The Littlest Sheep with the Biggest BAAAH
Green Hill Farm
This is Ivy. She is a tiny sheep with a really loud BAAAH. I like to call her my littlest sheep with the biggest BAAAH. She’s almost 14-years-old and my only ewe now. The rest are wethers. This time last year, Ivy had been in the hospital pen for nearly a month. Something had happened with her back legs, and she couldn’t walk. The vet made recommendations, and I administered dewormer and anti-inflammatory shots as recommended. I’d go to the barn multiple times during the day to check on her. Her appetite was good, and she had a strong will and determination. But often, I’d find her fallen over and unable to get up without assistance. Over and over, I’d push or pick her up. Sometimes, I’d just hold her up and help her take a few steps. I’d feed her grain from my hands and give her water with a drench gun. And, everyday, she got a little stronger and less wobbly.
All through the spring and summer, Ivy would spend time outside in a fenced section of the pasture where the sheep are sheared. This area is protected and away from the other sheep. A sun umbrella was attached to the fencing for makeshift shade and protection from rain. With each passing day, she got stronger and better able to stand and walk around the pen. She loved being outside and eating grass.
During the summer, Ivy improved and eventually joined the other sheep. I still monitored her whereabouts as the younger sheep would sometimes butt and knock her down. Once knocked down on their side, sheep may not be able to get up and can die from acidosis. This bullying behavior ceased after a while, and Ivy enjoyed a summer of freedom from the hospital pen and lots of sunshine and grass.
Ivy loved being outside with the other sheep. Sheep are flock animals that become anxious when isolated. So, I tried to allow a natural existence for her as long as I could. However, through the fall and winter, Ivy would fall down or get knocked down more frequently. I’d get home from work and find her lying in the pasture. Panicked and not knowing how long she’d been there, I’d sprint to the field to push her up again. Sometimes I could do it alone. Other times, I had to call for help.
The worst time was Christmas Eve morning. Luckily, my dog, Dash barked at 6 am. I awoke and had a worried feeling. I got up and went to the guest bedroom window and looked out. Since summer, I’d incessantly go to this window at all times during the day and night to check on my elderly sheep—sometimes going out at 1 am to locate one of them. That morning when I looked out, I saw a mound on the ground in front of the gate into the pasture. It was dark, freezing cold, and raining.
Full of dread, I pulled on some jeans and raced out of the house. I ran to Ivy without changing into my field boots, praying she was still alive. She was. She’d been lying there awhile as her legs and face were very cold. It’s much easier to push her up if she hasn’t been down long. But, this wasn’t the case. She was weak. I thought to myself, “How on earth am I going to get her into the hospital pen in the barn?” I couldn’t think that far ahead…I just knew I had to get her up again.
So, I pushed and pushed and pushed. But, I couldn’t budge her. I was wet and muddy, but not defeated. With tears and resolve, I prayed to God for help. Then I told Ivy, “You’re not dying today.” I pushed her body and tugged at her wool until I managed to get her upright. Once standing, the dirty and drenched pair of us just hovered for a moment. The moment turned into minutes, until I finally nudged her to take a step as I held her weight up and coaxed her to wobble forward into the barn. After a bit of maneuvering, and the promise of grain, little Ivy was in the hospital pen. Drained physically and emotionally, I went back to the house for towels and to prepare a syringe of anti-inflammatory medicine.
Ivy has spent most of the winter in and out of the hospital pen, enjoying sunny days outside, but always in the safety of the barn at night. On Easter Day, my heart sang to see her walking all around the pastures with the other sheep, enjoying the sunshine and fresh, grass. She even attempts to butt the other sheep from the trough when she’s eating grain. This spunky, little sheep’s resilience and determination inspires me. Ivy isn’t just the littlest sheep with the biggest BAAAAH. She’s also the littlest sheep with biggest HEART.
Categories: Reflections on Farm Life