It was a beautiful morning this morning. Several inches of fresh snow blanketed the ranch and the valley floor. The mountain was invisible as the big white cloud completely obscured the view and snow was falling silently. The pups loved it. I felt pretty good, as we had gotten a shelter up for the sheep, the Jersey’s and the leppie calves. The goats were in the barn because they are very pregnant and they are sissys.
I made bottles and headed out to feed the calves, and throw hay to the sheep, while Randyman fed the cows for me. I never noticed who came to eat. The dogs came with me to feed the goats at the barn, and the horses down in the milk pasture.
Upon arriving back, I checked to make sure the animal shelters were dry inside and that was when I saw Ewe-ness.
She was clearly dead and lying on her side inside the shelter. Free Wooly was lying next to her, and Pet-ewe-nea was outside the shelter. The pups came in and when they saw her, they immediately began to lick her face. Surprisingly to me, we were all pretty upset. Ewe-ness was my personal favorite, as she was very friendly and used to follow me all over the pasture. Ranching and farming doesn’t give us immunity to the awful sadness that comes when an animal dies.
Not having a lot of experience with sheep, I could only assume she had bloated. There were no marks on her but she was clearly bloated in death, whether or not that was the cause of her passing. I attempted to move her, but was only able to drag her out of the shelter. Free Wooly stayed with her, as did the pups, who kept licking her face. Cider went to see what was happening and Bruno bared his teeth at him. I was very surprised at that, because the pups are normally submissive to Cider. I had to put collars on the pups and drag them out of the pen. Bruno attempted to run back to Ewe-ness through the back gate and I had to head him off and close that as well.
No one is on the ranch with me today that can help. Randyman is hours away checking the wells on the desert and the cowboys are out rescuing a cow/calf pair, so its just me and the dogs.
I never much cared for sheep, other than in the culinary sense, Ewe-ness and her buddy changed my attitude. They also love to eat weeds that I desperately want eradicated, which is a big plus. They have been very quiet, and easy to manage. Their personalities are winsome and I became pretty attached.
I was concerned about how the pups might behave around a dead charge. Often LGD’s will eat the carcass of a dead charge to avoid attracting predators. I didn’t want to encourage this kind behavior so I locked them on the other side of the corral fence. Normally they have full access to their charges, but tend to watch them from the comfort of our back porch. Today, they laid in the snow all day, to keep Ewe-ness in their direct line of vision. They guarded her body for nearly 6 hours, and wouldn’t allow anyone near her but me.
Randyman finally got home and we agreed Ewe-ness had to be taken out of the corral. He got his helper to assist loading her on a wagon, while I held the pups outside the corral. They left through another gate, while Cletus whined. After they were gone, I let the pups go and they ran and checked where Ewe-ness had been lying, and the shelter, and finally stared out the gate through which she had been taken. I guess they really are going to be Guardian Dogs. Until today, I had not realized how deep their attachment actually went.
Whatever it is they are thinking, they have been spending more time in the sheep corral tonite, with extra vigilance.
Ranching and farming is a wonderful way of life, but sometimes it can be very sad. Here’s hoping that Pet-ewe-nea will have lambs in the spring.
We will remember Ewe…ness.