Every so often a special animal comes into our lives.
One year we bought six bottle babies, three goat kids and three lambs. A bottle baby is one that’s taken off their mother for some reason, usually to be sold. They become bonded through the milk bottle. Their people become surrogate parents.
Bottle feeding six babies at once was quite a challenge. And a riot! They all wanted to eat at the same time; no waiting in line. Holding six bottles took real skill: sitting with one bottle between the knees, the rest handheld with the necks and nipples sticking out between the fingers the “feeding frenzy” began.
They didn’t just suck the bottle; they bumped it – hard, then sucked, bumped again, and sucked some more. This was repeated until the bottle was empty. Not finishing in unison one would try to “push” another baby off its bottle and the pushing-each-other-off cycle continued until the last bottle was empty, with it being emptied by six bumping baby heads at once. None thought they were filled and would go from empty bottle to empty bottle, jostling, bumping, pushing, and climbing over each other.
If a bottle with milk in it was dropped it couldn’t be picked up until all the other bottles were emptied; a common occurrence. What to do with one bottle and six “starving” babies? Two minutes of pure chaos!
Once the bottle feeding phase ended their individual goat personalities arose.
Of this group only Cutie Pie knew her name. Frequently she’d be the first to spot me with grain. Without calling, she’d sneaked off licking her lips all the time, her long tongue whipping quickly from side to side. She’d have more than her share before the others saw her and a stampede started with goat and sheep cries of “not fair,” “wait for me” and “leave some for us”! This all fell on Cutie’s suddenly deaf ears.
However, Cutie was not always cute. Milking time became a battle royal; she was not going to be milked. She’d go through all kinds of contortions – jumping, twisting, pushing, lying down, and even standing on her front feet. Not just kicking up in the air but “standing” with her back feet straight up. Perhaps that’s how she wanted to be milked – udder at shoulder height! I got the milk AND a work out. We made goat cheese and lye soap from her abundant, delicious milk.
As she grew older, her udder became bigger each year, almost dragging on the ground. Her babies had to lie on the ground to reach her teats. Each pregnancy she also seemed to grow wider. Now waddling is not reserved for humans. Cutie waddled. Boy, did she waddle. Her body swayed from side to side, her udder moved in synch but in the opposite direction, it made quite a sight.
One year we moved wide, waddling, low slung Cutie Pie into a field where she wouldn’t have to contend with the other animals. This gave us all some peace of mind; especially since I was working a couple hundred miles away, several days a week.
As I left for work one day I went out to see how our very pregnant Cutie Pie was doing. She didn’t come out of her shelter so I crawled in to pet and talk to her. She was breathing heavily but goats do when their bellies are big and lying down. I told her how special she was and how much I loved her. She turned and gave me several goat kisses. Something she’d never done before. I gave her a hug and kiss; then left for work.
My wife called the next day saying Cutie Pie had delivered. However, Cutie was not doing very well. She hadn’t eaten or drank. Newly delivered moms always ate and drank as if they’d starved for a week. We knew something was wrong. Both of us prayed throughout the night for her.
The following morning I looked out the motel’s back window onto a field of lush, green grass bordered with blackberry bushes. There was Cutie Pie eating her favorite food. She looked so contented. A few short seconds later she vanished.
Silence. “Had I really seen her”?
A moment later my wife called - Cutie Pie had died.
Every so often a special animal comes into our lives. Cutie Pie was one very special animal.
Perhaps her adorable, tongue whipping bottle baby will be one also.
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