May 13, 2012

Poor Jasmine. Again.

Jasmine, one of my Nubian does
If Surprise earns her notoriety as being one of the most annoying goats I've ever had, Jasmine earns hers as being the most frustrating. While she has the sweetest personality of any goat we've had so far, she has had physical problems of one sort or another ever since I first bought her almost two years ago.

At that time, only one half of her udder was producing milk. I naively accepted what the gentleman told me, that after it dried up it would be okay and resume functioning after her next freshening. Part of this was beginner's ignorance, and part was because she has good bloodlines and I was following the sage advice to buy the best I could afford.

Jasmine, one of my Nubian does
Since then I've had to deal with weeping sores on her udder, (my somewhat successful herbal treatment in detail here), difficult labor and stillborn doeling, uterine infection, what I initially thought was mastitis (but more likely congested udder), chronic copper deficiency, and hoof rot. All of this has meant numerous trips to the vet and numerous hours of research. Add to that the cost of treatments and the time to prepare and give them, (both conventional and alternative), and she's taken a lot of time, money, and physical resources. Then there was her non-cooperation to be bred by Gruffy.

Recently I'd begun to ask the question, does her contribution to the homestead and our goals, balance out the constant parade of problems? This is not always an easy question to either ask or answer, especially for those of us new to this lifestyle, or those of us with limited livestock and limited means to replace them. However, it is the make it or break it question in regards to the goal of self-sufficiency and I was in fact, becoming exceedingly discouraged with all Jasmine's health issues. Not just pity, but the constant need to treat her was tipping the scales; it was starting to take more time than I had to care for her. It was a question I had to ask and answer. My conclusion was that if she indeed kidded, I'd sell her and our wether as soon as her kid(s) were weaned.

Now this. Which is? She's broken her leg.

Jasmine eating fresh forage from the hay feeder
As you can see, it's her front left leg

A few hours earlier, we had gotten a brief shower burst. She was out in the pasture and took off running for the goat shed because goats hate rain. As near as we can tell, she must have slipped and fallen as she rounded the corner to get into the shed.

Initially we thought she'd dislocated it but we were clueless about what to do. We called our vet, in hopes we could treat this at home, because she's a big girl (over 150 pounds) and getting her into the back of my jeep or Dan's pickup would be no easy feat. The vet said she'd need to be examined in case of ligament damage, so we took her in. He could palpate a break, right under the shoulder, in a spot impossible to splint.

Jasmine lying down & eating a basketful of foraged greens

Splinting a broken leg on a goat is usually quite successful, but since this one couldn't be splinted, the conventional prognosis was not encouraging. Ordinarily such an animal would be put down. Dan wasn't willing to accept that without more research however. He also wanted to verify whether or not she was indeed pregnant, so we had a blood draw for pregnancy test done and brought her home.

While waiting on the test results, I researched. In addition to Pat Coleby's Natural Goat Care, I've recently purchased Alternative Treatments for Ruminant Animals by Paul Dettloff, D.V.M. Pat's approach is largely dietary, while Paul's approach uses natural medicines. He recommended Arnica tincture initially, along with comfrey tincture. The Arnica is to treat swelling, comfrey to help heal the bone.

I don't have Arnica, but I do grow comfrey, so I started feeding her that. At the same time I asked about broken bones on the Holistic Goats Yahoo Group, and received advice on homeopathic treatment. I purchased Symphytum 30C to give her. I don't use homeopathic remedies, so I am not very familiar with them. This is not because of any opinion about homeopathy; I prefer herbs because I can grow them myself.

Now the pregnancy test has come back negative. I'm disappointed on the one hand of course, but relieved on the other. I worried about labor, delivery, and active, nursing kids for Jasmine with her leg. Or more likely, separating, milking, and bottle feeding her kids. However, it makes the question of "earning her keep" all the more relevant. And the more difficult. Trying to sell a goat with only half her udder functioning seemed unlikely enough. Now, depending upon how her leg heals, the problem is compounded, as is the decision about what to do with her.

