A Light all Her Own

In  August of 2010, five months after adopting Adeleide and Heidi from the SPCA , much to our surprise, a quartet of baby goats entered our lives; tripling the size of our herd overnight.

Among the babies born was Swan, the only female of the brood. Daughter to  Heidi, we thought it thematically fitting to name her after “Schwanli”, the prettiest among the cast of goats in the Swiss children’s story classic, “Heidi”.

Baby Swan and Oreo

Baby Swan and Oreo

Translated, Schwanli means “little swan”; which, with her long, thin, and elegant neck, was precisely what she reminded us of.

From the moment she arrived, Swan has graced us with her sleek beauty and lively spirit. She casts her own special light over our little farm;  one infused with mischief and sass, yet  balanced by her devotion to family.

A bit of a spitfire,  we have learned the only way to earn Swan’s respect and affection is on her own terms. Whether it’s to offer her a treat or a pat on the head, she must be the one to initiate such interactions, ALWAYS.  Breech this understanding, and she will feistily toss her lovely horns in your direction. Swan silhouette

At just a few week’s old, she would watch with envy as we bottle-fed the neighboring baby goats,  Big and Blaze, whose mother Adeleide was unable to nurse them herself.  Swan, who could access her own mother’s milk any time she wanted, would throw  herself against the dividing pen wall and scream her pretty little head off until we allowed her a few tugs on the bottle.

Of course once we did this, there was absolutely no turning back. At every scheduled bottle feeding thereafter, we had to bring with us, a little extra to share with Swan and soon enough, her twin brother, Oreo. And soon after that, Heidi came to  expect a sampling as well.  The bottle feedings began taking much longer than we had bargained for,  thanks to the high-demands of one little baby goat named Swan.

As the only girl , Swan has had to survive the rough-and-tumble of growing up alongside three rambunctious boys. And survive, she has! She is often seen head-butting her way to the top of the climbing logs and beating everyone to the fence line, where visitors await with bags of celery . And when we removed an old board from a closed up window in the barn, it was Swan who first discovered  the joy of jumping  through the new opening.goat in window

When not rough-housing with the boys, she can be found huddled close with her mother Heidi. They share a strong physical and emotional bond, the depth of  which goes well beyond our comprehension.  Never was this more apparent than it was on one bitterly cold winter day.

As fun and as good natured as goats generally are, they can be downright  mean to each other when it comes to establishing the ever-shifting herd hierarchy. When Heidi suddenly found herself  on the bottom rung of the social ladder, last February, it was Swan who stayed by her side.

We couldn’t bear to watch as the other goats relentlessly chased  Heidi out of the warmth of the barn and into the sub-zero temperatures of the pasture.  And we weren’t the only ones whose hearts ached at such a sight.

Swan compulsively paced the barn floor, and frequently stuck her head outside the door to check on her mother who sat shivering, as close to the opening to the barn as the others would allow. It was then that we corralled Heidi into one of the sick pens to protect her from the others and shield her from the bitter cold elements.

Heidi and Swan

Swan (l) with Heidi (r)

The next morning, just outside Heidi’s pen, sat Swan nose to nose with her mother through the wire bars , craving the warmth and comfort of her body against her own.

Although penning is usually seen as punishment from the animal’s perspective, when we cracked the gate open, Swan willingly joined Heidi. There, in the pen, they stayed for the remainder of the cold snap. Contently cuddled with their necks entwined, they never once asked to be released the way they typically  do when confined for health-related  reasons.

Today, while Heidi is still the low goat on the totem pole, the extreme ostracism  has faded to a relatively peaceful understanding and acceptance of order among the herd.  We know Heidi finds great comfort in the fact that despite her lowly rank among our crazy herd,  she will always be top goat in her little swan’s  heart.

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*100% of our animal care related costs are funded solely through private donation. If you would like to help us to help Swan and the rest of our animals, please visit our Donate Now page where you can make a tax deductible donation to help pay for food, housing and veterinary care for all of our animals. Thank you!