My sheep are finally in their “barn” (extended roofline of garage out by 12 feet for shed-barn). It’s not completed yet, but it’s secure enough that I could move them in there. I was going to wait until it was done (the gutters need to be installed, and the gate needs a latch) but it was pouring down rain, yet again, on Christmas Eve and I decided to get them out of the weather.
I got home from dinner and some holiday cheer with my sister at about 11:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. I fed the dogs and went out to see if it was possible to do. I deliberately hadn’t fed the sheep before I left that afternoon, and they haven’t had any grain (sheep crack) for weeks, in anticipation of moving them. I turned on the lights in the shed, and the light over the garage door, so there was plenty of illumination for them to see where they were going (no scary shadowy dark places). I positioned the car in the driveway to the side of where I wanted to lead them, then went out to the pasture. They were waiting at the gate, as they were hungry and wanted feeding. I shook the tub of crack, er, grain, so they could hear and smell their drug of choice, then opened the gate wide. The boys came right out, without hesitation – they spent the summer being moved from pasture to pasture when they were at my friend Susan’s place, so moved out readily. And little Pebbles came out too – she’s as spunky as she is tiny, and with her and the boys following me willingly, even shy Cinnamon came along, eager to stay with her herd, and all of them eager for grain. They milled around only a little as we walked across the driveway in the midnight rain, a shake of the grain tub reminding them to keep together and with me. In less than 30 seconds they were contentedly gobbling grain in their new digs. A flake of grass hay later and I don’t know who was happier, them or me, but I think it was me.
I put up their salt lick holder on Saturday, with a fresh salt/mineral block for them. They haven’t had access to a mineral block for a couple of months, as there wasn’t any place in the pasture to keep it out of the weather, and are now enjoying this important nutritious treat. Now I just need to finish moving the 10 yards of hog fuel into the pen, so things stay mud free for the remainder of the winter.
And my other Christmas miracle – the bigger of the two really – is the fact that Cutter is still with me and enjoying life’s little pleasures, like coming out to see the sheep in their new home. We’ve been struggling, he and I – me emotionally, him physically – and each day is a question for me. I thought for sure it was “time” last Friday, as I listened to him struggle to breathe around the tumor growing in his nasal passages. He’s figured out how to mouth breathe better, and has told me in no uncertain terms that he’s still here and enjoying life. A delicious meal, a crunchy cookie treat, a fresh egg at the chicken coop, a stroll out to the sheep pen (even asking to come in to see them), he’s still here. Every day is a roller coaster with his condition going up and down throughout the day. He’s up and breathing easier when his anti-seizure meds are at their trough (lowest) levels; when they’re at their peak levels (a couple hours after I give them they start to hit hard, and this lasts for another two to three hours) is when he has the hardest time breathing. He becomes very lethargic, and his body wants to go on autopilot, sleeping through the haze of drug side effects. Autopilot means nose breathing, so it takes him a while to get settled. He’s not in pain, so not suffering in that sense, but it is a hassle – a pain in the ass, if you will. He seems mostly happy, even as he slows down. I waiver between feeling like a drama queen, wondering at my prior histrionics when he’s doing well; and feeling like I need to dial up the vet when he’s snorting and gurgling, trying to breathe comfortably, to bring him in for that final injection. I know the awful day is still lurking and it could happen any time, but for now I’m thankful, beyond grateful, for this time we have. I always have been, of course, but it’s so much more precious as we bob and weave with that date. My amazing bigstrongboy.