By Teresa Michaud
Our angora goats had been outside all day. It was very cold. We did not have a barn built for them yet so I brought the goats into the old shed attached to our house and gave them their supper. I then jumped into the car and went down to Mom and Dad’s place. I called my husband Raymond around 9:00pm and he suggested that I come home. He had to leave and he believed that one of our does, Robinia, was in labour. He said that he noticed that she had a water bubble so he placed her in a little stall with a heat lamp. Dad said, "Let's all go up to your place. I'd like to see the baby."
We arrived a few minutes later and went inside to see “Robin”. She was placidly eating her hay and there was no sign of a baby. After a short visit with Robin, Mom and Dad decided they would go back home. I went to see them off. As soon as I was out of Robin’s sight, she began to scream. I immediately ran back to her and she calmed right down. Just then, I noticed that there was an afterbirth about the size of my hand behind her. After just a few minutes, she let out another. I picked them both up and put them in the wheelbarrow. Now I was confused. The afterbirths tell me that the baby is born. I looked at her. She did look somewhat slim. I felt a sudden wave of adrenaline. I looked around her pen and then looked into the big pen where the other goats were. There were no signs of a baby.
I pulled over a bail of hay, sat next to her, and talked to her for about a half an hour. It was very quiet. I got up and put some old beach towels into the dryer to warm them up...just in case. I started the dryer and suddenly felt a second wave of panic - I thought that maybe she had had it outside and that I was in a hurry to go to Mom and Dad’s and didn't notice that Robin had had her baby. I grabbed my long powerful flashlight and went outside. It was about -17C so cold. Thoughts of a frozen kid goat lying in the snow crossed my mind as I followed the goat tracks. I looked very carefully everywhere but there was no baby. I could hear Robin inside screaming for me. I went back inside and took my place next to her. I must have been wrong. Maybe they were not afterbirths at all. I felt confused and scared. Then, what could they be? They sure looked like afterbirths to me; what about the baby, there should be a baby. It was now 11PM. Two hours had gone by since I arrived. Raymond was not back yet. He would definitely know. He has delivered calves all his life. He will be home soon.
All of a sudden I heard a tiny baby voice call for its mother. I leapt to my feet as if someone kicked me. I looked under Robin who, by now, was calling for her baby. Where is the baby!? I heard it cry again. It sounded like it was in the other pen with the goats. I jumped into the pen were the others were. I looked under goats, under the water tank, and in every corner of the pen. I heard it cry again! It sounded like it was near the freezer. I got out of the pen and looked around the freezer and behind some boxes. I heard it cry again. Oh My Goodness! It sounded like it was outside near the door. I grabbed my flashlight and ran outside into the cold. My body was trembling with adrenaline and panic. There was no baby out here.
I could hear Robin inside screaming and screaming. I ran back to her. The baby cried again! It sounded like it was with the goats again! I thought I was going nuts. The adrenalin was rushing. I leapt over the railing into the big pen. Robin was hysterical. I was moving the goats and making them get up so that I could see underneath them. "Baby!” I called,” Where are you?" It cried again. It sounded near the freezer again. I left the goats. I remembered that there was a grill in the floor near the freezer. Raymond had installed it to let some heat up from the woodstove in the basement. Maybe it somehow fell into the grill. I got out of the big pen and ran near the freezer. I took out the grill and leaned into the hole up to my belly. I searched around with the flashlight but I did not see a baby. It was very quiet under there. A thick supporting beam ran the length of the building and I was unable to see on the other side of it. I felt panicked; my mind was racing.
I stood up and tried to collect my thoughts. I was having a thousand thoughts a second. I could hear the baby. It is born. Now I have to find it. By now, Robin was utterly hysterical. She was screaming and screaming. Were would a newborn go? Then I remembered a tiny hole, not too far from the gate, where the water hose brings water to the tip-tank. It was a very tiny hole about the size of a computer mouse. I thought, "Could it be! Could the kid have fallen into that tiny hole?" I laid my ear to the little hole and waited. Then, I heard a weak little discouraged cry. I grabbed the edge of the hole and literarily ripped a board off with my bare hands. The adrenalin was pumping and I ripped off another board and another.
I peered into the hole with my flashlight. I could see something. It looked like a dusty rag. I called out, "Baaybeee!" The rag responded and I saw a tiny foot move. It was too far so I grabbed a hammer and began to rip out a few more boards. I still could not quite reach. I pried off one more board. I leaned inside and set the flashlight on the ground. I stretched and felt the tiny foot with the end of my fingertips...got him! I pulled him just a bit closer and then I lifted him up. It was a boy and he was quite big. How could he have fallen into that tiny hole? I laid him down under the heat lamp. Robin was so glad she began talking to him and licking his nose.
