When Joan’s siblings left for their forever home in April, she and I sat with the lambs and mamas for awhile in the paddock. The mamas were not sure about Joan, they’d not been raised with a sheepdog. The lambs loved her. I think it brought Joan some comfort to be surrounded by the others. She is quite stoic, for a pup, so didn’t let on that she was affected by her siblings’ departure. But I know that animals grieve.
These past couple of weeks I’ve been playing hospital with a few of the sheep on the farm in light of some parasite problems, brought on by this summer’s rains. I’ve nursed some weak mamas back to more normal energy, I’ve said goodbye to a beloved yearling Angora goat, and I’ve just had to say goodbye to Mac, our 6 month old Cormo lamb.
Mac did not respond, over the last two weeks, to any of the treatments I gave to him. I’m unsure, but wonder that he was predisposed to being weaker genetically. His sister, Mary, is thriving. His mama, Martha, is o.k. The mama’s sometimes take awhile to get back to their pre-baby vigor and she was still nursing him and his sister. So I expect her to be a little behind. Compared to the rest of the flocks, they are in average to good health.
That morning, Mac’s mama and sister wanted to be outside to graze and he just couldn’t get up to join them. I carried him from the barn stall and sat with him under the trees for a long time, knowing he wouldn’t make it through the day. He was weaker than the day before. He was done trying to get up and move around. Every day in the past couple of weeks prior, he’d had days where I saw improvements and response to the treatments I was giving to him and would become hopeful. Or he would have a ‘bad’ day in which he didn’t want to do much and lagged behind. But this day, I knew.
I wished I’d had the courage to put him down by myself. I did make phone calls for help, but didn’t get responses in time. He lay under the apple trees and it was a beautiful day. The clouds above were puffy and glided along, high in the blue, blue sky. The grass was dry beneath him and it was shady. The birdsong was steady and lyrical. There were no flies or insects bothering him and he was comfortably positioned. He was not alone at all…
….for Joan stayed with him the entire day until he died.
Joan sat with Mac on Sunday, the entire day, where I placed him under the apple trees. Some times she snuggled along side him. Some times she placed her head on his neck or kissed his face very gently.
I knew, when she came over to me in the afternoon, that he had passed. I went over to where he was under the tree and he had his last breath in my lap.
And then, Joan went off to be with the other dogs, the goats, alpacas and sheep.