In contemplation the options, there are a number of things I have to keep in mind. I have to remind myself that I cannot fix every problem, I cannot save every animal, and I must not take these as personal defeats. Nor do I want to fall into the trap of confusing responsibility with loyalty. This is not realistic for a self-sustaining homestead. Neither is focusing so much on only one animal, so that everything else starts to get neglected. Don't get me wrong, I really like Jasmine and am thankful for 10 months of the milk she gave. I would love to be able to replace her with another registered Nubian doe. Not sure how I could manage that though. I'll just have to wait and see what the future brings.

44 comments:

  1. Sorry to hear about this, Leigh. I know whatever you decide to do, it will not be an easy decision to make. Good luck - will be thinking about you. -Carrie

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  2. If self-sufficiency were easy everyone would be doing it. Bless you and whatever decision you make...your love and devotion to your animals and your way of life is to be commended.

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  3. Sam I Am said it all.

    Well written post (as usual, Leigh).

    I know that whatever decision you make will be right one for you and Dan and for your homestead dream.

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  4. I actually gasped out loud when I read Jasmine had now broken her leg. Aw shucks, Leigh, what's next with poor Jasmine?

    You don't have to make any excuses for the decision you make. I know it will be well thought out, not one you will make lightly. And in the end, it has to be the right one for you and Dan and your homestead.

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  5. This is so difficult. The practical part is obvious but my heart gets in the way every time and has led me to the wrong choices on more than one occasion. I'm sure you will make the right choice as you are very wise about your homestead.

    Have a wonderful Mother's Day! xo

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  6. These dicisions are always so difficult. In the end whatever you choose to do will be right. And bless your heart for caring so very much for the animals in your care.

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  7. Carrie, thanks. I appreciate it.

    Sam, that is so true, especially when one has animals. On the up side, I'm learning alot about animal health and care.

    Tami, thanks.

    Mama Pea, incredulous, isn't it? On the other hand, I've had very few problems with my other goats. Thankfully.

    Sherri, it is. Thank you and Happy Mother's Day to you too!

    Thank you Lynda!

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  8. Sending you love and praying for wisdom and guidance in decision-making, Leigh.

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  9. I don't envy you the final decision about what to do:( and even though I would like to keep more animals myself, it's these problems that make me glad that I only have the one dog to look after right now!

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  10. Bless you, girl, as you and Dan wrestle with this difficult decision.

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  11. I love your honesty and how much you are willing to share in order that we may all learn or at least THINK. You are facing a very tough decision, and I have faith that you, more than anyone else I know, will make the best one.

    On a happier note, a blessed Mother's Day to you!

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  12. Here's another perspective, since sometimes you have to think outside the box-
    Our dog Angel was 2 when she was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, always fatal for dogs. We could treat the symptoms for a while, but with dogs, it was a matter of time. We knew this, BUT I didn't give up. Short story- I started doing something called therapuetic touch, I was trained in it, but hadn't used it much. I did it daily for a month maybe. We slowly took her off her meds- no more Myasthenia Gravis. Now the vet and I were both shocked, since I mostly wanted to extend her life. Angel passed 2 years ago at 17 years old. There's always hope, when you ask for it:)

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  13. I would add- give her some time and bones do heal on their own... and someone might love her for a pet, milk or not...

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  14. Debbie, great to hear from you, thanks.

    Bettina, yes, these things compound with more animals, and when bad things happen, we sometimes question whether we should have this many!

    FFL, thanks.

    Michelle, well, that's what this blog is all about. :)

    Nancy, I think it's wonderful that you had the time and skills for Angel. Livestock though, takes on a different dimension than pets, especially when it comes to one's livelihood and 20 other critters needing care. It becomes not just Jasmine that needs to be considered, but the whole. Please don't assume that we're automatically going to kill Jasmine, nor that someone else would be willing to take her on, especially if she's lame for the rest of her life. One things for certain, we won't put the cart before the horse.

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  15. Well, you could also look at it as, there's really no difference, unless you make it. What if your whole herd got sick? On a certain outside-the-box angle, it's really not much different, but that's me...

