Sorry. I’ve been away for awhile. Not “away” away. Just away from sharing my life and my feelings. I didn’t want you to think that the only thing happening around here is death, with the passing of Miss Noisy and all. But sometimes, that’s what life is.
Amongst the days turned to weeks of rain we’ve had, keeping us from getting the first-cut hay in, between the quest to get all the sheep sheared – some of them twice, another drama has been unfolding. My eldest ram and one of my best friends Ricardo developed an infection on the outside of his lower chest. A place where he would lie on while sleeping or chewing his cud. A place I couldn’t see. It festered there and really got infected, so much so that by the time I noticed it, it looked like a big bunch in his armpit. He never complained. He acted like nothing was wrong, except maybe I didn’t give him enough grain, or I didn’t scratch him enough. So he didn’t tell me, and I didn’t see, and it got bad. Really bad. It didn’t smell the way some infections do, so I didn’t even have that clue to go by. My first clue was blood dripping on his leg one night. A lot of blood. I patched him up with a compression bandage and put him in a pen next to the ewes to cheer him up. We sat there for a long time that night, his head on my shoulder, me crying in his fleece. He seemed fine. Except for the infection. I talked myself into believing he was going to be okay. I started giving him shots of antibiotic.
I called the vet the next morning. Good vets are hard to come by. Mine is really good, and very busy. It was a week before he was able to come – I think mostly because I told him it wasn’t life or death. I had several sheep issues at that point, and I wanted him to see them all. Vet calls aren’t cheap, so it seemed like with the advent of Ricardo’s bleeding infection, it was time. I thought he’d come in a couple of days, but it was more than that. I’m not sure anything would have changed had he come sooner. Ricardo was still acting okay. I fed him grain every day and he’d jump out of the ram pen and come into the warm room with me so I could brush him and give him his grain. Then he’d wander around while I did my chores until it was time to go back into the ram pen.
I got the call on Wednesday afternoon from the vet’s assistant – John would be coming in the next morning. I got up early thankful that he was coming and things would begin to get better. I gathered up all the rams who were having issues: Ricardo, Benjamin, Medici, Apollo. There are 3 ewes too, but he didn’t have to actually examine them. Benjamin had an infection on the top of one hoof that I had been treating with antibiotic salve. It was actually getting better. Medici had an infection on his upper chest caused by some felted wool that crimped his skin and caused an abrasion. I had given him a course of antibiotics, but it didn’t seem to help. Maybe it was a gigantic cruel? And poor Apollo had gotten injured when he was younger and his back legs were really feeling the arthritis. I had sheared him for the 2nd time the day before and he dutifully stood, but it was hard and painful for him. When I was done brushing him out, with his tail wagging, I reached under him to feel his belly and my finger slipped into a hole in his chest. God.
John looked at Benjamin’s hoof. He was on the mend but got prescribed a course of a strong antibiotic. Medici needed a different kind of antibiotic. Then it was Ricardo’s turn. John tipped him over and took one look and his face fell. Then we rolled Apollo on his side. Same problem. John had seen this many times. The prognosis for my two boys was bad. Infections that would not heal due to where they were located and how sheep lie down, and how they get up, and the fact they are on the elderly side, and would be lying down a lot. Apollo was actually worse than Ricardo, John explaining that his legs were positioned in his hip bone as if you put your heels together and forced your toes outward. Very very painful for a sheep.
I let all the words flow over me. I understood. I needed to make a decision and I knew immediately what that decision was. I had to kill two of my sheep. One of them, my mentor. That’s what you sign on for when you raise animals, have pets, take care of another living being. You have the power to say “You are going to die today”. And it happens. Just like that. The alternative would not be nice for the animal. You know it is the responsible thing to do, so they won’t suffer. I get it. But it doesn’t change the fact that Ricardo and Apollo have gone to that Big Pasture In The Sky. And it was me who gave them first class plane tickets to their final destination. John was sad too. “Not the outcome I was expecting.” he said to me as he was leaving.
This is the part of farm life that is not enviable at all. Believe me.
I’ll share some photos of Ricardo and Apollo on another day. It’s been 10 days since and it’s still hard to look at photos of them.