Goodbye, Old Girl

Daughter’s last old grand champion ewe is dying. She was a magnificent animal in her day. She raised many lambs, mostly twins, nearly all kept by me because they were all outstanding examples of sheephood. Most were killed in the dog attack on my pregnant ewes a few years ago because they were heavily pregnant with twins and could not run fast enough or far enough to evade the neighborhood dogs that had dug under the fence. Old girl somehow survived.

Two years ago, however, I found her in the morning suffering from multiple leg and joint wounds where she had been bitten by something in the night. She never completely recovered and could only walk in an ambling shuffle. She came down with blue tongue virus last year and nearly died, wasting away to skin and bone before she rallied. Her poor little weak lamb did not survive.

She was able to gain enough weight back that I thought she might survive for a few more years as a pasture ornament, her only job being as head grasscropper out in the pasture. No more lambs for her!

Unfortunately, she suffered some sort of illness or injury the weekend I was so ill and sleeping drugged with cold medicine and narcotic cough medicine through the night when we had so much rain. I don’t know what happened but she was unable to rise, lying out in the wet pasture when I went out in the morning. When I found her, I half carried, half dragged her into the nearest shelter, the horse stall, in the cold rain, provided her with water and hay, and tended to the rest of the animals. Over the course of the next week, I checked her in the early morning before leaving for work and when I came home from work, giving her food and water. She would nibble the food occasionally, but she would drink. Then came the grandsons staying, lambing onset, granddaughter’s birth, chickens getting sick in the cold and rain, and my old bud Odie’s increasing problems with his arthritis in the cold and damp weather. I was not paying enough attention to the old girl until she was too weak to hold her head up by herself to drink.

While gently holding her head so that she could drink this evening, I was shocked at how her bones are jutting through her wool. She has no reserves left. She now refuses all food, hay or grain, even the tender spring greens that I’ve been searching out for her, and most offers of a drink. I can still tempt her to drink by offering her beer in her water but, even with that as an incentive, her fluid intake has dropped dramatically. She shows no signs of healing from whatever illness or injury she received that made her unable to walk. Broken hip? A fall and a spinal injury? I don’t know. She can move all her legs, she just can’t stand. She’s been treated with antibiotics in case she has any sort of bacterial infection, baking soda water in case she’s suffering from acidosis, and glucose in case she was suffering from ketosis (yeah, she went through a fence and sought out a ram and had been pregnant). It could still be ketosis and, if it is, she’s too far gone to survive. Too far gone to survive anyway, actually. Healthy young fat ewes that come down with ketosis often succumb before delivering the lambs that are causing their illness.

I was willing her to pull through at the last moment like she’s done so many times before but, if she lasts the night, I’m going to have to do the right thing and put her down. Would she have pulled through if I didn’t have other things going on at the same time and had more time to devote to her? *sigh* Hard to say. Probably not. I was still ill. I still had to go to work. Elderly humans that are immobilized from an illness or injury, even with around the clock care, often do not survive.

I was probably too short with the boys while they were here. While they were sleeping, I was out checking newborn lambs to make sure that they hadn’t gotten through the fence and separated from their mothers, and checking that ewes weren’t having trouble lambing. Checking to see if I could tempt the old girl to drink. Lack of sleep can make even the most indulgent of Meemaws into grouchy old bears. Luckily SwampMan took them out into the barn and encouraged them to play with power tools and shoot BB guns. Meemaw grouched that they better be VERY careful where those BBs were going because MeeMaw unaccountably did not want a BB in the butt. Or anyplace else. We ate a lot of junk food.

The little boys are home with their Daddy and Mommy tonight, and the house feels so empty without little boys wrestling and laughing and drawing blood and crying, as little boys are wont to do. Mommy got out of the hospital today. Jacob has to be in school tomorrow. I wanted to keep Dylan through the night but Mommy and Daddy missed him soooooo much and were afraid that he would think that it was because he had done something wrong that Mommy and Daddy let Jacob stay and not him. He promised Papa before we left to take Jacob home and let Dylan visit that he would come back home with us so that Papa would have somebody to play with tomorrow. Oh, well. Papa will just have to play in class tomorrow.

I’ve done my midnight lambing check and sternly told everybody that they’re not allowed to go into labor or lose track of any lambs before dawn. I gave old girl a few swallows of water, picked some rosemary sprigs from the only remaining rosemary bush that the sheep had not been able to destroy (yet), left it on her hay along with a few young leaves from some leafing out trees along with some of her favorite feed, and shifted her into a more comfortable position.

That will have to do. I need to get up early, do my rounds, and head into Jacksonville because Daddy will be gone tomorrow, and I need to be there in case Mommy needs any help looking after Dylan and Zoe.

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    no2liberals said,

    Don’t let the Ol’girl suffer, she doesn’t deserve that.

  2. 2

    kcduffy said,

    I’m with no2liberals.


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