Sunday, March 20, 2011

...and so I cried

Last week was a very sad week.  Not everyone understands the bonds that can be formed with farm animals.  All of them - chickens, sheep, donkeys, goats, llamas and alpacas, horses, cows...and any other barnyard resident - can all become family members.  When I knew I was moving to Canada, I knew I could not take my whole "family" with me.  I tried to choose wisely and carefully.  As you can well imagine, Lucky Nickel was unquestionably one to make the journey.  She herself deemed it must happen!  When it came to the sheep, I was torn.  I wanted to take Marshmallow, who had been my house-lamb, and had spent her early days sleeping on my pillow.  She had integrated well into the flock though, and I felt she was well adjusted.  On the other hand, I had Kenzie, the little runty black lamb from my former Blue-faced Leicester ewe, Black Pearl.  I felt that due to her size, she needed extra care.  Her sisters had not had an easy life.  One had died in early days, for unknown reasons.  The second had gone to a local farm where an unexpected dog attack had ended her short life.  I was determined that Kenzie should live, and so I decided to take her with me.

In order to get female ruminants over the border into Canada, they either had to come from a premises that was certified scrapie-free for at least 5 years (which I could not provide, since I had only owned my farm for 3 years and had never sought scrapie certification) or they had to be spayed.  I chose to spay Lucky Nickel and Kenzie in order to take them with me and comply with the regulations.

My vet kindly allowed me to observe the spaying operations first hand, which were very interesting for me.  I was not at all disturbed by the inside view of my animals - they are marvelous living "machines" with a wonderful physiology that I find fascinating.  I was confident after the operations that all had gone well.  Due to their long incisions with multiple stitches, I had to keep them in the house for a number of days to prevent any infection.  Both of them wore "Depends" undergarments for women (size small!) and t-shirts, with safety pins used to keep the Depends in place and thus keep the wounds covered.  The first couple of days, both were very quiet.  I put them in my basement unfinished area with lots of blankets, food and water, and frequent visits from me.  The fact that my house was still on the market was a complicating factor!  I could tell from her stance that Lucky Nickel was in some pain - note her hunched back.
Kenzie seemed fine, and much more perky than Lucky Nickel, even right after the operation.
On Day 3, Lucky Nickel "penetrated the defenses" and made her way upstairs, where she wreaked havoc upon my show-ready home.  She upended most of my potted plants and liberally distributed dirt.
She also upended my beading supplies sending a rainbow of coloured glass beads in all directions on carpet and hardwood floors.
She played with toilet paper decoration of the house, scattered some goat berries around, and finally settled in on my bed where she made the covers into a nest and waited for me to come home.

Meanwhile, quiet little Kenzie stayed in the basement, and when I checked on her, I found she had not passed any solid wastes.  I worried that she wasn't eating due to pain, and gave her banamine for pain relief and held her in my lap for a time.
On Day 4, Lucky Nickel returned to the barn, still with her t-shirt and Depends, in order to keep clean.  She was not easy to contain in the house.  Kenzie remained inside, not eating, not pooping.  I noticed that she had a lump at the end of her incision.  It didn't feel hot or infected, and it was quite firm, so I thought it was just localized swelling from the trauma of the spay.

On Day 5, Lucky Nickel was bouncing around on hay bales as if nothing had happened.  Kenzie was quiet, listless, and remained unmotivated to eat.  I really began to worry.  I called the vet and made an appointment for her.  The next day she went in and they thought she was constipated.  She spent a day on fluids and milk of magnesia.  No effect.  The next day, they decided to operate.

Tragically, a loop of bowel had pushed its way through the internal layer of stitches, causing a blockage (and causing the lump that I had felt).  Her colon tissue was only just beginning to die, after 5 days, which the vet said was really surprising, and an indicator of how healthy she had been.  They removed a portion of her colon, sutured the ends back together, and hoped for the best.  The best was not to come.  She died that night, in the cold steel kennels that usually hold dogs and cats.  Alone and in pain.

I did this to her.  I chose to take her with me.  I chose to get her spayed.  I chose my own selfish desires to take a sheep with me on my long journey, so that I could have the comfort of their company when I arrived, and feel that I had taken part of what I had started here in Iowa.  If I had not taken her, she probably would have gone to the same home where her sister went.  Her sister was bigger - would Kenzie have been the one to die in the dog attack if she had been there?  I cannot say.  All I know for sure is that I was trying to make the right decision, and I failed her.  This has eaten at me all week.  I have had her cremated and will take her ashes with me to the home that she was meant to have.  I hope she will forgive me my selfishness.  I have cried enough tears to sink a canoe this week, and they're just not stopping.

