As a pet sitter with almost thirty years of experience caring for a wide variety of animals I know that the circle of life is ever present. I have been present for numerous lambs entering the world, I’ve seen chicks hatch from eggs and puppies be born. I have been present for the deaths of horses, cows, dogs, cats, chickens and sheep. But the one that hit me the hardest was just this weekend when a day old lamb died. I fell to pieces. The ironic thing is the sheep are raised for meat so I know many will not live to adulthood but they have the very best lives from birth until they leave for the butcher. I found the lamb had gotten himself wedged under a board in a freak accident. I pulled him free and made sure his mom knew what I was doing. She did not leave his side and still had his twin at her side. I could tell the lamb who had been stuck was dehydrated and I tried to get him to drink some milk from his mom but he was too weak to stand up. I handed the lamb to Mike while I ran up to another barn to get milk replacer. I ran back to the sheep barn and helped Mike get the lamb, his twin and their mom into the lambing stall. I gave the injured lamb some vitamins and tried to get him to drink from the bottle. I had him resting in my lap and gently put my finger in his mouth to encourage him to take the bottle. I knew he was in rough shape when his tongue felt cold to me. The lamb drank a little bit and tried hard to keep going. Mike offered to bring the horses in alone and feed them, the chickens and elderly sheep. I was nervous about letting Mike bring the horses in but he has gained a lot of confidence around them in the past year. He went quietly out of the barn and drove to the horses while I stayed with the lamb. I kept him warm holding him close and he drank about three ounces of milk. He stood up on his own after ten minutes and stopped looking dehydrated. I was warily optimistic he may just need rest to recuperate but it was not to be. After working with him for half an hour his little body could not keep fighting. He lay down at my feet and I kept petting him. His mom came over and gently pawed at him. I think we both knew he was leaving us. My boss came to the barn after talking with Mike who told him what was going on. Mike and Kevin my boss set up a heat lamp to keep the lamb warm. I knew when I left the barn the little guy would not make it but kept a small glimmer of hope he would make it by some miracle. As Mike and I drove home, I started to cry and cried the whole way home and most of the night. I am still weepy about it and as I said I’m not sure why this little guy dug his st into my heart but he is there.
I have struggled for two days to find an answer. Mike said the lamb and I made a connection. I have witnessed over two hundred lambs grow from birth onwards and as I said earlier I have cared for hundreds of horses, dozens of dogs and cats, had my own horse, cats and dogs. I know death is a part of life and perhaps I needed to feel this death differently. It will not change how I feel about caring for meat sheep but I sure will remember the little guy for a long time.
The first photo is of another lamb running through the fields as I wish the little guy could have done. The second photo I took prior to leaving the barn Saturday. I guess I did not wish to forget him.