That last photo prompt; tension, got me thinking of a story I have been meaning to put down for more than a year. I have written quite a bit about Lulu’s early life and drama but I have not said much about our other sheep, Daisy.
When Rusty died we searched high and low for a new companion for Lulu. Most farmers had pre-sold their spring lambs and it took us more than a week of searching to locate a lamb of similar age. Daisy is a Katahdin, a type of hair sheep developed in northern Maine.
She was born on a large farm with many different types of sheep and a few different flocks. Daisy’s early life was not a happy one. Her and her brother were rejected by their mother and he died within the first couple days. She joined a couple other orphans and they were dubbed the “Tres Amigos.” They were being bottle feed and slotted for fall slaughter.
The owners were good, salt of the earth people used to managing a large operation. When we pulled up, several herding dogs greeted us. They nipped at Lulu; not understanding why this sheep was being allowed to stray from the flock.
We entered the huge barn and the farmer pointed over to three small lambs huddled in a corner. He expertly picked her up and we let the girls touch noses, I looked her over and we decided that she would do just fine.
His wife came over and they administered the shots she would need, so we could take her home. The lamb knew what was going on and struggled feebly in the strong man’s arms. Their doctoring was quick and expert and we loaded her up and brought her home.
My husband quickly named her Daisy. Lulu and her were different in many ways. Aside from the obvious difference between wool sheep and hair sheep. Lulu had adapted quickly into a house sheep. SPOILED ROTTEN! Always trying to get on the couch with the dogs and eternally irked when she was removed.
Daisy made no such efforts, she was from a place where dogs were not playmates and she was one of a multitude. Most of her direct contact with humans had been of the sort we witnessed when she got her shot.
Quick, often painful and then- over.
Another difference between the two, was the tag that Daisy had in her left ear. This is a requirement of the FDA for any animal going to become food.
It’s like one of those anti-theft sticks in all the cloths at the mall.
I grew concerned that Lulu, in her curiosity would pull on it and rip it out. Daisy was still a little skittish with us. Lulu was cuddled constantly and loved to be picked up and nuzzled, usually making small chuffing noises before relaxing contentedly and often dozing.
Daisy didn’t take to this handling as well, her experience was that when a human picked you up they usually stick you with something. The tag was a good case and point. When I would inspect it she would tense and thrash to be let down. If she was already on the ground she would shake her head and put space between us.
I couldn’t say that I blamed her but I desperately wanted to get that thing out of her.
Finally one evening- I got the scissors. I plucked her from their make-shift pen and set her on my lap.
The look in her eye was heartbreaking. I have found that most animals know the score and human+new object usually means hurt. The ones that have often received pain are that much more sensitive to the possibility.
I restrained her so that I could get a good angle on the hard plastic tab. Getting the powerful back of the scissors right against the pin. This action put pressure on the tag and she tensed, realizing that she had no where to wiggle and dreading that something horrible was sure to come next.
I began to bring the handles together in earnest and her body thrummed with fear, her bladder let go- soaking the towel I had on my lap.
The tag fell to the floor.
It was over.
Her relaxation in that moment was absolute. At first I was horrified that she had passed out, overwhelmed by the stress of the procedure. I looked into her eye and she looked back, fully aware.
“Oh, thank god!”
I rubbed the hole the tag had left and even this elicited no negative response. I held her and rocked her. Feeling her full trust for the first time, understanding finally that I was not going to make more pain. I was actually trying to make less.
It was one of those moments, the ones you can feel long after they are gone. I rocked her and chuffed softly to her before getting up to clean our mess.
Lulu blatted the whole time, like she always did when the attention was not on her. I picked her up and we cuddled too. With both of them back in their pen Lulu sniffed Daisy’s new ear feature and they both quieted quickly and laid down for the night.
After that Dasiy was a different sheep, it wasn’t dramatic and she is still no where near as ‘wanty’ as Lulu, but she trusts that our interactions will be kind.
She is kind in return, always following me with her head right next to my hand. She still doesn’t like to be messed with but endures my pokes and prods with patience and understanding and she LOVES to have her ears scratched.
I have found that really tense encounters are often life changing, or at the very least relationship changing.
Without that moment of fear, we wouldn’t share moments like this one and that would be a shame.
I am happy we found Daisy and even though I don’t say it often I am very grateful to have such an understanding animal to share our life with.
Daisy, this one is for you.