Thursday, April 7, 2011

Nine lives

The lamb with the broken leg died yesterday morning. His injuries were more severe than I imagined.

This morning when I went out to the barn I saw through the window, a black ewe lying on her back. I dashed around the barn, heart pounding. It was Christmas! She had been there awhile; a small pile of sheep pellets lay behind her. I turned her over and she staggered to her feet. Her lambs immediately started trying to nurse.

I knew that the lamb with the broken leg was facing an uphill struggle, that there was a good chance he would die. I know that Christmas is old and weaker than the younger ewes. I know that one of these days I will go out to the pasture to feed the sheep or to move them to a new pasture and Christmas will not follow.

In my head I know these hard facts of raising animals. But in my heart, in my bones, I wish the animals I care for to be ageless. When the lamb died, I felt grief and relief. One of his best case outcomes would have been to only lose his leg. As sick as he was, I would have been gavaging him with lamb milk replacer 4 or 5 times a day to keep him nourished and he still might have died of a bone infection or gangrene. When she was pregnant, Christmas ruptured the ligaments that hold her uterus up. I will not be able to breed her again. If I was a shepherdess with her eye on the bottom line, I would not feed Christmas through another winter. But my heart speaks much louder than my bottom line. As long as she survives she is a part of my flock and I will feed her, care for her.

I just wish it didn’t hurt so much to lose animals I care for.

After I was sure that Christmas was doing all right, I climbed up into the barn. BC (that is, Barn Cat), greeted me, purring and winding back and forth between my legs. She loves us almost as much as the bottle lambs do. More actually. BC purrs and asks to be petted even when her food dish is full. I sat down beside her and began running my hand across her back, across her head. Just sitting and petting, letting my mind run free. In that five minutes of sitting and petting, my mind slid away from grief, slid out from under my lists of things to do. I just sat and petted, enjoying the feel of sleek fur under my fingers, enjoying the quiet in the hay mow, the sounds of sheep and lambs eating just outside. I just sat and loved BC. She is a gift from the world. She came to us in the middle of the winter and Dave tamed her. She is a friends, uncomplicated. I can love her without restraint. It’s nice to bond with an animal that has 9 lives.

No comments:

Post a Comment