Lucky Nickel has continued to thrive and is behaving in all her usual ways.  She is horrified at the fact that she now has to wear an enormous COW tag in her ear for ID purposes.  I have promised her that I can remove it when we are settled in Nova Scotia.  She says she is NOT a COW!  It makes her ear droopy and uneven with the other one, which is slightly amusing, but I try not to laugh at her.
She has to have her stitches removed soon, and needs to have tuberculosis and brucellosis tests in order to cross the border, but those are simple tests and non-invasive.  I am tremendously grateful that she has not suffered any ill effects from the operation to have her spayed.  It is also good for her in the sense that I would never want her to be accidentally bred.  Her mother died as a result of a pelvic opening that was too small to allow both the head and feet of Lucky Nickel's brother to pass.  Chances were good that Lucky Nickel would also have difficulties in birthing kids.

In other news (which is actually good news but is still sad for me), my two angora bunnies went to a wonderful new home at Hedgeapple Farm this week.  I bought my first registered Icelandic sheep there, and have spent many good times at my spinning guild with the farm's owners.  I know my rabbits are in good hands.  In addition, Valentino, the ultimate curly-whirly angora wether found a new home on an alpaca farm, and unexpectedly, Horton, Misky and Larke all went with him.  While I am thrilled that my animals have wonderful new homes, it is still hard as they leave, each one taking a little piece of my heart and mind.

Despite all the unhappy news, I did have a huge weight lifted from me this week.  I actually sold my farm, and am now just waiting for the inspection and closing.  This is incredible, given that it has been on the market just a few days over 3 months, and given the dreadful state of the US housing market.  I am in awe.  When one is doing the right things in one's life, somehow, the pieces seem to fall into place.  I have no other way to explain this turn of events.  My mind just keeps saying the same thing over and over...."meant to be."   I wish I could say the same for Kenzie.


texwisgirl said...

Terribly sorry for your loss. And I know you are tortured that she died in a steel cage. But you did what you thought was right to give her the promise of a protected life. Sometimes things don't work out the way we'd like. I am truly sorry for your pain.

I am glad Lucky Nickel is doing well. And very happy you have sold your farm. I know this is a painful transition for a lot of reasons, but keep your eye on the prize and you will make it there.

Anonymous said...

You have to know how much my heart goes out to you. We really do make those choices out of love, and you really can't keep beating yourself up over it. I know how hard it is, and I still feel guilty over breeding Mabel one last time because she had such wonderful kids that I was suddenly able to keep. I had know way of knowing she would have problems and die because I made the choice to breed her again. Unfortunately, love isn't logical and guilt is even less so. You had no way of knowing that she would have complications. If you really believe that things fall into place and that they are meant to be, you have to trust that whether you had made the decision or not to have her spayed, her passing was meant to be. Let the tears be healing tears, and know that she had a wonderful life as a part of your family.

Pricilla said...

You do the best you can and sometimes things happen. You didn't DO anything to her. You were trying to give her the best life possible.

Goat hugs

Michelle said...

Oh my, what heartbreak and joy, laughter (ornery house goat!) and sorrow all in one post. ((((HUGS)))) for the pain, and huzzahs for the house sale!

Mare said...

I am so sorry for your loss Claire...Some say you don't die until it is your time, so if that is true, then no matter what decision you made, what would be would be...I am happy you sold your home. Now it's on to the new adventure!

Jenny Holden said...

Gosh, you're going through it at the moment! Keep positive, it will be ok. You were only trying to do your best for your animal, sadly things don't always work out the way they ought. It wasn't your fault, it was a medical error, or simply bad luck, so please don't keep beating yourself up. Good luck with your move xx
PS If you tag the ear lower down it wont be so droopy. Just make sure you tag between the cartilage.

IsobelleGoLightly said...

Many hugs and kisses to you, Claire. Please don't blame yourself. xxxx oooo

K- said...

We humans have the unfortunate tendency to assume we have complete control over things. Or that we *should* have complete control. And when things happen out of our control, we then feel that we must be responsible, and take on way too much guilt. The complications from Kenzie's surgery were out of your control. You could just as well blame the vet because *maybe* he/she didn't take enough care. In fact, a lot of people would have blamed the vet. Or you could blame the Canadian gov't for the spay requirement. I hope that after a while you'll be able to realize that this was no one's fault, especially not yours.

farmer said...

I'm truly sorry for your loss,she was a well loved girl.
I want to welcome you to Nova Scotia!! what part are moving to?
I'm from the Annapolis Valley.

Spinners End said...

It isn't selfish to care about your animals and want to do what you felt was the best thing for Kenzie. We humans aren't able to control unforseen consequences of seemingly good decisions. Don't fret too much- you'll always have Kenzie in your heart and mind and it is hard to say what might have happened to her had she been left behind.