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  16. You might want to think about this. Get her as healthy as you can then look for a home for her that needs a companion animal. I have had people take my goats for 4H (of course) and as companions for another goat or horse. It seems to work out and they get to live out their retirement in peace. It does take a little leg work to make sure the place she is going to is legit but worth it in the end.

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    1. Leigh, that would be so hard, separating responsibility with loyalty! I think you are an amazing woman and are so good to your animals. I might have put her down, but thats probably crappy of me! Im new to your blog...I actually just spent the last week reading your blog all the way back to 2010! I share a common dream with you of being self sufficient, and learning to not be wasteful! How do a become a "follower". I havent followed a lot of blogs before and am not sure how it works! I know you can ream money from having more followers and I would love to "follow" you! P.S. Does goats milk tasye different then cows milk? Does it have a gamey taste? Thanks! Amber

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  17. Nancy, I'm not following what you mean by a different perspective. The perspective I grew up with was the typical American one, where animals are kept to meet emotional needs, i.e. as pets, and where decisions are based on feelings.

    The perspective we are trying to develop is a more pragmatic one, where everything is part of a working whole. That fits within the framework of our goal toward self-sufficiency. For us that means not all animals are pets. It doesn't mean that they are not respected and taken care of; we view ourselves as stewards who will one day be accountable for how we take care of our animals. But in this lifestyle, life at any cost creates an unfair balance and I have to guard against neglecting the majority in favor of the one. I speak from experience because we've had what seems like more than our fair share of sick animals. Many I have brought back to good health successfully, including Jasmine.

    Healthy animals we've sold and given away. For sick, injured, or "problem" ones, we've made various decisions: spent thousands on medical care, let them die naturally, put them down to end suffering, and butchered for our own consumption. A number of factors come into play, including the amount of time and money we have available, as well as how they fit into our goals. As I mentioned in the post, I had already decided to not keep Jasmine when she broke her leg.

    I can't answer your "what if" except with speculative answer, in fact I'm not sure how it fits into the discussion. If that happens, I'd have to say we'll do what we've been doing all along, the best we can. What compounds the problem is that most vets are neither trained nor experienced with goats. Most goat owners will tell you you end up doing most of the vetting yourself.

    Almost every new homesteader struggles with emotional attachment to their animals. Our culture does not equip us to deal with difficult issues like these, which is why I write about them. There are realities to homesteading that are difficult, but not impossible. My steadfast contention is that it is our point of view that either hinders or helps, and that our goals are a tool to help us in our decision making.

    Sista, yes, that's an option, though so far I've not had much success finding homes for other animals along that line.

    Lynn, thanks!

    Amber, separating responsibility from loyalty isn't easy but I think it's necessary if decisions have to be made. It's akin to "don't name the animals." :) Putting animals down is a viable option, not crappy at all, but first we have to make sure it's best for the animal and best for us. Not everyone would agree with that though.

    By following do you mean Google Friend Connect? Just click the "join this site" button. You will have to be "registered" by either google, open id, or twitter (maybe Facebook? I forget), but you can choose which you want.

    Good quality goat's milk tastes better than cows milk! It can have a "goaty" taste, but that can usually be corrected by good nutrition and minerals. :)

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  18. Poor Jasmine. I don't envy the decision you have to make. Good luck I'm sure what ever you decide it will be for the best for both you and Jasmine.

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  19. P.S. to Amber, I don't think there's any way to make money with followers. Google does have AdSense, which pays for clicks through to advertisers, but I choose not to use my blog that way.

    Barb, thanks. At least she's not in pain. Whether or not the break can heal properly remains to be seen.

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  20. When I first read the title I was worried that she had another stillborn. So would it require surgery to fix her leg or do you just allow the bone to fuze back where it may?
    It seems to me that you're leaning toward not continuing with Jasmine and I agree with you. You're wanting to be self-sufficient and keeping an animal who is just a pet doesn't follow your plan. It is so hard to not become attached though.

