11/11/08

The Accidental Shepherd

The following is the story of how sheep came into my life unexpectedly and found a place my heart forever....

Hubby and I finished building our house here on the farm in November of 2005, and once we got settled in we began discussing which animals we would like to raise and keep on our little farm along with all the chickens I imagined we'd have. I talked about getting goats; my Dad has had a wide variety of them down through the years, (mostly Nubians) so I did have some experience with them. Hubby dreamed of having a draft horse grazing in the field like the one his Dad used to plow his garden with. Whatever we decided on, however, would have to wait a while because we weren't financially able to start building fences or animal housing at that time.

One day Hubby called me from work and said, "Would you like to have a lamb?"

Dumbfounded for a second, I asked, "What for? You mean to eat?"

He laughed and told me that his co-worker's son was raising sheep for his FFA project and had a lamb the mother had rejected. Not having anyone at home to bottle feed the little lamb, he was asking around to see if anyone wanted it before they "got rid of it."
I asked Hubby what "got rid of it" meant (as if I didn't already know) and without hesitation I told him to tell the man we would take it.
Hubby said "Are you sure? It will need round the clock care for a little while." Yep, I was sure.

And so that afternoon, February 7th, 2007, Daisy came into our lives. Had I known what a healthy lamb was supposed to look like, I would have probably given her up for dead. I look back at pictures of her then and realize she looked like a crumpled-up dish rag. But at that moment, I was in love. Hubby and I both were fascinated by the soft, black carpet of wool on her back, and her big, fuzzy ears. She spent the first few weeks of her life in our living room on a very tight bottle schedule and getting way too much attention. She learned quickly how to climb up on her back legs and peek out of her gigantic wooden crate and cry for me. During the warm afternoons I would take her outside and she would walk with me step for step. She also got to be real good friends with
Smokey, who was a little intimidated by her at first. Not because of her size because she was WAY smaller than him, but because of the way she smelled. She didn't smell like a dog, so he kept sniffing away to try and make sense of this odd little creature that hollered "Maaaa!" every time I got a little too far away.










When she was 6 weeks old, we began to realize she would have to go outside and soon. She had outgrown her crate and was not a happy camper when she was in it. We knew we couldn't just put her outside alone- it wasn't like she was a dog that could fend for herself.


That's when Edie came along....





*Chapter 2*


After Daisy's first six weeks of life, it was becoming apparent that she would not be able to live inside our house much longer. We didn't really have any game plan for the future, but we were quickly realizing that she was in fact, a barnyard animal. We discussed what we needed to build for her and how to secure it, and how close we could put it to the house so she wouldn't be so isolated and vulnerable; after all, she came to live with us when she was 3 days old, so we were all she'd ever known. But none of this made me feel very good about the situation, and her being outside all alone was almost more than I could stand. We had no other sheep to put her with, and even though Smokey was her buddy, I couldn't cage him up with her full time.

Then Hubby said, "If Cody has some more lambs, do you want to see if he'll sell us another one for a companion to her?"
Brilliant!! (Why didn't I think of that?)

So, the call was made and yes, he had 1 more he would be willing to sell. The next evening, we set off with money in hand and a dog crate in the back of the Suburban. This was going to be great! We would have another sheep not only for companionship, but also for protection since Daisy had never been outside at night before, and a lamb that was used to being in a barn would show her the ropes. Sounds like a winner to me.



Boy, were we in for a surprise....



After the money was exchanged, the new lamb was loaded into the dog crate headed for her new home. Since she had never been away from her mother, she did not take this situation very well. In fact, she bawled all the way home. VERY LOUDLY. I looked at Hubby and said, "how long do you think this will go on?"

He said, " Ah, she'll be okay when we put her in with Daisy."
Okay. I'm fine with that.

Once home, we carried the crate up to the new pen we had built. (Daisy had already been spending the afternoons in it, so she was used to her new surroundings.) We carried the crate inside the pen, opened the door, and...... encountered a major problem. The new lamb was still bawling, and Daisy was horrified. Up until that point, Daisy had no idea she was a sheep, or even what a sheep was. So her introduction was a little on the traumatic side, to say the least. And when the poor little lamb finally saw something she recognized- another creature with black wool- she made a dash for Daisy, at which time a very scared Daisy took off in a blind run, ramming into anything in her way. The insanity that followed cannot really be described, but once the dust settled, we had two very banged up lambs, both of them bawling like babies and the two of us scratching our heads and wondering what in heaven's name we were going to do.

