Some days are not as fun as others and some downright F*cking suck. This Tuesday was one of the latter.
We were so excited about our new family members but the excitement was short lived. Tuesday morning, I went out to tend the lambs and my heart dropped into my feet when Rusty would not get up. The night before I had been out there to give them a bottle and both has seemed on the up and up, the next morning was a different story.
I called the large animal vet right away and she was there less than an hour later. The vet was amazing, she gave him vitamin B thinking maybe the stress of the move had lead his body to stop absorbing vitamins (something that is common in stressed lambs.) Then she administered an antitoxin and activated charcoal in case it was something he has gotten into while here but none of it did any good. Less than two hours after my heartbreaking discovery he was gone. His symptoms were neurological by the time we caught them and he passed in loving arms.
Some things aren’t meant to be. We had been visiting him at the feed store every weekend for the past two months. It was because of him we embarked on this lamb adventure in the first place. There was no time to be heart broken or sullen since we still had an even younger lamb Lulu (only 6 weeks) who would now need a lot of attention.
Sheep do not do well solo, the stress from lack of companionship alone can cause them to go off their food and starve in a matter of days. This had not been Rusty’s problem as he had normal bowel moments right until his last breath. The vet administered an additional vaccine to Lulu but said that she looked to be in fine health.
In hindsight the signs were there, we just didn’t notice them. Lamb behavior is subtle; often by the time it is overt and obvious it is too late. We had been so focused on deciding which ewe to choose when we went to pick them up last Saturday we didn’t notice that Rusty was not as spry as usual. After bringing them home all he wanted to do was stand by the hay bale and chew, we just thought “he is going to be a really mellow ram, good.” Where as Lulu would run up the stairs and jump off of them three at a time, Rusty needed encouragement or help. His ears were not very responsive to noise and most of the time, drooped.
He had no interest in the bottles that Lulu chugged with great glee and tail shaking. We thought this was fine, since he was older and mostly weaned. He had no interest in running and jumping. Again, we just thought she was more rambunctious; now we know. He didn’t show much interest in grooming himself, Lulu is always preening and stretching. All these subtle things added up to a very sick lamb.
There were many things the vet told us that we had not aware of.
Like; that chicken feed is DEADLY to sheep. We had been more worried about salmonella from the old coop they were in but she said that is not a big issue and he would have presented with gastrointestinal issues. She inspected both of the pens we had them in and said that there appeared to be no problem there.
The biggest problem was now Lulu would not let me out of her sight without a blatting frantic fit; worried the stress of being left alone would cause her to have health issues we were stuck with a lamb glued to our side. The first day I could not move more than five feet without her getting up and anxiously following me. I spent the day working from the couch just trying to keep her calm.
She has not lost her appetite and over the past few days we have had to bring her with us to the restaurant (thank god we are not open yet!) Our meetings and coworkers have been more than understanding but this situation is far from ideal for all involved. I feel like I have been playing “restaurant impossible” the homesteading addition.
I decided to make her a portable pasture out of a bread proofing tray. I put puppy pads on the bottom and hay on top. It turns out sheep are more trainable than most dogs I have ever had. Within hours she was peeing on one side, covering it over with hay like a cat in a litter box and sleeping on the other side.
This home base allowed us to take her to work with a minim amount of clean-up for us and stress for her. Everyday she lets us get a little farther away and now only gets up when we disappear from view. Sometimes she even stays put when we are out of the room briefly. Like that nursery rhyme; she actually does follow me where ever I go.
In the office.
She hangs out in the pizza room while I putter around my new the kitchen cleaning and seeing what needs to be fixed or replaced (again, thank god we are not open!)
The last two nights I was actually able to sleep in my bed and not on the couch with the help of this portable pasture. She, on the other hand cannot understand why she is not just allowed on the couch with the rest of the flock and is constantly trying to get-up and stay-up there with the dogs.
She is quickly removed since she keeps trying to mark her spot up there like is will be some sort of legally binding contract.
The farm we got both of them from immediately redid the flock’s vaccinations, this time with the vet’s own cocktail and we are hoping to get her a new friend soon. She needs to be out of the house and off my butt.
In the mean time she seems well adjusted. Her and the dogs get along just fine although Isis and her started to head butt each other and I have to make sure this is not a habit that continues.
I am not going to lie, it has been a stressful week, I am the one who has gone off her food, but (fingers crossed) we will get her a buddy soon and she can go back to a normal sheep’s development. I am now so paranoid about every little thing she does I’m probably a wee bit over protective of her but well… I’m not sorry.
All we can do is our best to make sure she is happy and healthy. Good wishes are welcome as we need all we can get right now.
I want to thank all our family and friends for their kind words and support this has been a rough week!