Once you have a backyard hobby farm with a garden, a beehive, and a small flock of chickens and ducks, it's only a matter of time before you start expanding your family to include small livestock. We had toyed for weeks with the idea of Nigerian dwarf goats - I (the more practical and analytic one) wasn't particularly interested in taking on that kind of challenge, but Matt (the dramatically adventurous one) couldn't think of any reason NOT to add goats to the mix :)
Elijah & Archie joined our family on March 28, 2018, when they were both 8 weeks old. I went to sleep early one evening because I had an early shift in the hospital the next day, and Matt left around 10pm to go pick up the goats (can't recall why he left so late - to dodge traffic, maybe?). I awoke at 4am to find a dog crate on the kitchen floor with the two MOST ADORABLE BABY GOATS inside!! The kitchen smelled like hay and I was bleary-eyed and running late for work but I couldn't resist sitting down with the boys and having a quick snuggle.
I took the brown goat out of the crate first. I looked at him and told him his name would be Elijah. Passover was coming up and I wanted to commemorate the time of year with a meaningful name. The white goat came out next. He curled up in my lap and a name popped into my mind. "Is your name Archie?" I asked him. He seemed content so we officially named him Archie.
Note - these babies had been initially named Iceman and Maverick, but we feel pretty strongly that our animals have names that are not perceived as any kind of joke or pun, such as being named after foods, TV or movie characters, etc. We don't want people to chuckle when they hear the names. We just think it is more respectful to have names that are not derived from pop culture.
So with that, Iceman became Archie, and Maverick became Elijah.
Baby Elijah and Baby Archie were SO SO SO cute. Photo evidence here:
The life of a goat is pretty simple - eat, poop, sleep, etc. Both goats were delightful snuggle buddies - with their human family but mostly with each other!
I spent MANY summer afternoons laying out in the backyard on a beach towel with the goats by my side. They might have been busily eating or playing, but if they saw me lay down, they would always come over and lay down with me.
A very fun and adorable feature of these goat brothers (and maybe of ALL goats?) is their LOVE of BUCKETS. They absolutely could not resist sitting inside of a bucket or a bun. No bin too small! Our goats would squeesh themselves inside!!
Archie and Elijah had a great setup in our Chicago backyard. Urban life was fun for them! They had chicken and hen sisters to hang out with, and we had many Many MANY visitors int he neighborhood who would routinely come visit and bring treats (carrots, apples, tortilla chips) to feed to them over the fence.
It was sad and hard to leave Chicago, and I think it was particularly sad for some of our neighbors to say goodbye to the goats. They became a bit of a fixture in the neighborhood.
The boys did great on the long drive out from Chicago to California. They didn't seem at all upset or confused about their new location! They enjoyed running around in the pastures, and although we never really thought either one of them had any issues with being overweight, we noticed that both boys lost 8-10 pounds after moving to California! Archie and Elijah quickly found some favorite relaxation spots on the rancho:
One day, about 7 months after moving to the new property, Matt noticed that Elijah was straining to urinate. He hunched his body and seemed to be straining, but nothing would come out. We both knew immediately that this was a problem - we had learned in our reading and research about goats that Nigerian dwarves are particularly susceptible to kidney stones. (It has something to do with the carbohydrates in their diet? And also can be problematic in these little goats because the kidney structures are narrow so the stones can get stuck).
Matt took Elijah directly to the local vet. They did some tests and confirmed the presence of stones in the kidneys, ureters, AND urethra. Their brief attempts at stone removal were not successful, so they referred Elijah to the BIG veterinary medical center in Davis. Matt drove Elijah there, knowing that they would be expecting him after getting the referral from our local vet.
The UC Davis farm animal veterinary services are OUTSTANDING... and that is the understatement of the century! We felt extremely respected and heard and cared for by the entire UC Davis team. They relayed to us the severity of the situation, and the procedures that they would attempt in order to remove these large, obstructing urinary stones. Elijah was hospitalized, underwent a procedure, then received pain medications and IV fluids, and then he tried to urinate on his own. NOTHING. The cycle repeated - procedure, medications, try to pee. Still nothing.
It's hard to explain why, after a certain point, there's no more options. In humans, we do a lot Lot LOT of invasive tests and permanently invasive measures to relieve things like kidney stones or intestinal obstructions or other chronic problems. But in a goat - a farm animal who lives outdoors and is constantly exposed to other animals and a wide variety of germs - it's not so easy to do things like inserting catheters. We learned that Elijah's kidney stones were so large that they were causing severe infection and damage to his urinary system, and even if we could somehow bypass these stones or remove them, he would be constantly getting recurrent stones and urinary tract infections, and would likely be back at the hospital monthly for IV treatments if he were to get through this current illness.
The UC Davis team gave us the compassionate, reasonable option to stop pursuing treatment. We asked them to take Elijah for a walk outside, let him enjoy some of his favorite snacks, and then help him peacefully go to the other side of the rainbow.
It was a sad decision, but not actually a hard one to make, because we knew that prolonging his life would be painful and difficult, and keeping him alive simply because we were too sad to let him go was not fair.
I worried a lot about Archie, but he did just fine. For maybe 1-2 days he seemed a little down and quiet, but he was surrounded by his loving bird family (and us, of course) so he bounced back to his typical active personality quickly.
In a wonderful stroke of universe magic, a new goat came into our lives. Ray is a handsome Nigerian/La Mancho goat who ALSO grew up with a brother who ALSO lost that brother suddenly due to illness. A goat rescue contacted us asking if we had room for this lonely boy, and we excitedly answered YES! Not only do we have room, but we also have a buddy for him!!
You never know how it might go introducing a new animal to the group, but in this case it was a-ok from the very first minute. Archie and Ray are a great pair.
Goats are sometimes high-maintenance, sometimes rowdy, sometimes a little bit pushy (literally) but they are also loving, loyal, and content. We are extremely happy that we took the leap back in spring 2018 to add these incredible animals into our family.