    Hugs!

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  21. I gues by a "different perspective" I don't mean pets vs. production animals, I mean leaving an open place for unexpected healing to occur and having a "good" outcome (whatever that is). You never know what the future holds. I'm sure you'll do what's best for your homestead :)

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  22. Renee, you know, that vet never mentioned surgery as an option. It was one of those breaks that has to heal on it's own, with the hope that it will heal properly. If I can't rehome her, one option would be meat for us and meaty bones for the dogs. Seems cruel, but it would give purpose rather than waste to the situation.

    Nancy, thank you so much for clarifying. I agree that miracles can and do indeed happen. We've experienced some of those, as well as some heartbreak. At the very least, I am researching and learning things that will help me take better care of our animals in the future.

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  23. I'm sorry to hear about Jasmine's broken leg Leigh.

    I've lived on the land for 50 of my 60+ years and there is no disguising what my advice would be. I hate, hate, hate it whenever we have to kill any of our farm animals or pets that have been our companions and/or given us progeny or produce over the years. I do however think that being able to do that is just as much a part of farming as it is of your journey towards self sufficiency.

    I'd rather hate myself for a while for having taken the life of an animal I'm fond of rather than watch that animal suffer and struggle just to appease my own sense of guilt and potential remorse. I HAVE to take the responsibility and shoulder the feelings and to deal with what we've done.

    Take care, be kind to yourself and try not to beat yourself up if/when you make the decision.

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  24. I'm so sorry. It stinks to be faced with these decisions.

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  25. I don't think what you are considering is cruel at all. You went into this for meat & dairy. If you can't get dairy then meat it is... I hope it all works out.

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  26. Ugh! That's tough. Thanks for writing about this, Leigh. I've been thinking a lot about this animal husbandry stuff, and these types of more difficult decisions. I especially appreciate your last paragraph, and often have to remind myself that I can't fix every problem as well. Sometimes that can be difficult to accept.
    -Jaime

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  27. Fran, I appreciate your input. We've only been at this four years, but I do understand what you're saying. Our pet cat Rascal was the one we poured all the money into when he developed feline lymphoma. We were glad because he happily lived a couple years longer than the vet thought, but looking back after the fact, I think we let him linger longer than we should have. I reckon the guilt can come either way.

    Another thing I'm realizing is that humans view death differently than animals. They don't place the same value judgment on it as we do.

    Michelle, well put, LOL. Still, a life without animals would have a whole 'nother set of problems, wouldn't it? If we didn't keep a cat for example, the rodent and snake population would increase and I'd be having to pick mouse poop out of our wheat anytime I wanted flour. This, as DH says, comes withe the territory.

    Renee, I have faith it will work out, even if it's emotionally tough. Her problems kidding last year, still born, and not getting pregnant this year are what really tip the scales, moreso than her broken leg. Having her butchered really does give her a way to make a contribution.

    Jaime, it's interesting, isn't it, the various comments and viewpoints. I think that's why it has to be discussed; because modern society has lost its framework for natural reality, and the sterile plastic one doesn't work in real life very well.

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  28. I am so sorry Leigh :/ This must be very hard, trying to decide what you will do.

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  29. From start to finish I have to say that if we were living back in the 1800's and we were meeting up at the local barn with all the neighbours and you were sharing this story I could fully understand what you must be going through.
    But the fact of the matter is that we are not living in the 1800's. Your actions are cold. From the start of the story to the end.
    Maybe at the end I could give you one for compassion because she broke her leg. But from the start you only saw the goat as a means to an end and when she did not produce the means you wanted to get rid of her. I say your actions are down right selfish.
    Sometimes we are put into situations for a reason. To look for answers but not everything is dispensable. Your actions are selfish because you do not live in the 1800's. Your actions are selfish because trying to live off the grid at any cost in this day and age is irresponsible which obviously you are not since you do have internet. So on the one hand you want to get rid of the goat when she no longer did what you wanted her to because you are trying to live off the grid and yet on the other you have internet.