We brought Daisy back inside so she could calm down, and left the new lamb in the little pen we had built. After Hubby and I went to bed, I lay awake listening to the new lamb crying out until I had heard all I could stand. I raised up and looked at the clock- 1:30 am.

I knew there was only one thing I could do. I got up, put my coat on and went up to the pen with Daisy in my arms. The new lamb had literally been crying- her eyes were wet. And now her bawling sounded like a weak baby's cry. It was about 35 degrees outside, but I laid down in the straw with Daisy on one side and the new lamb on the other. I stroked their heads and talked to them. Daisy quickly fell asleep. In a few moments, the other lamb did too. All night long I held them. I began to think of all the stories I had heard about shepherds long ago and I wondered if any of them had ever done this before. Then I thought of THE Shepherd. How he had brought comfort to me during so many sleepless nights. It wasn't long before I too fell asleep in the straw, with a lamb under each arm.


Things slowly improved as Daisy got used to her new companion. There was such a difference in size- the new lamb was a large, healthy, robust lamb raised on her momma's milk; Daisy was a scraggly little runt raised on powdered milk by a very inexperienced mother. Even though there were only a few days difference in their age, they almost looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in "Twins".

Hubby asked me, "What are you going to name the new lamb?"

I said, "I think I'll name her "Eatie" because she eats all the time!"

Hubby said that was a very fitting name, so we started calling her Edie.


Little did I know the way she earned her name would almost become a tragedy......




Daisy and Edie in their pen at 8 weeks old






*Chapter 3*

Daisy and Edie gradually settled into their new life with us- Edie still missed her mother but had attached herself to Daisy, (much to Daisy's chagrin) following her around like a big puppy. Daisy finally got used to not being in our living room with us all the time, but she still looked for her bottle LONG after it was time for her to be weaned. (My fault...) She would sniff around at the feed and hay we put out for them, then go rooting around my backside for the bottle she knew I had hidden in my coat pocket. Edie, on the other hand, was devouring everything we put in front of her since she had already been weaned for some time.



One day while going about my chores I glanced toward the sheep pen and saw Daisy, but not Edie. This was unusual since Edie was Daisy's shadow, so I walked over to the pen. Edie was laying on the ground- her belly was bloated and she was unable to get up. I dropped the water buckets I was holding and ran to the house. I called Hubby at work and he could tell from the sound of my voice something was wrong.

"It's Edie... I think she's foundered on feed and I don't know what to do for her" I said, my throat feeling tight. The nearest vet was 30 minutes away, and I told Hubby I didn't think I could get her loaded up (by myself) and get her there in time.

He remembered a very helpful man that worked at our Farmer's CO-OP who also raised sheep, and said, "Call and see if he knows what to do for her."
Thankfully the man was working that day, and once I explained what was going on, he affirmed what I already knew- she had eaten too much and, not being able to belch it back up to chew it, it was backing up dangerous gasses in her belly. He said, "We have something called Probios, but if you're in need of something quick, just give her some baking soda mixed with water and some Pepto Bismal."

Huh? Okay... I'll try anything at this point!

I thanked him and hung up the phone, then ran to the medicine cabinet and the pantry to mix up a miracle cure for my sweet little Edie.

I ran up the hill with my little drenching syringe. I found Edie with her head on the ground, blinking her eyes and scared out of her wits.
I whispered in her ear, "Edie, don't you die on me.."
I pulled back the corner of her mouth, put the syringe tip close to the back of her tongue, and squirted.

She coughed, sputtered, spit, swallowed.... and then belched.

And belched again.

After a series of very unattractive belches that were music to my ears, she was able to raise up... and then she began to chew!! And chew.... and chew...

Within a half an hour, she was back on her feet again. And from that day on, the days of unlimited grain in the feeding trough were over. Another lesson learned the hard way- at least with a happy ending!



