D was out-of-town on business last week and I swear, every time he leaves something happens to test me and usually it has to do with one of our animals. Last January when D went out-of-town our dog Maddy almost died. She wouldn’t eat, things were coming out from all ends (sorry), and she broke out in the worst hives I’ve ever seen. I spent the week going back and forth from the vet, emotionally wrecked and very scared. Another time D was gone all day at a conference right in the middle of lambing and one of the moms was rejecting her baby and was head butting it, pushing it against the wall, overall just being a horrible mother. I wanted to jump in there, swoop the baby in my arms and bring it into our home and raise it but I know that you have to let nature take its coarse and with a little manipulation she finally accepted him as her own.
So you can imagine I get a little fearful when D leaves because it’s a red flag that something is bound to happen with the animals.
I’ve said this so many times before but I have a deep desire to save every single animal I come across. For example, last Sunday as I was driving back home from visiting my family in Seattle I was about three miles out from being home and I noticed something flapping uncontrollably on the ground from the distance. As I drove by slowly I saw that it was an injured hawk lying upside down. A man and his wife had pulled over but I felt like I needed to do something as well. I had just read a story that hit pretty close to home. A woman rescued a baby rabbit from a neglectful owner who kept it outside in very cold conditions. She asked the owner if she could take the rabbit as it was near dead and she hoped she could possibly save it. She wrapped it in a blanket, holding it close to her chest, delicately petting the top of his head as they rushed to the vet. The bunny didn’t make it, dying in her arms before they arrived but it was what she said that made my heart melt and tiny bit more. It brought her comfort knowing that the rabbit died safe and warm in her arms instead of cold, scared and alone in his cage in the backyard. That’s how every animal should die.
I flipped my car around and drove back. I rolled down my window and asked the gentleman if he needed any help fully prepared to wrap that cold, scared bird in my own arms but as he loaded it in the back of his truck he said that it had died and I continued on home with a heavy heart.
I really hate when animals are sick or injured. They can’t communicate with you and it’s almost impossible to understand what is going on with them. We have a lot of animals on the farm and I know that eventually even they will get old and pass away and I suppose that is the only downside to having them. That inevitably, one day you wont.
Our sheep are especially dear to me because I was there throughout the whole process of lambing waiting in the winds to jump in and assist if need be. I cut umbilical cords, helped castrate, spent an abundant amount of time just sitting in their birthing jugs getting to know their little personalities and trying to get them to trust me. So as you can imagine these guys are extremely special to me.
I always thought sheep were so boring until I had some of my own. In reality their behavioral patterns are actually quite interesting and although they are somewhat skittish and often terrified of even their own shadow, they each have big personalities and bring us a lot of joy.
I have this funny habit of going out to the pasture at least once, if not twice a day to count them and make sure they are all there. Since sheep are prey animals and the lambs are still babies, I guess you could say I’m like a momma bear watching out for her young. If one of my sheep goes missing I am running all around that pasture looking for it which believe it or not, happens all too often. Our sheep are unlike normal flocks who stay together. Our sheep like to branch off and are a little too independent for their own good. They somewhat remind me of myself in that way.
So the other day as I was out counting my sheep I couldn’t find three of them. After discovering that they were way out in the wooded area of the back pasture I made my way back to the barn. As I was entering the entrance from the pasture I noticed that one of the lambs was limping pretty bad. It was Sweet Pea, the runt of the flock and also one of the most fearful. My first reaction was panic. I’ve never been good in stressful situations. I’d make a horrible doctor. So here I am alone with a scared wounded lamb. Great, what the heck do I do with this? My mind started working over drive and visions of having to put her down flashed before my eyes. I could see it all to well. Poor little me having to make such a big life changing decision, dragging my feet as I walk back to the house to grab the rifle slowly, unsteadily walking back out to the barn dragging the gun behind me as tears stream down my face preparing for the worst thing you could ever ask me to do. Dramatic, yes but all I could think about was when a horse broke its leg it was done for. See why I’d make a terrible doctor?
I shook the thought off and got back to business. I knew I needed to separate her into a confined area so I could look at her but I had no idea how I would go about doing that. Since I had just fed them most of the sheep were in the barn eating which made it a little easier. But when I tried to get close to her she would get scared and run which only made matters worse. For her and for me. Whatever was wrong with her leg, running was probably not good for it.
After luring Sweet Pea and about five other into the two back stalls in the barn I still needed to get her alone in a small space so I could examine her leg. Easier said then done. Each time I approached her she would quickly hobble around me and get all the other sheep frantic in the process. After ten minutes of trying I was so frustrated I called D practically in tears. I knew this little girl was hurt and she needed to stay off her leg but I was all alone and didn’t know what to do. D told me to just calm down and keep trying. He said it was probably just a sprain but that I had to get her alone to check for cuts or a snake bit. Excuse me? A snake bit? I was under the impression we only had harmless little gardener snakes or gopher snakes here. So now I’m dealing with snakes AND an injured animal. My two own personal ideas of hell.
I got off the phone with D with thoughts of big poisonous snakes flooding my mind and was finally able to sneak up on her and put my arms around her torso lifting her into one of the birthing jugs that would contain her. I climbed in and tried to hold her still long enough to get a good look at her leg. I petted her and cooed in her ear promising her that I was only trying to help her, not eat her. Fortunately, no snake bits or even a cut for that matter. Phew. I’m not sure what I would have done if there was a big gaping chunk out of her leg but knowing me, I’d probably curl up in fetal position and start crying or hyperventilating, most likely both.
I came to the conclusion that little miss just had a bad sprain which made the most sense. With no cuts or nails embedded in her hoof, it was the only logical explanation. Plus, if you’ve never seen a sheeps leg up close and personal they are skinny little things that look as if they would brake easily with one wrong turn. I was re leaved that no amputation would be necessary nor would be putting her down. A little R & R is what this ‘doctor’ prescribed. A couple of days of forced relaxation and she’ll hopefully be back to normal.
I got her some food and watered and willed her to get cozy in her temporary home. She’s not happy though. In fact, I think she hates me now. She cries non stop and gives me the stink eye every time I go out there to check on her which of course breaks my heart a little more each time. On several occasions I almost let her out in hopes that it would convince her I was one of the good ones. How do you communicate to an animal that it is for their own good? All they really know is that you are holding them captive against their own will. But, sometimes you just can’t always be the nice guy. I know parents deal with this all the time. Sometimes you have to make the hard decisions, the ones that are best for your little ones.
And that is what I did.
She’s better now and running freely with her flock but I swear, every time I go out there now she still gives me dreaded stink eye breaking my heat a little more each time.