When the pandemic hit Washington state last spring, some people decided to make the most of their added time at home by growing a garden.
Others finished knitting projects, pieced together jigsaw puzzles or binge-watched Netflix.
One South Whidbey woman took on the care of two goats that many others had deemed a lost cause.
Sabine Wilms, a Chinese medicine writer, was herself recovering from the disappointment of having to cancel an international book tour when a friend told her about two goats in need of some love.
The goats’ owners, a family in California, fell on hard times because of the coronavirus and were no longer able to continue caring for the goats.
Wilms, who owned a goat farm when she was living in New Mexico, immediately volunteered to become the pair’s new caretaker.
“I’ve never been without goats for too long,” Wilms said.
A sign of her love for the hooved creatures, her publishing company is named Happy Goat Productions.
Her friend’s husband drove to California to pick up the “rescue goats.” A vet there gave the animals a clean bill of health, though Wilms said they were severely malnourished when they arrived on Whidbey.
“These goats walked out of the trailer, and we just cried, my friend and I,” Wilms said.
She described the goats as “abused, neglected and totally freaked out.” The older of the pair had been starved and overmilked during her first kidding, and had mastitis. The goat wasn’t gaining any weight and the vet was ready to put her down.
But Wilms was determined to save the goat.
Through a combination of a variety of snacks, cuddles, massages and Chinese medicine, she brought the goat back from the brink of death.
“I poured all my love into this goat,” Wilms said. “My neighbors did too.”
Total strangers showed up bearing gifts for the sick goat, from apples to raspberry prunings to grape leaves, she said.
“I basically threw the kitchen sink at her and let her eat whatever she wanted,” Wilms said with a laugh.
A friend supplied an herbal formula, which Wilms gave to the goat. She also used moxibustion, a Chinese medicine technique similar to acupuncture that promotes the flow of chi, or energy. Moxibustion involves burning mugwort, an herb, near the body at certain points to promote healing.
Wilms spent a lot of time with the two goats, setting up a desk near their enclosure so she could work alongside them during the summer months. She specializes in teaching about postpartum care for humans, and put that to use when helping the mother goat to recover.
She held the goats often and massaged the mother goat’s udder, which had been infected but has since healed. The massaging helped to flush the milk out, she said.
Wilms has renamed the goat Lady Yang Xiaomei. Yang means “goat” in Chinese, and Xiaomei means “smiling plum.”
The other goat, Xiaomei’s niece, was just a few months old when she arrived on Whidbey and was in better shape physically than her aunt. But the kid, who has been renamed Marisol, went through her own struggles when one of her horns got stuck in some fencing.
Blood was “shooting out of her brain,” Wilms said. But because it was during the beginning months of the pandemic, Wilms struggled to immediately find a veterinarian who could put Marisol down. A kindly neighbor who was also a nurse came to the rescue and helped to stem the bleeding. Eventually the kid calmed down and wasn’t suffering as much.
Marisol may have recovered from her wound, but her horns will likely need to be sawed off to prevent them from growing into her skull, Wilms explained.
Lucky for the two ladies, the neighbors are content to let them continue to browse the surrounding land for anything tasty. And Xiaomei now produces about a quart of milk every day from her one working udder.
Wilms said her companions are “exceptionally good-looking and affectionate.”