Not long after this, I was at the mall when I ran into a good friend from high school I hadn't seen in several years. We spent a few minutes catching up, and then she asked me, "So where are you working now?"

A little embarrassed that for once in my life I didn't have a big title or job description, I said,
"Oh, I just... work at home.... taking care of our animals..."

"Really? What kind of animals?"

"Oh, just some chickens... and sheep..."

"Sheep? Does that mean you're a shepherd now?"

We both had a good laugh over that, and after talking a few more minutes, we parted ways.

But as I walked to my car, I thought about what she said...

I guess that does make me a shepherd. A real, live, modern day Shepherd Girl. I never expected at this point in my life to be taking care of two little spoiled lambs, but things were different now.... they needed me.

Needed ME.

And in some ways, I need them just as much.
And I wouldn't trade that feeling for anything I've ever accomplished in my life before now.

The End!

(for now!)







35 comments:

  1. Oh Paula i love that story...and that little lamb! I love her sweet black coat...I'm looking forward to the rest of the story!

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  2. Miss Paula how could you do this to me....I have to know more about Daisy.....I want to kiss her sweet little snout!!!! I would kiss the chickens too but I am afraid they wouldn't be as receptive!!! I am an animal loving nut and can't wait to read about your animals and the adventures you and Hubby get into on your farm!!!

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  3. Looking forward to the rest of the story - nothing like a rejected baby to pull at your heartstrings - every year we have at least one goat kid who has to be a bottle baby.

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  4. Paula,
    My husband fondly remembers one of their childhood pet sheep, who they would feed peanut butter sandwiches. The four kids secretly trained the sheep to butt. For some reason, the sheep LOVED to butt their mother when she was bent over-of course not expecting it! That happened a few times-then the sheep went outside for good. (He was pretty big, sortof like having a dog/sheep). But before he was kicked out of the house, he jumped up on Geoff's parents' bed-right on his father! I think that may have been the deciding factor in putting the sheep out for good. But he still got sandwiches!

    I can't wait for the rest of your story!
    Love, Debra

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  5. What a beautiful little creature! VERY cute! No wonder she got spoiled rotten!! I'm looking forward to reading more.

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  6. Daisy was a tiny little thing. You are so soft-hearted. I remember feeding lambs from an old RC bottle with a black nipple. They tugged so hard and were so rough. Even the ones with mamas wanted the bottles! It was one of the best times I ever spent with my grandpa. Our neighbor hada lamb inside when the kids were little. Sara would come home with stories about that lamb. Apparently they followed it around with a towel and stuck it under to soak up urine. I couldn't allow that but it was a good experience for the kids. I love your stories and envy your life. It is so fulfilling.
    :) Linda
    p.s. glad you enjoyed the chicken!

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  7. Daisy is such a sweetie...I can't wait to hear the rest of the story!

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  8. Fences before animals? That's what the books say to do, but it is hardly reality. I'm starting to think it is kinda like babies and money. You think you need latter before you should have the former. Some how it all works out when done in reverse! Looking forward to hearing where Daisy took you to in the sheep world.

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  9. Thanks for your visit today. I am so happy to have seen your sweet post today and the adorable pictures. I love the suspense of part II to come also! I'll check in tomorrow. Have a good night.

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  10. Just loved reading this story and can't wait to read the rest! What a cute little one Daisy was. Blessings, Kathleen

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  11. Oh, what a sweet little story! I'd take that lamb in a heartbeat! Too cute! I'll be waiting to read the rest of the story. Don't keep us hanging too long! :)

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  12. That is a great story and I look forward to reading the rest. She is sweet. We had a baby black sheep many years back.

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  13. Hi Paula:
    I am a sucker for an animal no one wants too. My hubby wanted to get a cow to raise for meat but he knew I would turn it into a pet and not be able to let it go. I hope your story has a happy ending!!!
    Ginger

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  14. Paula,

    You sure know how to "draw a country girl" into a good story, don't you? My mom and dad live next door and have had goats in the past. There was one whose mother died during birth. We named her Miracle because we brought her in and took care of her for awhile bottle bed her) and she made it! Then shortly after another goat had a baby and her baby died...well we wondered if she would "adopt" Miracle and she did. She took her right in and nursed her! She was an overprotective mom! I have pictures of my son riding the goats! Oh those were fun days...thanks for bringing back those memories to me!