I took a couple of clean rags and rubbed some of the dirt off. He was so cold. His legs were just like Popsicles! I ran and got the warm towels from the dryer and I filled a couple of 2L milk jugs with hot water and set them up under the towels. I then laid him on top to help warm him up. I milked Robin a little. I put the milk in a bottle and heated it up just a bit more. I gave it to him and he caught on right away. I put him on Robin and he filled his belly. I decided to name him Urian. He was still so cold. I gave him a shot of selenium and vitamin E.
Raymond came in. I told him what happened. He was surprised. He thinks that she must have given birth before he moved her to the little stall. He asked me if she had had twins last year. I said yes she had two boys, Tony and Triden. I showed him the afterbirths. She must have had twins again. He took my flashlight and dived into the hole. He crawled around under the floor. He searched to see if he could find another baby. He was under there for at least ten minutes. Well, I guess Urian is the only baby this year. He is big. Maybe she gave birth to only one, even though my gut told me that there were two.
We boarded up the hole. I called up Mom and Dad and told them the story. We stayed with Robin and Urian until about 1:30AM to make sure that they settled in.
The next morning I did not go into work right away. I decided to go in at noon. I was dressed for work and I was making myself a green tea around 10:15AM when I thought I heard a baby cry. I went into the shed. The baby was sound asleep. That was strange. All of a sudden, I heard it again. "NO WAY!!!" I ripped up the floorboards again and grabbed my flashlight.
I dived into the hole in my good work clothes. I was wearing a sweater with a second sweater that had a zippered front layered over it. I am so claustrophobic but because the flashlight was so bright it made that little crawl space seem bigger than 14". I crawled around on my belly looking everywhere. The floor trusses were catching my hair and the cobwebs were clinging to my face. "Baaaybeee!” I called out, “Where are you? I know you are here! Talk to me!!" Then I heard a cry way up at the other end - another 20 feet away. I crawled and fumbled over the uneven ground. I felt around and touched a very soft furry body. “Oh baby, there you are!” I exclaimed. It was a little girl!
She had fallen into a hole about a foot deep up against the outside foundation. This is why Raymond could not find her last night. She was upside down with her head completely backward under her body. Her back legs were pointing up. I felt so bad for the poor little thing. I was still lying on my stomach and somehow managed to take off my zipper sweater. I draped it over her and pulled her out of the hole. I pulled her near my face. Strangely, she felt warm. I inched my way back towards the opening. I gently pushed her ahead of me all cuddled up in the sweater. I wiggled up out of the opening. I reached in and lifted her out. I then brought her to Robin.
The baby began to cry for her mother. Robin looked at me. "What is that!!?" The baby was so muddy and dirty, eager for milk and crying like crazy. She definitely wanted to live and she wanted acceptance by her mother. She was rooting around Robin looking for the place to nurse. Robin seemed confused. She smelled her and then smelled Urian who was still asleep. I left her with Robin for a minute while I warmed up some of Robin's milk. I gave the baby some milk from a bottle she guzzled it down and she wanted to drink more. Robin was not too sure about this new baby so I held her gently so that the baby could drink her fill. After she drank, Robin became curious but did not seem motherly.
Just then, Mom and Dad came in. "Guess what else I found." I said with glee. They were so surprised. I told them how I found her 14 hours after she was born. I was all dirty. I told Dad that I was not sure that Robin was going to accept her. I felt that the bonding time had pretty much passed. I sat down on a bail with a clean rag and took the baby into my lap. I began to clean some of that mud off her nose and cheeks. I decided to name her Ulani. As I was washing her face, I chatted with Mom and Dad. I did not notice Robin becoming upset. Suddenly, Robin took a mouthful of my hair and gave it a good yank. Dad burst out laughing. "Well, you just got your answer." Dad laughed. It appears that as I began to give Ulani some attention, Robin began to feel possessive. Ulani was her baby for sure!
Raymond was very surprised when he got home that afternoon. If I would not have stayed home from work, Ulani would have surely died and we would not have known she even existed. The temperature had dipped down to -23C that night. It is amazing that she lived at all. Urian and Ulani are doing just great; jumping and playing. We have since built them a nice barn…with a dirt floor.