For once the sun decided to shine in Western Washington, so I rigged up the goaters and headed into the forest for late afternoon pastoral shenanigans. ‘Roy, Aster, and Isöl sported their respective saddles.
It’s worth noting that once the goats begin to associate being saddled with “getting to go on a hike”, they suddenly hold quite still and are very compliant with being tacked up. You bust out the packs and saddles and they suddenly fall into line and exercise some measure of elusive goat patience, because they know what reward is to come!
So out we head into the meadow; the goats eager for fresh greenstuffs, me eager to fill some bags with fresh picked Usnea lichen and find some new Turkey Tail blooms.
The venture was short but successful. I found a large standing stump showered in Turkey Tails, with ample Usnea growing all around. I parked myself and the goats in one spot and spent about 20 minutes grooming goods from that tiny slice of swamp. But was getting into evening, so with a pannier-ful of ‘shrooms and a thick bag of Usnea, we departed from the forest and headed back out into the meadow.
I left the goats out to graze while I headed home to deliver the goods. As expected, Isöl abandoned his chance to graze and followed me back in hopes of somehow scoring some grain. To reward his loyalty and keep him predictable, I indulged him in a tantalizing nibble of rolled oats and put him back in the barn.
Goats think everything is a game. If you are reactive and exciting, it reinforces the game to them. The best approach to goat ‘training’ I’ve found is to reward any behavior that you actually like or want, and to reward ‘predictable’ behaviors. I’d rather a goat behave predictably than unpredictably! If Isöl makes a jail break and becomes a Freedom Goat, I want him to come to me hoping for tasty treats, rather than high-tailing it to a neighboring property and getting into trouble, or wandering to the nearest apple tree and stripping it completely of bark in just a few minutes. They are food and reward-oriented.
“You can’t train a goat, but they’ll readily take a bribe.”
Anyhow, with the spoils of the hike put away, and my naughtiest goat locked up, I waited for ‘Roy and Aster to wander home. Within a few minutes I heard rustling outside the greenhouse; yup, there was Aster, snuffing around in hopes of finding a bit of grain. I popped outside to reward him and ferry him to the barn as well (where Isöl was discontentedly screaming because he was the only goat in the barn at the moment). But as I approached Aster, something else caught my eye. I looked around the edge of the greenhouse and saw ‘Roy. Okay, good- wait- what?
Aroyu stood motionless, staring off into the distance across the meadow. White foam caked his face. Great splashes of white slimy froth littered the ground around him. He jolted and heaved and more white foam shot out of his mouth. He blew a few spit bubbles and moaned, still otherwise motionless.
I remembered looking around at the bog plants just cropping in around the forest and thinking “Gee, that looks like false hellebore. The goats seem to be leaving it alone though.” Aster and Isöl have already learned that false hellebore is no fun to ingest. Now I supposed it was ‘Roy’s turn to learn it, too.
I took quick stock of the situation; he needed activated charcoal in his system ASAP. But I needed to put Aster up and prep a charcoal drench. I figured of Roy Boy was so bad that he would drop dead in the next 3 minutes, there was nothing I could have done anyway. So I stayed calm and collected, put Aster Bean back in the barn, and popped inside to prep a drench for ‘Roy. I mixed a huge scoop of charcoal (which I always keep on-hand at this point) into a pint jar with around 10 ounces of water in it. I wouldn’t get it all in him, but I could get enough in him. I would’ve used a large drenching syringe but strangely they weren’t where I normally keep them. So instead of wasting time looking for one, I just made more drench than I needed, and made it stronger than I needed. It certainly wasn’t going to hurt anything, to be sure.
I headed back outside to find ‘Roy right where I’d left him. Still burping up froth, moaning, and standing motionless. It wasn’t hard to tilt his head back, set the lip of the jar under his upper lip, and slosh a nice dose of charcoal water into his mouth (and all over his face, too). He slurped it down without fuss. I waited a few minutes. He belched out tar-black vomit, saturated in charcoal. I waited for his barfing-fit to subside and drenched him again. Three or for times we did this, until I was out of charcoal water and his face was stained black.
I let him stand for awhile. He was at least solid on his feet, not threatening to lie down. His rumen was bloated and churning unusually. I decided to put him back in the barn an re-drench him in another hour or two. And for the trouble I would dose the other boys just in case they nibbled the wrong plant and weren’t showing signs yet.
And so I did, a couple hours later. Aroyu was still upright and looked far perkier than he had when I drenched him. He danced half-heartedly around the barn, feeling curious about what I brought with me; “Treats? Food?“. Nope, sorry, ‘Roy, just more charcoal water…
I left the barn with 3 black-stained boy goats in my wake. Just before bed,I checked them once more and refilled the hay feeder. Roy wasn’t eating but looked solid. Good. The other goats took to eating with normal goat enthusiasm. The next morning Roy looked back to his old self. I offered everyone a hearty dose of minerals to help their systems bounce back. He had some obvious digestive upset coming out of his aft-end, but was otherwise no worse for the wear.
It’s now been a few days without further incident; ‘Roy has clearly bounced back without complications. I am very grateful that he brought himself out of the meadow and chose to have his vomit-fit right outside my greenhouse where I could witness it! I don’t know if what nor how much he ate would’ve killed him, but better safe than sorry!
When it comes to treating an ingested poison like this, my approach is a sensible one; use charcoal (and if you have some on-hand, use clay as well) to neutralize whatever the body doesn’t reject. Whatever he failed to vomit back out, the charcoal saturating his digestive system should adsorb and remove before it does much damage. Using in tandem with clay, or alternating their uses, can help strip excess toxins from the liver, too, in the event a chemical or compound should accumulate there and cause short or long-term damage.
That’s how I see it, at least. In a case like this, not only can I not afford to call out a vet to pump his stomach, but chances are that he will suffer more severe effects of the toxin- or die- while he waits for a vet to come calling. Of all the ailments that can’t afford to wait for treatment, poison is close to the top of the list. Keeping activated charcoal on-hand is a literal life-saver!