Saturday, February 19, 2011


Last night the howling wind woke me. In the few moments I was awake, I realized I smelled “skunk” ….I mean I REALLY smelled SKUNK! For just a second, I thought maybe the door had blown open and we had a visitor. No, no, the doors were closed. I went back to sleep.

This morning, when I went out to the shop to feed the bottle lamb, I smelled “skunk” again. The odor was far less potent, so I brushed aside the thought that maybe the dogs got into a tangle with one of our little striped neighbors. I did wonder why Ellie Mae was not at the door to greet me. But, again, I had things on my mind and went back inside.

It wasn’t until Tom was heading out to do morning chores that I even thought of it again. As he looked out the door prior to opening it, he said, “ya know, I think Jed got hold of a skunk” He opened the door. “OH, YEAH…Jed got hold of a skunk! PHEW-EEE!”

Not only had Jed tangled with the skunk, apparently Ellie had too. She had dirt all over her face, and all around her eyes was caked with dust and hay bits from where she had tried to rub the smell away. They were both rubbing their faces in the hay, on the ground, each other in attempt to escape the stench. The cats’ eyes were watering while they tried to eat with the dogs. Soon, they gave up and went to eat elsewhere. Gross! I can’t think of a worse smell than “pole-cat” (that’s what Papaw calls a skunk)

Now, we were supposed to be heading into town to make our weekly farm product drop, so I REALLY didn’t want to mess with two hundred pounds of stinkin’ dog prior to leaving. Thankfully, the dogs seemed pretty embarrassed by the whole deal and stayed away from us. Tom and I headed in separate directions to complete chores.

Upon entering the barn, which also somehow smelled of skunk, I noticed a ewe off by herself. She didn’t look good at all. A sheep with its head down and back hunched is generally a sick sheep. When I checked her, I saw signs of imminent labor. …Hmmm… not good, she shouldn’t lamb for at least another week. I went and got feed for the others, who were all most vehemently voicing their disapproval of my delay. She walked outside, so I figured she might just be going to have a slow delivery. When I showed her food, she was completely disinterested. That’s when I began to sense that something was very wrong. My girls laugh at me, saying I turn into a “Jewish grandmother” when anything/anyone around here won’t eat. (“…eat, eat, it will make you feel better!") But, in all actuality appetite is a very good indicator of health.

By this time, the ewe had decided to lie down behind the barn. I couldn’t leave her there to labor, the wind was ferocious and that would be detrimental for any newborn lamb’s survival. She allowed me to catch her and put her in the barn. That was yet another bad sign. Knowing I couldn’t vet her alone, I headed to the house to get Tom and his muscles for assistance. We talked over possible scenarios, and headed back to the barn.

**what follows may be too graphic for some**

I went in with the ewe to do an internal exam. Yep, that means exactly what it sounds like it means. I put on my big orange OB glove, a rubber glove over that, applied some antiseptic lubricant…and put my hand “in there”. Okay, say it EEEWWWW! That is the only way to find out what was going on in there. I thought she seemed kinda smelly. Hmmmm, no feet heading out…something is definitely wrong. Lambs are born in a “diving position”….front hooves pointed out, the head and rest of the body follows. When I removed my hand, the stench really hit me….BLECH! The blood and goo sticking to my glove were beyond gross. Something was REALLY, REALLY wrong up in there. But, I had absolutely no idea what it could have be. I began thinking of all the different diseases, disorders and other issues I could think of. That smell could only mean one thing….something was rotting in there. The putrification would release toxins and eventually kill the ewe.

(An aside here, yesterday as I was feeding the sheep, this particular ewe got caught in the fence, flipped over and walked on as the others ran to the feeder. I had been a little worried about her, but she seemed to shake it off and went off to eat. I probably should have checked on her last night, but it slipped my mind, since they were all eating.)

Tom and I exchanged horrified looks. Yuck seems like such a tame word for the thoughts and possibilities we found ourselves considering. I put my hand back in, hoping that it would induce the labor and we could get things straightened out. Nothing happened.

The clock was ticking; we had to leave for town. At this point, there was absolutely nothing we could do for the ewe, so we went and made our deliveries. The ewe remained on the back of my mind the entire time. We discussed it on the way into town AND on the way home. We reached the conclusion that we would (Tom would) “put her out of her misery” when we got home.

When we got home, there were still stinking dogs to contend with …and the relentless wind. A quick check showed the ewe to be no better; as a matter of fact she looked considerably worse. There is an old saying that one thing sheep do well is DIE! Unfortunately, this is absolutely true.

We decided to clean the dogs up some first. Ellie Mae seemed to enjoy getting her face washed and having the wind blow her dry. Jed didn’t enjoy his facial at all. That seemed to work, sort of, and at least they didn’t stink quite so bad. Note to self: buy more Nature’s Miracle skunk odor remover!

Tom and I went to check the ewe again. She was dead. She was just plain, stiffening dead! A cursory examination showed that the labor had indeed begun, but the lamb was mis-presented, and grotesquely swollen. It was obviously dead, too. We discussed the possibility of a necropsy. We decided that the logistics of that undertaking were far too involved for the probability of any conclusive outcome.

My only guess is that yesterday’s accident somehow ruptured something internally and between the bleeding and the toxins released from the dead lamb the ewe never stood a chance. All we were left with was yet another unexplained mess to clean up.

To say it was a STINKIN’ day is a complete understatement! I am hoping that everything will smell better in the morning.

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