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Goat 911: free emergency advice for goat owners. (The goat barn).

Goat 911 is a 24 hour free service, designed to provide free advice to fellow goat owners who don't have a veterinarian available for their goats during a medical emergency. Our service is staffed by a range of volunteers with a variety of levels of experience in caring for all types of goats. Their advice, as stated on our Goat 911 site, is not intended to be used as a prescription for care--only advice from fellow goat owners trying to help out in an emergency situation. We have volunteers listed from nearly every state in the U.S. and several foreign countries as far away as Greece and New Zealand, for example.

Goat 911 came into existence February 2000. The web site GoatWorld.com was a Valentine to me from my wife Pamela. We had gotten goats in 1999 to combat a noxious weed called kudzu growing from a neighbor's property onto ours (this is another story in itself with eventual successful results, thanks to the goats).

Even though I had raised goats as a young boy in 4H back in the 60s, I had forgotten much of what I had learned. Our first two goats were young registered Alpine bucks that had just been disbudded. Not long after we purchased them, they became ill and I began searching for information about goats on the internet. I found a couple of goat lists and web sites that were very helpful: ChevonTalk and JackMauldin.com.

It was through one of these resources that I realized a definite need for more detailed and helpful goat information. One person in particular had a sick goat and wrote to a goat list of which I was a member. No one responded back (or at least in a timely manner), and thus the goat died. Several people mentioned that there was a need for some type of 24 hour service that could be reached in the event of an emergency (and no veterinarian was available). I sprang into action and overnight created Goat 911. All of this simply because a number of people had helped us with our sick goats and we did not want to see others go through the same situation the person losing a goat had gone through. It was born of the spirit of helping other goat owners. We have tried to keep it running true to that same, original spirit ever since.

As such, the Goat 911 service has gone through its growing pains and its share of volunteers. It takes a very special person to successfully deal with the demands of such a service. Our Capri-Medics, as they are known to those requesting help, must deal with a wide range of emotions and often handle up to five or six cases per day (or night) individually. In addition, there is a core group of volunteers who are not only listed on the Goat 911 site to take phone calls, but also routinely handle cases online via email discussion with their fellow Capri-Medics.

Whenever I am asked about Goat 911, I have to give a "both sides of the coin" perspective just to let others understand that being a Capri-Medic is not always an easy task. For example, some people that are stressed with needing help for their sick goat may not always be at their best. They can be testy, tearful, angry, upset--you name it--a range of emotions that each Capri-Medic must deal with in addition to trying to help the sick goat. We've had a handful of ex-Capri-Medics resign simply because they could not handle the emotions presented them. So it takes a very special person: one with patience, understanding, and a good sense of how to calmly deal with those emotions they may encounter--in addition to knowing something about goats.

These same attributes have been important for me to maintain as founder and manager of the service. Not only am I an active Capri-Medic, I also answer several emails a day concerning "sick goat" situations, all the while trying to keep the Capri-Medics themselves on an even keel while they try to handle cases, manage their own goat herds, and deal with their various family and personal problems. As a webmaster, goatmaster, and group administrator, Goat 911 consumes a lot of my time and energy. I am very proud of the service, my own efforts, and most importantly, all the volunteers who continue to make this great service possible.

Understandably the idea of Goat 911 was a welcome prospect to many goat owners, although there was still some reluctance on the part of the volunteers as to the overall value and validity of the service. The first concern shared by many was the "giving of advice" by unlicensed individuals. As some pointed out, this could lead to legal ramifications in the long run. For that reason alone, a disclaimer was written stating that Capri-Medics offered their advice freely, without compensation and that the person requesting help also realized that it was merely "advice" and to be taken as such. We do have a few licensed vets on Goat 911, who have agreed to not ask for compensation in regards to service or advice rendered via the telephone or internet.

As the Goat 911 contact list began to grow, I decided to expand the coverage of the service by adding a Goat 911 Message Forum and Goat 911 email list. The Goat 911 email list is a closed membership list in which a 911 request form is sent to it via my email address. The list members have the option of discussing the case amongst themselves before responding back, or simply responding back to the person making the request. This part of the Goat 911 service has worked very well too, and gives a sense of camaraderie among a handful of Capri-Medics who are dedicated to learning, caring, and sharing.

To offer an even wider spectrum of coverage, the Goat 911 Message Forum exists to those who may not want to make a phone call to a Capri-Medic. It too has been very successful and each case is archived onto GoatWorld in the searchable database. This service helps provide a record of cases and similar symptoms that anyone can refer to. If it helps just one goat become healthy again, it has served its purpose well.

Because a method for determining the effectiveness of the service was needed, I created a feedback form where users of the service could evaluate the help and advice they received. While I cannot constantly monitor every case that is handled, I do hear back from fellow Capri-Medics checking in. I am happy to report that the number of goats' lives saved far outweighs the number of goats' lives lost.

Very important as well is the fact that Goat 911 is successful not because of one person; each Capri-Medic has contributed their knowledge and experience to make it work. Without them, Goat 911 would be nothing. I cannot take the full credit for what it has become but I understand that its ultimate longevity and success rest largely on my shoulders. It is a responsibility I take very seriously and intend to work hard to see it continue to grow. I am constantly looking for new volunteers who are willing to sacrifice some time away from their normal responsibilities to help those fellow goat owners who could benefit from a volunteer in their area.

I should point out that a couple of similar services sprang up not long after Goat 911 began--as told to me by others, these were short-lived simply because they tried to build them into a money making service. I have purposely kept Goat 911 a non-profit service, devoid of advertising, banners, or any other type of material or content that would distract from the original purpose of providing help as quickly as possible whenever it is needed.

Goat 911 began as a service to help other goat owners and it will hopefully continue to do so for many years to come.

GARY PFALZBOT

80 1/2 OURAY DR.

FLORISSANT, CO 80816

WWW.GOATWORLD.COM/911
COPYRIGHT 2003 Countryside Publications Ltd.
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Author:Pfalzbot, Gary
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 2003
Words:1356
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