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  30. Thank you Stephanie. :)

    Ingrid, I am curious as to which of my actions you think selfish. All the times I've taken Jasmine to the vet? All the medicines and treatments I've given her? Taking time to consider the best option for her if her leg doesn't heal? The fact that I spend more of my food budget on good quality foods for my animals rather than for ourselves? The fact that I give my animals fulfillment of purpose rather than treat them like specimens for the sake of "conservation"?

    Actually you've made some quantum leaps of assumption. Are you sure you actually read what I said from start to finish? Or did you scan, react emotionally, and jump to conclusions?

    If we were living in the 1800s, I wouldn't have to go to some barn gathering to garner sympathy for my situation. It would be expected that I would have already put her down. The problem we face today, is that the farther we get from living in relationship with creation, the farther away from reality we get. The reality of having animals, including pets, is that they get sick, they get hurt, and sometimes they just don't fit into their environments.

    No, we are not living off grid, nowhere near it. And I don't get what that has to do with the internet, but it does point to the fact that you've grossly misunderstood who we are and what we're about.

    I think your vehemence would be better directed at corporate agribiz and CAFOs. That's where the real cruelty lies.

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  31. Leigh, we've faced similar situations (ahem, are even facing one now...) and I think the best way to sum it up is...THIS SUCKS! I wish you peace with your decision.

    And I've enjoyed the comments just as much as the post this time. Everyone's perspective is different and we simply can't know exactly what each other is going through during times like this.

    Ingrid, most people who own something like a goat see them as a means to an end. A pet, a companion, a milk producing animal, a meat producing animal. Why else get a goat if you don't want it for something?

    Same reason people get a dog - for a pet, a guard, whatever. If someone got a guard dog that licked the face of every intruder, should they be shamed for rehoming that dog to a pet home?

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  32. Reading the comments has certainly been interesting on this one. It is pretty obvious that you have some readers that have no clue what goes into being a farmer.

    The fact of the matter is that a lot of us spend a great deal of time considering what is right, for our farms, for our families and for our animals. There is a balance in all of that which we must decide for ourselves. Leigh, I really appreciate that you show not just the happy, warm-fuzzy side of this life.

    I too have spent more time and money on certain animals than made sense. For example, early on one of my ewes managed a full uterine prolapse after lambing (she kept pushing for 3 days after the 17 pound lamb was born). I was there when it happened. At first it was just a small prolapse and I had Kid the Younger call a close-by shepherd to come help. By the time she got there, I'm sitting in the pen with an entire uterus in my hands. She tells Kid the Younger to go call another friend shepherd, and to have her bring the rifle. We were able to put the ewe back together (thank goodness for willing and capable friends!), and she lambed for me twice more, but she kept having problems, so she went away. I give my animals the best life I can, but I do not have limitless funds and time, and it is unrealistic to think that I can provide life long care to animals that don't pull their weight. I love them, but my children take priority and to think or say otherwise is naive.

    I have animals that have paid their dues and will live here until they die. Animals that don't are either re-homed or "freezer trained".

    Leigh, you will make a reasoned, well thought out decision that is right for you and Dan. I am sorry that some folks feel that they have the right to make you feel bad, and I hope that it doesn't stop you from sharing the realities of your life, easy and hard.

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  33. Leigh, I am so sorry to read about all the problems poor Jasmine has had. At the risk of sounding cruel or mean it seems to me that you have done everything you could to give Jasmine a good life maybe it is time to consider other options. I wish you all peace and know that whatever decision you two make concerning Jasmine it will be the right one for your situation and your family.

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  34. Marissa, good point and kindly said. "This sucks" is an excellent summary. I'm sorry you're facing your own difficult decision.

    Sue, thanks. I expect differing opinions of course, but always hope that discussion will follow, and respect of one another's opinions. I've appreciated that happening in the comments. Then there are folks who are intolerant of other points of view and seem to want to belittle or bully others because of it.

    I appreciate the telling of your own experience. Very interesting and I would have done the same. I agree too, with your priorities.

