Saturday, February 6, 2016

Saying Goodbye to Shirley

This is Shirley. She had triplets (again) this past weekend. She's our best mama. As a matter of fact, I literally gauge all other sheep performance against her. She give us triplets about every other year, the years in between generally are twins. Except for last year, she had a single for the first time. 

This year is different. Twins and Triples often come a little early, as there just is not enough space for them to grow. And these little ones are pretty teeny. However, for the first time ever, Shirley showed limited interest in her babies. So little, actually, that when we came in just before #3 was born, she hadn't even begun cleaning off 1 or 2. We tried to get them to latch on, but we could get NO milk to come out of her at all! Straight to the bottle with these ones. Left to Right, we have Pipsqueak, Spike and Gummy.

In an unrelated turn, with these guys being locked in a barn stall, hoping for bonding to happen, Spike ended up inside her water bucket. He was soaked to the bone, cold, hungry and exhausted. He got to spend the night in the house with us.  His bond with mama is likely broken for good.

At 1AM, when Spike needed a feeding, I decided the others probably did, too. And went out to the barn to feed his two brothers. It seemed as if mama was tending to Gummy, and we are hoping a bond will develop.

However, all of ths is strange. Shirley has always been amazing. So much so, we have several of her offspring in our flock, We love her, her triplets, and we've never had to worry about her before. Now, we have triplets to bottle feed, which is not fun for us. Or them. Bottle babies grow much more slowly, but at least they are super friendly!

Shirley is almost 12. She is our oldest sheep. And one of our first.
This is Laverne and Shirley, the sheep who started it all. This was the day we brought them home, and they got to see pasture (possible for the first time in their lives).  Laverne was pregnant when we got her, and gave us Lenny and Squiggy, our first lambs.

About 7 months after Lenny and Squiggy were born, Shirley was no where to be found. She wasn't on pasture with Laverne and her boys, and I panicked, thinking she might have gotten attacked by coyotes or was sick.

We found her in the barn with these two... Charlie Brown and Linus. Lenny or Squiggy, at the ripe age of 2 months, had gotten her pregnant, and she gave us these darling boys. 

Here they are again, getting a bit bigger...

I care a lot about Shirley. She's been with us since the beginning. When she shared a barn stall with only Laverne.  Always calm, always friendly.

This is her, pretty sure her and I are both pregnant in this picture. I'm just spending some time with my sheep and my dogs.

Here she is again, pregnant. You can see her bags are starting to fill up a little bit.

This was her with her first set up triplets on the farm. Sorry for the image, she's still yet to pass her placenta in this picture, but you can see, even with that, she's tending to those lambs.
This was her with her first set up triplets on the farm. Sorry for the image, she's still yet to pass her placenta in this picture, but you can see, even with that, she's tending to those lambs.

This is her 2 years ago, with a set of twins.

Earlier this week, something happened to Gummy. He became lethargic, lifeless, just exhausted. We brought him and Fancy Pants (who had been lethargic since the day he was born) into the house, hoping warming them up would help.It didn't.  They both died in their sleep overnight, in a box next to my bed.  That being said, after losing Pebbles, Gummy and Fancy Pants all in just 2 days, it broke my heart. Sheep and lambs are here to live a full and solid life on the farm. To have sunshine and grass and time to play. After disposing of Pebbles and those babies, I just can't have Shirley face the same fate. I don't want her to be buried,  I want her to become food. I will miss her so much, but her only option for retirement is sterlization, I don't want her to get pregnant again, not with her age and her behavior this time. I would love for her to retire, but I don't want her to go through surgery just so I can keep her around. And I don't want to come out to the barn and find her gone. 

I know it seems so cruel, and it's different than euthanizing a dog. Although it feels sort of the same to me. Let her go when she can still become food. Let her go on our terms, when I can say goodbye and spend some time with her. Let her go before she suffers in any way. And let her play out her final destiny, as many of her lambs have, to become food. She's a special mama for us. She will always be. I will bawl my eyes out when we take her in. I will give her hugs and kisses every day until then. But I think the time has finally come, to say goodbye to our Grand Dame. I wonder, who in our flock is ready to take her place as the maternal leader of the lady sheep, who will be there to give comfort, guidance, and teach everyone else about treats and the best shady spots in summer.