Friday, June 4, 2010

Sue Weaver: Happy Birthday to Ewe, Part 2

Baby Sam and I share a birthday.

My birthdays are usually a bust. It’s a fact, and it’s been that way all my life. But this year my best friend and sister-in-sheep, Lori Olson, who moved away to Wisconsin three years ago, conspired with my husband John to bring me my heart’s desire: a Scottish Blackface lamb. As if that weren’t enough, the day after Lori and my dream lamb, Othello, arrived, John and David, his client from the group home, left for southern Ohio to bring back two beautiful Classic Cheviot ewe lambs a breeder friend had given me.

Their Ohio run proved uneventful — or as uneventful as having two previously unweaned lambs in an airline crate in the back seat area of a compact car can be. The guys stopped to buy earplugs after a few hours on the road. Ah, blessed relief!

The lambs were all I hoped for and more. Since this year’s theme is names from Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story, I’d asked their breeder to give them names from the book. The pert white girl with llamalike ears became Miss Maple (“the cleverest sheep in the flock, maybe the cleverest sheep in Glennkill, quite possibly the cleverest sheep in the whole world”), and the petite dilute black with an unbobbed tail, Cordelia (“a sheep who likes unusual words”). Into the pen with Othello they went, and soon they were three fast friends.

Miss Maple and Cordelia are my Ohio birthday lambs.

Lori left on Saturday morning and the rest of the 15th sped by. Baatiste, one of my best ewes, was due to lamb that day by my favorite ram, Rumbler, so I checked her often, but no lambs.

Sunday, my birthday, dawned, and I rushed to check Baatiste. At 3:00 a.m. she’d been lying with her friends, chewing cud; at 5:30 she proudly showed me her lamb — just one and yet another ram lamb but adorable and healthy, so I was pleased. I trimmed and dipped his navel in iodine and named him Sam (we’d already run through all the male names in Three Bags Full); then, after installing mother and son in their own pen and making certain baby Sam was nursing his mom, I hustled up to check on my older birthday lambs.

That’s when my birthday took a dive. Othello, my long-awaited baby Scottish Blackface, had ripped the outer sheath off one of his horns. There was blood everywhere, and the poor little guy was in pain. I’ve never had young horned sheep before, and I didn’t know what to do, so for starters I sat down and cried.

Next, we called Othello’s breeders, Graham and Margaret Phillipson, who explained that this isn’t an unusual occurrence in any of the strongly horned breeds (like Scottish Blackface, Icelandics, Jacobs, Soay, Shetlands, and so on); the horn will regenerate, but it won't be as long as the other horn by 6 to 8". They said I should treat the horn core with a spray antiseptic such as Blu-Kote for several days until it dried. Jacob and Icelandic breeders at my Hobby Farm Sheep group concurred — new horn would regrow in the old horn’s place, although it would never catch up with the undamaged side. So Othello would be okay. It wasn’t the tragedy I thought it was after all.

Othello's horn core is tinted with Blu-Kote.

Othello still has one full-length horn.

The opposite side's horn is regenerating.

That’s how the little guy became Othello Bluehorn, and sure enough, his horn is growing back. Except for that single glitch, it was my most stellar birthday, ever, after all!

Sue Weaver sold her first freelance article in 1969. Since then her work has appeared in major horse periodicals, including The Western Horseman, Horse Illustrated, Chronicle of the Horse, Flying Changes, Horseman’s Market, Arabian Horse Times, The Appaloosa News, The Quarter Horse Journal, Horse’N Around, and The Brayer. She has written, among other books, Storey’s Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock, The Donkey Companion, and Get Your Goat! to be published in 2010. Sue is based in the southern Ozark Mountains in Arkansas.

Visit my Dreamgoat Annie Web and The Mopple Chronicles

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