would sometimes swing her left leg insistently as if trying to figure out what was wrong. Raymond thought that we should put her down but she won my heart and I just would not let him. “Her bone will get bloody and bruised.” He would say. “What kind of breeder would we be if we kept a crippled goat around the farm?” I was not concerned with what other people thought. I liked her and that was that. I did keep a very close eye on her since I did not want to see her suffer. Her cannon bone got neither bloody nor bruised. Her only job was to grow mohair and as far as I could see, she was doing just that.
She grew much stronger and ate well. The angle of her foot greatly improved that summer and she began putting weight on the outside of the hoof rather than on the bone. I trimmed the hoof often and soon she began to put pressure on the bottom of her hoof. She compensated by turning her leg out slightly at the hip joint. Dakota is spirited and, when very young, had earned the respect of her siblings. She still shuffles as she walks since the ankle does not articulate and she often drags hay behind her. When she wanted to, she could be difficult to catch and it was not easy to spot her in the herd. When people came to visit, they took no notice of her.
We really love it when people come by to visit, especially when it is with children. One afternoon, a small class of four special-needs students came to visit with our goats. These fresh young faces were all young teenagers with autism. Autism is a severely incapacitating and life-long disability. It is characterized by repetitive behaviours, impaired social interaction and communication. I have known these four students for many, many years. They have an amazing, gifted teacher and they have all come such a long way in their development. During their visit, I let them hold and cuddle some of the new kids and I let them feed the bottle babies their milk.
Unexpectedly, one of the students, Ross, noticed our little Dakota. “Hey, Teresa, look at this little goat over here.” He said slowly as he pointed to Dakota. I walked over to the gate where Ross was standing. “She seems to have trouble with her foot.” He stated.
“You are quite observant, Ross, that is right. This is Dakota; she was born with a crooked hind leg.” I explained.
Ross watched Dakota in silence for several minutes more. Then he looked right at me and said, “She has her challenges too, doesn’t she?”
“Yes, she sure has, Ross.” I said and I gave him a big hug.