    Have a great evening...and I'll be waiting on ......."the rest of the story".

    Tammy

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  15. awhhhh she is gorgeous, how could you not love her. Hurrah for you for rescueing her. and part 2 is??? ( I have already guessed hehe)
    We wanted lambs but decided against it as we have border collies and its natural instinct for them to herd sheep so we figured the poor babies would get no rest from my hyperactive dogs!
    Rose

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  16. Awww, what a sweet story. And...you keep me hanging! Hurry up with that next story!

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  17. That lamb is soooo cute! And how creative of you to add suspense.

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  18. I followed your link from Tippers site and have so enjoyed my visit!
    I am (was) a farm girl myself and have bottle-fed several bummer lambs. Love your story about Daisy and pictures; can't wait to hear more about her.
    My favorite bummer lamb was Bambi. I had to rescue him from his mama who didn't have the maternal instincts. By the time he was several months old, he would chase my little brother around and around the barn ~ brother crying, lamb bleating. He just wanted his bottle. A very funny sight to see!

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  19. Daisy is gorgeous! ... but WHAT DO YOU MEAN... STAY TUNED.....
    YOUR JUST GONNA LEAVE ME HANGIN LIKE THIS?.....
    OK
    I'LL
    WAIT.

    I was gonna say I can't believe you had a pair of banties in your no farm animals allowed zone... but then I thought THAT'D BE JUST LIKE PAULA!!! heehee
    Lea

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  20. i want more! MORE i tell you! lol

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  21. To be continued??? I hate that! I'm not watching this show anymore. Oh - I forgot I was reading a blog. Of course I'll be back for the next installment.

    She is so sweet. Can't wait to see the grown up pictures.

    Hugs,
    Kay

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  22. Oh gosh HOW SWEET!!! I am so glad you took that little baby.....

    I can't wait to hear more of the story!!!

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  23. What a great story! I can't wait to hear more. Lucky little lamb.
    Checked my roo and don't see anything like the spur you showed. I will keep watch. My yahoo group is currently talking mean Roo's. Seems Elliot is destined for the crockpot. But I will do everything I can before that! He is good for my girls, afterall ;)
    Thanks!

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  24. Oooh, I have FOND memories of bottle feeding bummer lambs as a child. They were just SO precious!

    And didn't you know that animals always arrive before the fencing? That's what the spare dog kennel is for. yep yep!

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  25. I'm a big animal softie and loved reading this! I think I want a goat now!

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  26. Aw, Paula, I begged and begged for a black lamb when I was a teenager. After all we lived in the boonies then too! What a cutie, and how thoughtful of you to commit yourself to the chore of feedings (that is real commitment, my dear friend) every two hours isn't it? I'll be back for the rest of the story, talk to ya then.

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  27. Oh, Paula, leaving us hanging like this isn't fair! Daisy is such a sweet little thing..how could anyone not resist her? more more!

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  28. I'd like to have seen your face when the neighbors asked about the crowing chicken! Can't wait to hear the rest of the lamb story.

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  29. Miss Paula!!! I need more Daisy!!! I have a couple of awards for you if you want to stop by. Have a FANTABULOUS DAY!!!

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  30. Now that could entice me into getting a lamb!

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  31. Absolutely PRECIOUS!!!! Love this....wish someone would offer me a little lamb to raise! I can't wait to read the rest, Paula!

    Marie

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  32. I believe only people who are shepherds truly understand the Great Shepherd. Being a shepherd is a calling, a high calling, and fills each day with delight of different kinds. Sweet story, God's blessings upon you, yours and the work of your hands and heart.

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  33. Mercy, I never read so fast, with so many emotions running the scale from elation to sadness. You sure have a way with words. You need to put this in a book. I was hooked onto every word. Praying for Daisy and then for Edie. So glad to know all turned out okay. Talk about heart pounding experiences. What a touching story sleeping with the sheep, I too would have done the same thing. Yes, you are the perfect shepherd.

    Blessings to you.

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