One Week and a Day
On Saturday afternnon, Thelma (a quiet and gentle four-year-old ewe) gave birth to two girls, one black and one white - large and healthy. I was happy for a succesful birth after weeks of frigid weather and two feet of snow.
When a ewe calls to her babies it is a low and gutteral sound, the babies respond and quickly learn: come, follow, time to eat. The bond between the three of them was strong, and sweet to watch.
On Tuesdsay morning, I noticed Thelma was not calling to her lambs. By the afternoon her head was down, her eyes dull and I knew we were in trouble. The lambs were nibbling on her ears, but getting little response. Getting a 150-pound sheep to stand if she isn't interested is almost as hard as getting a vet out for a visit. By Wednesday Thelma and I suceeded in both, and my fears were confirmed. Thelma was diagnosed with gangrene mastitis. "Won't be able to use the teat again - if she lives - no guarantees," and other such confrontational realities were uttered. "Probably came from a bruise, maybe even from last year's lambs", and I thought of her black ram, Kong, who at four months knocked me about three feet after hitting me from a stand still position ... yes, probably a bruise from last year.
I was supposed to give her quite a few shots daily, keep the lambs alive by feeding goat milk we had frozen for such emergencies, and not give up. I decided I could do that.
On Thursday, my favorite Dr. DoLittle-type vet was back in the office, no longer doing "barn" calls in her lengthy career, she carries an optimism and a caring for each life she touches - with Thelma it was no exception. She gave me a boost of encouragement to keep going - and she gave Thelma more shots ... By Thursday night I was holding Thelma's head in my arms, crying and asking her on behalf of her lambs not to go.
By Friday morning as I struggled to get her to her feet she was still not eating, only taking a bit of water, yet she watched me this time as I fed her lambs from a bottle. She seemed to take a renewed interest, and I felt her thinking, "You are a decent human Dena, but you make a lousy sheep." By Friday night Thelma was turning it around. Her eyes brightened and she attempted food. By Saturday, she still needed help rising, but stood longer and ate more. This lovely Sunday morning, Thelma had risen on her own and was eating quite normally. As I left she was standing over her two lambs as they slept, looking down and smelling them ... the twins are called Strong, Heart, and they take after their mother.
An Echo Valley moment of effort and hope...
see you soon.