Sunday, March 21, 2010


The time I most appreciate Dave’s expertise as an emergency physician is, well, in emergencies. Like the day after the quadruplets were born. Our lambing jugs are only 4 foot by 4 foot squares. For moms with more than three lambs, we add a small antechamber, a triangular space four feet on a side. but even then, it’s not a lot room for five animals, one of them a 200 pound sheep.

Sometimes a mom will step on a lamb, or lay on a lamb – often out of tiredness, but mostly out of bad luck. Sometime during the four hours between barn checks, Super Mom had stepped on her smallest lamb. At first we didn’t notice. The lamb was up, baaing, struggling to get her chance at one of Super Mom’s two nipples. Nursing involves a lot of struggle for quads – somebody is always waiting to nurse while you’re on the nipple, or hogging the nipple while you wait.

The smallest lamb was salt and pepper gray. She stood out in our minds because of her coloring and her tiny size. We always checked her to make sure her belly was full. And every single time from the first moment we saw her, her belly was full. She more than stood her own against three siblings.

At one barn check, we suddenly realized that that smallest lamb wasn’t using her right hind leg. I picked up the lamb and held her while Dave palpated her leg. A break in one of her tarsals, her foot bones. Dave measured her lower leg and then retreated to the garage to create a splint out of pvc pipe and an old terry cloth towel. Then I held the splint on the lamb as Dave wrapped it with bright green vet wrap. Vet wrap should be one of the seven wonders of the world. It stretches, is thin enough to conform to any shape, sticks to itself and best of all, comes in a rainbow of colors. Dave wrapped the lamb’s leg and set her on the ground. The first few steps, she dragged her right hind leg, but within a matter of minutes, she was putting weight on it.

We kept and her quadruplets in the group pen almost a week, just to make sure that that smallest lamb– Pepper (okay, I named her Pepper – she’s so cute and so tiny, and so used to us because of us picking her up all the time to check her tummy) - was able to get along with a splinted leg. No problem. So this morning, we opened the gate to the group pen and Pepper followed out into the wide world of the barn yard.

Usually, the sheep aren’t interested in each other’s lambs, but Pepper was of interest to Kaly, our alpaca. Kaly followed Pepper around the barnyard as Pepper followed her mother. Every once in awhile, Super Mom would catch of glimpse of Kaly behind her and begin to run. Pepper ran to catch up and then Kaly ran and Super Mom ran faster. Pepper had no problem at all keeping up with her mother. Kaly finally decided that the little black and white lamb with a green splint was neither alpaca, nor threat to the flock.
And Dave and I were reassured that in spite of her broken leg, this lamb was no longer a medical emergency. Pepper was surviving just fine on her own.

1 comment:

  1. You named a lamb? I hope she has a nice fleece, she sure is cute! It's a much nicer splint that those ridiculous huge metal things we used to use.