RIP Bella Donna
To say that the last few days have been rough would be an understatement. It started Saturday morning. I had fallen asleep in Henry’s bed, so Hubby came in there around 6:30am to wake me up and tell me two dogs had just attacked the goats. I vaguely remembered hearing a gunshot go off while I was sleeping, but that’s not unexpected where we live, so I had gone back to sleep. When we got outside, I realized Hubby had his 9mm in his hand. He had shot one round into the ground to distract one of the dogs from chasing our brown goat, Nessie. He would have shot the dog if he would have had a clear shot. The dog chasing Nessie, a black pit bull mix, had taken off. Hubby had caught the remaining dog, a red hound and possibly pit mix, and tied him up by the back steps. It took all of my husband’s self control to keep from shooting that dog in the head. After the last few days, part of me wishes he had. I called Animal Control to come get the dog.
I went to check on the goats. One of the dogs, I’m assuming the black one, had bit Nessie on the right back leg. Nessie was limping a little bit, but seemed ok otherwise. Bella was on the ground and couldn’t get up. Hubby had woken up to the sound of dogs barking close to the house. Both of our dogs were inside. When he looked out the back door, he saw both dogs standing over Bella, barking. They had already taken her down at that point and may have killed her if Nessie hadn’t run by and distracted them into chasing her. Hubby went back inside to get dressed and grab his gun. Hubby said Nessie was screaming and running for all she was worth around the horse paddock while the black dog chased her. Bella had bites on all four legs. The back legs had the most damage. She was dripping blood from a few different punctures. I called the vet’s emergency number and left a message. He called back right away, but he was on another emergency call and couldn’t get to us for another hour. I took my first aid kit to the goat paddock and cleaned up Bella’s wounds while we waited. Hubby and I were able to get her to her feet so I could hose down her legs and examine her. None of the bites looked very deep. I put iodine on the bites I could find.
An Animal Control officer came and took away the red dog. Unfortunately, since we weren’t able to catch the black dog on our property, Animal Control couldn’t seize him too. We told her what happened and she gave Hubby an affidavit to fill out and told me to take pictures. We told her where the dog’s owners lived and she drove up there to get the address, then she went back to her office.
Now, a little background on these two dogs. First of all, I live on a dead end road in the woods. You think news travels fast in a small town, nothing gets past nosy neighbors on a dead end road. I know every vehicle that belongs on this road and which house it belongs to. So, it wasn’t difficult to figure out that we had new neighbors. They moved in around the first of the month. “Something” got a hold of my neighbor’s Chihuahua the night of Feb. 24. The neighbors heard their dog screaming out in the woods and ran to rescue him. Whatever it was dropped the Chihuahua and took off. The little dog ran up to the house shaking and covered in slobber. At the time, we assumed it was coyotes, but coyotes aren’t likely to drop their prey and take off. They’ll run off with their prey. Then, the morning of March 6, the red and black dogs were both in my neighbor’s front yard, trying to fight with her big dogs. They chased the dogs home and warned the new neighbors that their dogs were out and trying to fight. Saturday was March 9. They had come through my fence, looking for trouble. I think they left the miniature horses alone because they were in with the big horses. The chickens were still locked up. That just left my poor goats.
The vet came out to look at the goats. We shaved Bella’s legs to get a better look at her injuries. She had a lot more bites than I had originally thought, but still none of them looked very deep. The left rear leg had the most damage. She wouldn’t put weight on the right front leg and the vet suspected that there was some nerve damage where one of the dogs had clamped down.
The vet gave both goats penicillin, banamine (for pain) and tetanus shots. He also gave me some ointment to put on the bites to help them heal and keep out infection. He left instructions, I paid the bill and he went off on the next emergency call. I made copies of the vet bill and we headed to the new neighbors’ house.
Unfortunately, the parents weren’t home. Two teenage boys and two dogs (including the black one who took part in the attack) met us at the gate. I told them that two of their dogs, including the black one, had attacked my goats and almost killed one of them and they needed to pay the vet bill. I told them that we had caught one of the dogs and it was now at Animal Control. You know that look you get when someone says they’re sorry with their mouths, but look like they’re laughing with their eyes. That’s what I got in return. Same thing when the one boy told the black dog he was a bad dog. I wanted to make them care. I NEEDED to make them care. I told them I’d shoot the black dog if I saw it on my property again. I was told that their dad doesn’t care if the dogs get shot. That just made me feel bad for the dogs and angrier at the humans. If you care that little about your dogs, then find them a home with someone who does care. The boys told me there are holes in the fence and they need to do something about it. Ya think!?! I told them it needs to be fixed this weekend. They told me this is why they don’t like living around people. I knew I wasn’t getting anywhere with these boys, so we left our number with them and told them to have their parents call us when they get home.
