Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Very Sad Loss

It hasn't been the best start to the week. We've had a death in the family. And it was too soon. And then what we thought was a routine lancing of an abscess, turned out to be much more. And much worse. I thought I'd come home today, and Laverne would have some stitches on her chin. Instead, I was told she couldn't be saved. We are waiting for test results, so I won't say why until I know.

There was something special about Laverne and Shirley. They were our first sheep. We basically bought them to train our pups on how to watch sheep. Here they are the summer we bought them - Laverne is looking behind her. They are friendly, and like being petted, and looking for treats. They are also a tough couple of ewes - they've been attacked by dogs, more than once! And lived to tell the tale. But there is something special about them because they were our first. They taught US how to be shepherds.

Laverne came to us pregnant, and brought us our first lambs - Lenny and Squiggy. They were a goofy pair, and nice big boys, too.

Last spring, she gave birth to Wilma and Betty. Betty is on the left, and we decided to keep her, because Laverne is such a strong ewe, and a good mother. Betty is now 11 months old (I'll try to get a new picture of her) She's a healthy, strong, big girl. She isn't friendly, like her mom, but we'll see if we can work on that.

In January, Laverne brought us Archie and Veronica. Archie is on the left. To replace the loss in our flock, we have decided to keep Veronica. She's looking to be a big, healthy girl, too. Not friendly, as I was unsuccessful trying to get them to drink from a bottle last night. These two are about 6 weeks old. They were still nursing, but really able to eat hay. They'll be OK, but I don't like it when a lamb loses its mother.

A few weeks ago, we banded all the ram lambs. But we stopped before banding Archie - thinking if we wanted to breed from within our own flock, we'd want to breed in Laverne's genetics. So Archie still isn't banded. We may still band him, if we don't, we'll have lambs in November, which is not ideal. But we will keep Veronica - leaving us 2 legacies from Laverne.

I always knew losing Laverne would be hard. But she was so strong and resilient, I always pictured the day would come, and she would be some old ewe - 15 or 16 years old and we'd be making the decision to cull her. I always figured Larry and I would fight over it, because I'd want her to live her natural life, and he'd want to cull her as soon as she stopped producing. I was looking forward to watching her grow older, and be even more cantankerous.

I never like to lose a sheep. I cry whenever processing day comes around and we say goodbye to our lambs. I cried when we lost Penelope, Carol and Ethel. But Laverne was special. I learned how to give subcutaneous shots on her (and it didn't make me queasy!) We were going to practice shearing on her, because she's so nice to us. And she was truly a flock leader. The other sheep looked to her for leadership, and followed her. Of course, she also taught them how to look for chicken feed. But she was a mama among mama's. One of the great dame's of our flock.

You'll be missed, Laverne. I only wish I had been there to hold your head and say goodbye.