Often people will say to me "You have sheep? How cool!" or "It's so amazing that you have sheep!" Although raising sheep has been a bucket list item for me (CHECK!), I have to say that the moments when I, too, think "Sheep. How cool!" are few and far between. There are a few moments of humor and hilarity, but more often there's hard work and worry. The more you get used to raising them, the more it seems that you've taken in the neighbor's kids, who incidentally do not speak your language, are too wary to get near to you most of the time, and have zero interest in you personally.
Certainly, last night while most of you were asleep in your beds or at least in bed watching a late show, I was not thinking anything relatively close to how great it is to have sheep. Nope, not at all. As our normal bedtime drew closer, and Otis the cat was announcing from his perch on the back of the recliner that it was time his pre-bedtime snack, Stella was steadily becoming more ill--no one knows why she was fine in the morning and having a neurological, anemic breakdown by dinner time. I called the vet, I gave her an injection of penecillin in case this was the onset of Polio, she got an extra large dose of sheep drench in case this was a parasite, my husband raced like his hair was on fire to and from the closest feed store to get B-complex vitamins in case this was anemia and she got an injection of those,I kept putting water down her throat to keep her hydrated, and we tried to keep her wobbly self upright and calm through muscle spasms and panic attacks. And then suddenly, there we were, my husband and I, driving a panic-stricken, 98 lb ewe with an abbreviated sense of balance and temporary (we hope) blindness in the cargo area of my Ford Escape through chicken farm country to a large animal veterinary hospital. Did you catch that? No joke. A sheep in my car. (She was too imbalanced to have safely ridden in a livestock trailer.) During the entire 20-minute drive my thoughts vascillated between "Don't die before we get there Stella!" and "What is this going to look like if a cop were to pull us over?" Farmers, you know, do really crazy things that, to them, seem perfectly normal, like putting a sheep in a small SUV. To a cop, however, there might have been some errant thoughts of "What were these people smoking when they put a sheep in their car and drove off with it?"
At midnight, as we were dragging our tired, sheep excrement decorated carcasses into the house for much needed showers, having taken turns for two hours on the hard tile floor of the hospital with Stella in various states of anxiety and drug induced lethargy (her, not us) trying to get a catheter to stay in a vein, I wasn't thinking "Having sheep is great!". I was tired of smelling rotten animal carcass (the very patient and determined emergency vet had just come from delivering a still-born calf that had begun to decompose in the womb), sheep poop, and sweat.
As you can see, it looked much like war zone triage by the time that we were finished--trust me, by the time it was over, we all felt like we had been through an uphill battle!
Eventually the catheter stayed in the vein and we slid-carried her through a maze of hallways on a blanket to get her to the holding pen. At least we all managed to keep our sense of humor.
I wish that someone would have said to me before we ventured down this road of high adventure that sheep live to die because one of my least favorite things to hear from a vet is: "It looks like she's gone blind". We are hoping this is temporary because what does one do with a blind sheep?
Also, I was not thinking "Hey, this is great!" this morning, though in hindsight if there had been a camera I am pretty sure I would have taken home the America's Funniest Videos $10,000 grand prize, when Stanley, our 200+ lb. ram threw me to the ground (ouch!) during a dispute over whether or not he was going to be wormed. As I am laying there on my back on a pile of fresh poop with a ram hoof on my hip, pinning me to the ground and Stanley looking quite triumphant about it, Puck and Clyde come rushing over to ask "Lady, what are you doing on the ground?" I will admit, that was a little funny.
My sense of humor, however, quickly waned after being butted several times in the back by Stanley and his refusal, along with Puck's, to allow me to muck out their shed. They were very insistent about getting that shovel out of their shed because, well, shovels are evil. Stanley was willing to just eat it if that would help. At least the shovel was enough of a distraction that Stanley got that wormer in the end. He's such a drama queen.
But the good news is, everyone is doing well, sheep craziness aside, except for Bonnie who misses her mama and Stella who needs another night in the hospital, though she's much better today and we expect that she'll be back on pasture tomorrow morning.
What IS great about raising these sheep, however, is that when the dirty, gross, sticky blankets of fleece for which you wrestled with those sheep come back from the mill, there is YARN! Have you seen the yarn that Stella, Blanche, and Oliver contributed a year of their lives to making? It's luminescent and lovely. My husband doesn't agree that the best part is yarn--he's a Return-on-Investment kind of guy who reminded me this morning that the emergency vet bill for this one sheep would completely cancel out all sales of their yarn--, but to me the yarn makes all of the struggle worth it in the end.
P.S. Buy some yarn. I have a whopper of a vet bill to pay!