We got home and I was fuming. I did the only thing I could do and doctored my goat. Hubby and I hoisted her onto the goat stand and got her standing. Once she was up, she could stand. She just couldn’t walk. I cleaned her up and put the ointment on her wounds. I did this every day. Sunday, I started putting Swat on her legs as well because the flies were starting to become a nuisance. I gave her banamine and penicillin and watched her as she struggled to walk and refused to eat. I watched her as she struggled to get up on two legs, just so she could flop back down on the ground and try to get comfortable. I watched my sweet, beautiful, headstrong girl slowly give up. Because despite everything, the ointment and banamine and penicillin weren’t enough. She was still in too much pain. She still couldn’t stand up on her own and walk. The vet thinks she had internal injuries in addition to the bites. By yesterday evening, she would just lay there and moan. She started to lay her head on the ground. She had lost some of her alertness. I knew something was wrong. At one point, I looked over at the food buckets to see her laying out and not moving. I thought I had lost her and ran to her side, only to have her lift her head up after I got there. I called my vet to see if there was anything else we could do. He suspected that she was just in a lot of pain. He wasn’t surprised that she was still laying down almost four days later. There wasn’t much more we could do. He told me to wait and see how she was feeling the next morning, then we’d determine if he needed to come back out and take a look at her.
Prey animals aren’t meant to lay down for long periods of time. Their bodies are designed to be always on the go. Their circulatory system depends upon that movement. If a prey animal lays down and can’t get up, it’s almost certain to be killed by a predator. They will do everything in their power to stay on their feet. Once they get to the point where they can’t get up, it’s a sign of a very serious health issue. In all of my years working with cows, sheep and horses, I can’t think of very many cases that made a full recovery once the animal went down.
So when I went out the back door this morning to feed, I hesitated a little bit before I looked over at the goat paddock. I wanted to see Bella feeling better, standing even. I wanted the vet to be right, that she was just in a lot of pain, but would still make a full recovery. Instead, I saw her stretched out on the ground, in the same spot she had been the night before. I walked over, hoping she was just laying her head down. When I got there, her eyes were open in the blank stare of death. Her body was stiff and cold. She was gone and there was nothing I could do. I had done everything right, followed the vet’s instructions to the letter. I had nursed and cared for her for four days. She had suffered in excruciating pain for four days. And all because irresponsible dog owners who knowingly own aggressive dogs can’t be bothered to keep them contained.
Hubby did talk to the dog owners Saturday afternoon. They had known aggression issues with the red one who went to Animal Control. They said they were going to try to place him with a rescue that weekend. As it stands now, they’re going to leave him at Animal Control and let them deal with him. They get to keep the black dog. I plan to keep my promise to shoot him next time I see him on my property. They have agreed to pay the vet bill. I’m also going to make sure they pay to replace Bella. She was more than a pet. She was part of our homesteading plan. I was already looking for a buck to breed to her and Nessie so I could get fresh milk from them and sell the babies to cover our expenses. Quality breeding does are expensive and difficult to come by.
Bella is the second goat we’ve lost. We lost Rusty a couple years ago to what we believe was a parasite infestation. We got him and Bella together 5 1/2 years ago to help clear our 5 acres. They did a fantastic job. I named her Bella Donna because I thought she was such a pretty girl. I was told she was 4 1/2 years old when we got her, which would have made her 10 now. She had half of one ear missing because she had been attacked by dogs when she was a baby. Life just isn’t fair sometimes. She had already survived one dog attack. She deserved to live a long happy life here on the farm. As it is, I know she lived a good life for the last 5 1/2 years. She was always a sweet girl and was never the goat causing trouble, although sometimes she was along for the ride. She was great with Henry and would let him love on her and sometimes even sit on her when she was laying down. She will be very sorely missed. I wish I would have had the chance to breed her. She would have had beautiful babies. We’re going to bury her in the front paddock next to Rusty.