I'm so happy you have sold your farm and found good homes for your other woolies! I'd have taken those bunnies in a flash! :)

Many hugs. Sherry

I need orange said...

I'm so sorry.

We try our best to do the right thing, and sometimes things don't turn out the way we mean them to.

S said...

Oh, Claire, as you said to me also, it's not your fault, and we cannot control everything...You did what you thought was right. Kenzie was not meant to make the trip, for whatever reason. Yes, we mourn them because we love them, and we feel guilt because we think we let them down some way, that we could have eased their pain. But you know what? I think that God takes care of our little creatures, that there isn't any paid at the end, and that they don't feel lonely, because I think they're closer to God that we humans are. I suspect your tears are partially due to mourning the life you're leaving behind, also, and you will find that you are filled with complete and utter joy at the beginning of your new life. Maybe you were meant to have a sheepie angel watching over you? :-) Good wishes, Claire.

Flartus said...

Oh Claire, I don't know what to sad you lost a dear one that way.

But don't give in to the guilt. You've been having a really tough winter, and have had to make a lot of really hard decisions on your own. And you've done really, really well. You've done your best, and that's all anyone can ask of you.

I worry that you may be suffering some depression; beating yourself up over something like this is typical of what I do when I'm down (and a long midwestern winter can make it even worse). I hope Lucky Nickel and your exciting future plans help buouy you up this week.


thecrazysheeplady said...


Lisa said...

Shoot, I am very sorry for your loss. It is never an easy part of having animals. Losing them can hurt so much especially if they are untimely. I dont think you should feel like it was your fault, it was not. You were going to take her with you and give her a fantastic home because you cared for her. Not because you wanted bad things to happen.

Keep your chin up. I am so looking forward to hearing all about your transition.

Again, so sorry. My thoughts are with you.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Oh honey, I'm so sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to you. But. I'm so glad you are on your way!

Marigold said...

Oy. I can't imagine what it would be like for the goatmother to have to decide who was to go and who was to stay. Our hearts are with you. On the upside, the goatmother is ecstatic that you are going to be a winemaker.(She and the goatfather are 'into' wine.) She thinks your venture is really exciting! We hope you will continue your blog and we're sorry it has taken us SO long to get over here! :)

luckybunny said...

Hi there, I just stopped by your blog and I was terribly sorry to read this. I could completely relate and I know the pain this has caused, but truly, you tried to do the best thing, and didn't know this would happen. I can honestly say if I were in your shoes, I would have done the same thing, having her spayed, you couldn't have known. I'm so very sorry it happened, my heart goes out to you completely.

I am very happy to read Lucky Nickel (who is adorable by the way) is doing well and I hope that continues. I am also glad you've made progress and while I haven't read back in your blog yet to understand about your move and current transition phase, I know how difficult this is, I was in that position once. I hope things go smoothly from here on out and you are able to get moved soon and settled.

What part of Canada will you be going to? I'm in Ontario.

Leon said...

Losing animals, whether they are pets or livestock, is hard no matter how it happens. I can probably device a way for which I am to blame for deaths on our little homestead... did I put enough hey out, should I have gave them a heat lamp, was I keeping their water clean... most recently, where those steps too steep for that poor leghorn!!

When and where in NS are you moving? We just moved here to the valley and are looking forward to hearing more about your moving adventure.

Mimi Foxmorton said...

Hey-oh lovie-

I have spoken my piece on this matter and maintain my stance. You are the most loving, caring and selfless girl I know.

This part of your journey is almost over and a great, huge winding and adventurous path lies before you. You and LN are truly blessed.

(Plus, I get to give you an ACTUAL hug real soon!)

Carry on.


Karin said...

That must have been such a hard decision...I am so sorry it didn't turn out the way you had expected. All I know is you did everything BECAUSE you loved that sheep. There is something to be said for that. There was no way you would have known that complications would arise...

Texan said...

I am so sorry about Kenzie. :O(. You were taking her with you yes for you but for her as well becaused you loved her. I know its hard when we make decisions and then a furry friend doesn't make it. If we only had crystal balls, sadly we do not. You are and have always been so good to your animals and if they could talk I know they would stay that too!

My Life Under the Bus said...

Oh I am so sorry! I am so sorry this had a poor outcome and sorry you are hurting : (. You have given her such love and a good home she was not deprived for a day. XOXO hugs

dizzylettuce said...

Claire, I am so sorry for your loss. Please be gentle with yourself. You did the best that you could. Remember, my partner Marti, the animal communicator, often finds that animals that die have reasons that we could never imagine.
much loving, Jennifer

Debbie said...

I'm so sorry you lost your little friend. I am so glad your plans are coming together though. If it's meant to be, it will be.