Thursday, February 16, 2012

Watching, waiting, hoping

We thought Phyllis was going to die last night.

Phyllis is our 9 year-old Border Leicester sheep.  And she wouldn't stand up.

Joey was in the barn with the sheep last night around 5:30 pm when he saw Phyllis' knees buckle and she collapsed.  And she wouldn't move.  Joey built a pen around her, gave her fresh water and some hay and called me on my way home from work to tell me the bad news.  He gave her a shot of sheep medicine and checked her hooves to make sure that wasn't the problem.

When we went to check on her around 10 pm last night, she hadn't moved.  Under the glow of our flashlights we rubbed her long nose and her drooping ears and told her she was a good girl.  We thanked her for Patrick, the lamb she gave birth to last year, the first lamb on this farm.

Phyllis with Patrick, hours after his birth

She rested her head on Joey's knee and closed her eyes.

We talked about the life we gave her after buying her last January with Christmas money.  We bought her from a farmer who raises sheep for competing in livestock shows and writes a magazine for sheep breeders.  We were looking for a bred (pregnant) ewe that was about 3 or 4 years old.  He offered us Phyllis (just a number then) who had traveled to fairs and livestock competitions around the country and was quite a "Fair Queen."  Unlike some sheep that can be skittish, flighty, or nervous, Phyllis was used to being on a lead, used to people.  He told us she was about 5 or 6 years old and that she had been preg-checked by a vet.  We brought her home a month before we got married.

We thought she was a rather dignified old girl, completely indifferent to the flighty young ewes that became her new flock-mates.  And we joked about her retirement on the farm.  When we finally got her paperwork, we found out she was closer to 8 years old.

Last night, we decided she was comfortable, gave her a few more rubs behind the ears, and said good-night.  We decided if she made it through the night that we would call the vet in the morning.

She made it through the night.  But she doesn't seem to have moved.  But she does seem a lot more alert than last night, her ears aren't drooping and her eyes are brighter.  I even heard a few "baaaas!" out of her.

Joey called the vet a few times this morning and finally caught her coming out of surgery.  He told her Phyllis' symptoms and the name of the medicine he administered last night.  The vet asked Joey if Phyllis is pregnant.  He told her that she might be and the vet said that if she is that old, she may just be tired from being pregnant. She told us to call again tomorrow if she hasn't improved.

We're worried about her.  We hope we haven't done anything wrong as her shepherds and caretakers.  Some shepherds de-worm and vaccinate their sheep every couple weeks and we don't.  For the most part, our sheep can take pretty good care of themselves.  We give them hay and corn and pasture to graze, fresh water, and shelter.  We trim their hooves and shear their wool and watch for sickness or lameness.  But otherwise, we let them be.

At this point, I don't think there's much else we can do for Phyllis expect watch and see if she regains some strength.  If she doesn't make it, we'll know she had a good year at our farm, and passed in peace on a warm bed of straw.

Patrick and Phyllis this winter



  1. Have just found your wonderful blog, and I sure hope you don't lose Phyllis. I tried to follow, and it won't let me sign in with my Google account, so will try again tomorrow. I'll be back to see what happens with your lovely old girl.

  2. Welcome Mary Ann! Glad you're here! Still no news on Phyllis...hasn't gotten up yet.