Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Things I've Learned Caring for Animals

Life will teach us any way it can, it seems to me. Some of my most powerful lessons have come from caring for my animals.

The first lambs of the 2014 season were born last Thursday, March 20, the first day of spring. My visiting niece and nephew got to witness the birth while I taught dance class.  I trusted Lifa to lamb just fine on her own. She has never required my assistance in her previous 3 lambings.  And sure enough she did just fine. Twins. Two little ewes. 

These are some of the last lambs I will get from Renauld and I was really happy to see a little black ewe because I wanted to keep one in memory of him and because I have no more supply of black wool. So we were very glad to see her. She got kisses and cuddles from the start.

However, she was also weak from the start. She was the first born and the last to stand. Her poop was never normal and soon turned to blood. As well, Lifa was severely engorged and one side of her udder the milk was tinged with blood so much that it looked like blood. I thought maybe this was the problem. I gave her some herbs to soothe her stomach but it didn't help and within 24 hours of being born, she was dead. I thought maybe there was some congenital problem she was born with - her digestive system not functioning properly. Dean dug her a grave and we laid her to rest. Poor wee thing.

Then, later Friday evening, alarmingly, the white lamb who had been leaping about earlier in the day, began to have bloody poops as well.  Clearly it was some kind of infection. It would appear that every year my lambs discover new ways to die. After some research I discovered that it was enterotoxemia C (bloody scours) - a bacteria found in the soil which can be fatal to lambs only in the first 2 months of life.  

With the help of a Facebook group called Totally Natural Goats I began an aggressive treatment of herbs. I made an infusion of garlic and fennel and mixed up some ACV with some goldenseal, cayenne, ginger and slippery elm. I dosed her with a teaspoon of each every 15 minutes but she continued to go downhill fast. So I started dosing her every 10 minutes then every 5 minutes. The temperature outside plummeted as I stayed up all night. She started shivering so I brought her in around 1:30 am and kept her in for a couple of hours.  Dosing every 5 minutes. I made up a second infusion with ACV, garlic, marshmallow root, yarrow, black walnut hull, comfrey and dandelion root. A teaspoon of either the slippery elm mixture or the infusion every 5 minutes. Finally around 3am she started to come around. She bleated for her mother for the first time since I brought her in.  By 3:30 I returned her to her mother who was baa'ing frantically and set my alarm for an hour. When I took out the dose, she was up and nursing so I let myself sleep for 3 hours.

Since then she has been continuing to regain her strength. I am continuing to dose her 2 tsp every 3 hours but I sleep 6 hours at night between dosing. 

Enterotoxemia is almost always fatal, even using conventional practises (antitoxin).  Had I waited until the next morning to get veterinary care, I suspect she would have been dead. Very similar to colitis in humans and parvovirus in dogs, the bacteria attacks the intestine, killing off chunks of it. I am so grateful to the women of Totally Natural Goats who believe in the empowering use of herbs and share their knowledges so generously. Although I do not think she is entirely out of the woods and I continue to dose her regularly, I would say her prognosis looks pretty good. 

Here is where I get philosophical. When I discovered her bloody poop and frantically searched for what to do, I prayed desperately, "Dear God, please don't let her die; please don't let her die..." Thoughts of Lifa's severe engorgement with no lambs to feed; the thought of Renauld's last offspring slipping so quickly through my fingers; the thought of a second wee grave...  I prayed intensely, fervently...

Then a thought came into my mind. I was reminded of the nature of God who I don't believe is some indifferent being who will only respond if I pray intensely enough. I did not need to pray desperately. Me, the lamb, we were both in God's hands and God knew my heart. My love, my devotion was all there in my actions.  I didn't need to be constantly visualizing healing energy. Healing energy was all around me. 

I was reminded once again that "my ways are not your ways" and despite my desperate wishes, these two little lambs had their own destinies. Maybe that little black lamb (whom Eryn called Black Betty and I called Baby Baba Yaga) needed simply to experience being loved?  And she was loved in her brief life by my husband, by my niece and nephew, by my daughter and by me.

I realized that all that was required of me was to be kind.  My energy shifted. No longer were my efforts a desperate bid for her life but simply a kindness. Whether she lived or died, I wanted to do all in my power to be kind to her, to love her, to let her know how important she was to me.  Whether she lived or died was not in my control but a Power greater than mine and in the soul of the little white lamb. Guilt, desperation, sadness, all left and a quiet calm filled the room. 

And so I ministered to my wee lamb from my heart with love for her and myself and faith in the flow of life - not faith that she would live or that my techniques would work. But trust that I was doing my best and an understanding that we were on this journey together - maybe for only a few hours more or days or months or years. Whatever it was, was okay. Her death would not be a failure or a punishment but part of the eternal flow of life. And so far she lives. And she's getting pretty hard to catch. 

 I think we need a name. She comes from a line of identical white ewes. Her great grandmother is Snowflake, her grandmother is Eirina and her mother is Lifa. Suggestions?