April 12, 2014
Vanity’s not baaing with anxiety yet, but she’s looking around for Suzie. Our first lamb, Suzie, born on our farm 17 years ago, is gone, leaving us without sheep. We called the vet early this morning. Suzie had been struggling for hours to get up and had rubbed the wool off her leg joints, the barn floor scraped clear of hay, and she still couldn’t stand. When I helped her get her feet under her, she’d fall when I let go. I helped her get her back legs under her and propped her so she wouldn’t fall again. She wanted to stand, and stand she did, right until the very end. She had an abundant last meal of all her favorite greens: three quarts or more of rose leaves, honeysuckle, catnip, mint tea, violets and strawberry leaves, until she just couldn’t hold any more. The vet put Suzie down while she was standing, because that’s how Suzie wanted it. Now the pasture gate is wide open, and the pasture is empty. Suzie is safe now- no more fears of not being able to get up and run, a basic need for a sheep. We hated to see her struggle, so gave her peace. And now we’re off to the woodland cemetery to lay her to rest.
The barn looms empty down the hill, as it was before we got our first sheep, 18 good years ago. We miss Suzie and Vanity, and our lives with sheep. Since Suzie was 17, very old for a ewe, she showed that we took good care of her, as we did our other sheep.
I keep thinking I haven’t checked Suzie for a while and look out toward the barn, see the open gate, and remember. One evening, at dusk, I thought I saw the white spot on Suzie’s nose, saw her gazing at me from the barn door, where she liked to stand and look out across the pasture. It must have been the way the light reflected off a leaf, actually, but I’d like to think she had come back by to visit us. I teared up, wishing I could go down the hill and bring her a ginger snap, and scratch around her ears.
Our sheep guardian, Emily the Great Pyrenees, will begin obedience exercises. The deer will continue to eat the rye grass, clover and vetch I had planted, and our night visitors, possums and raccoons, will have to watch out before leaving the trees to eat our bird feed. Emily, the Pyr, just had a bath and pedicure and now smells like a house dog. She and Maeve, the Aussie, can sleep together under the stars tonight, for the first time. For six years, they’ve been friends through the fence, because an Australian Shepherd cannot mingle with sheep. She would have run them to death. As Emily the Pyr showed us, when deer were eating the rye grass I’d planted for the sheep, one ruminant is about the same as another. She didn’t chase sheep, and she was not about to chase deer, either.
Sheryl, a spinning guild member who has had sheep for about a year, has brought Vanity home to join her Shetlands. Vanity was a companion “loaner” sheep from Elaina, another guild member who has a large flock of Shetlands, who had decided not to breed Vanity again, since her mothering skills left a lot to be desired. Vanity kept Suzie company for the past one-and-a-half years, since one sheep, alone, is usually an anxious and lonely sheep. Vanity will be Sheryl’s first white sheep, happily running with the brown wethers in her new home. Dirk and I went through the barn and set aside a couple boxes of sheep supplies and tools that will come in handy for Sheryl. I dropped them off at their farm the next day, after a guild meeting nearby, an hour from our home. Vanity’s remarkably comfortable around huge llamas! She seems to love the company of her new flock, and I’m delighted she has such a loving new farm to call her own.