    Difficult things need to be blogged about and discussed. I figure if Dan and I face them, others do too. I always find it helps to know we're not alone in our struggles. It helps too, to know the reality of the choice to farm or homestead.

    Martha, thanks. Fortunately Jasmine is not in pain. That was our biggest concern at present. She can't get around very well, but her appetite is good and she isn't grinding her teeth (a sign that a goat is in pain.) Healing is up to time.

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  35. Oh, I'm so sorry to hear this news. I have little experience with goats - but plenty with sheep. The type of break you describe does not heal easily and usually we would slaughter such an animal. As you know, I'm a bunny hugging vegetarian and absolutely cannot farm, since I would make all the animals my pets! But this is a difficult situation. I hope she will mend, but I think you are taking the right approach not to exclude that maybe you might have to take the less desirable road. Good Luck.

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  36. Cecilia, actually Dan's taking it pretty hard. He takes every loss hard and he's a meat eater.

    I was watching her this evening and her leg really doesn't look right. It hasn't been long enough to heal yet, but I'm concerned about how it will when it does. I'm guess all her getting up, hobbling around, and lying down again aren't giving it a chance to stay where it's supposed to. Mostly we just don't want her to suffer.

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  37. I'm so sorry that you got that comment. This isn't at all selfish. Just because an opinion is differing doesn't make it selfish.
    You didn't get into raising goats to have a bunch of pets. All the animals on your farm work for a living or are expected too...no matter how cute they are. The times we live in have nothing to do with anything. If you were running a larger goat farm Jasmine would have been rehomed or culled a long time ago.

    Hugs! I know this can't be easy. I'm so glad that Jasmine isn't in any pain. From some of what you've written about her, I think that the person you got her from wasn't being very honest (or perhaps just didn't know). You've put a lot of time and effort into Jasmine and given her a very good goat life.

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  38. Renee, me too! I've continued to puzzle over exactly what she found so offensive. She said my actions were cold and selfish. The only actions I reported were taking Jasmine to the vet and treating her for her various ailments. We also refused to put her down at the vet's advice. I reckon if that's selfish, then this gal must think it would be non-elfish to have killed her off without giving her a chance.

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  39. I hope she does ok, I wish I was closer to you, I rescue goats and just keep them happy :) I don't eat meat or milk them so I don't have the issues of deciding if keeping them is worth it. They just live here :) you can always look for a rescue in your area if you need to, they give medical care too :)

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  40. Delight Sierra, I don't know if we have an animal rescue anywhere near or not. I hadn't thought that far ahead. Right now we're jut trying to do what it takes to help Jasmine to heal. One concern is resources. I mean time and money, not in terms of Jasmine's worth, but in making sure no other animal we're responsible for is neglected. Know what I mean?

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  41. Leigh
    Stormy was born on a very blustery night. We lost her mother but saved her. She was bottle raised and lived in her own pasture in our yard. She had pneumonia at one month, and then broke her leg at one year. We also had to make a very hard decision, but our Vet asked us to try something and we were oh so glad we did. He wrapped her leg, put her into an improvised cast which was a plastic "Charlotte" pipe that he cut down one side and then ducked taped up and then we wrapped her cast in plastic grocery bags which we changed weekly so her cast stayed dry. She survived, her leg healed and she produced many calves for us.
    I just read your post tonight, I know what ever decision you made was correct for you.
    Unless you live this life surrounded by multiple animals, their needs, the joys and sorrows of raising them, and the reality of the costs involved,it is not fair to judge the decisions we all have had to make at one time or another.
    Good luck,
    Char

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  42. Char, that is so true, and I appreciate your comment, as well as the success story. To be ridiculed for trying to do one's best is a cruel kick in the face.

    I know some have had great success splinting goats legs. I admit if feels a bit unfair that Jasmine's break is at the shoulder so that it can't be splinted. I later learned about slinging animals with broken legs, just for a few hours a day, not off the ground but just enough to allow the bone to align. That came a bit too late though because I think it would have to be done before healing started.

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