May 29, 2012
Clip, plop; clip plop–the sounds of rose leaves and spent blooms, heavy with dew, falling in an empty bucket. When the bucket is half-full, it’s “clip, rustle, clip rustle,” as the leaves fall on top of many others. I hear wren and wood thrush, cardinals and red-breasted woodpeckers calling to one another as I clip and catch leaves and rose hips. The sheep love this treat. They used to eat the rambling rose bush down so severely I was lucky to get any blooms at all. Now they’ve aged, and I bring the treat to them. My heart is heavy, although the sunlight and bird calls are cheerful.
Today that treat of roses was important, because one of our sheep, Deborah, had come to a place in her 13 years when she was in constant discomfort, struggling to stand but could not, with arthritis, unable to find a comfortable spot where she was, and she couldn’t move to a different spot without help. When the vet is coming to put down one of our animals, I go all out to provide a feast for them all. Deborah loves rose trimmings as much as I love chocolate, and she ate her way through the better part of 3 buckets of them today. The other sheep had some, but most went to Deborah. Also sweet gum and honeysuckle were on the menu, as well as tulip tree leaves, clover and catnip. They all ate until they could eat no more. I made sure the last few rose leaves were Deborah’s, as I looked around the feed crate where most of the treats had gone. I offered her other treats, and she was full and only wanted to rest, but I offered her one or two more rose leaves, and she immediately took them. In the picture, you see some greens draped over Deborah’s back from another feast of trimmings of good treats from our yard and pasture.
Deborah is now at rest. Deborah will have no more suffering from arthritis, or the helplessness of not being able to “be a sheep”–that is, to run when you’re frightened of something, to be able to walk over to the water bucket and get a drink, or even to stand and move to a different area of the barn and lie down. We’ll remember her days of growing up from a brand-new dark brown lamb. I pulled and resuscitated her since her twin was twice her size, and she couldn’t come out until he had made way for her. Their mother was in distress trying to push out a 14-pound lamb–the vet said probably there had been triplets, and one had died and been absorbed in such a way that this lamb had nutrition from TWO umbilical cords. When I eased him out and got him breathing, I put him immediately to suck his mother’s colostrum while she licked him and pushed the second lamb down so that I could reach her feet, and pull Deborah out and swing her to get her breathing. Now, 13 years later, she’s gone. We’ll always remember Deborah, our lovely Romney/Finn ewe, who would look around at us with her head tilted as if to say, “Yes, did you bring me something?”