I have a routine when I bring the animals in at night. First the female goats and kids, then the wethers and bucks, then the sheep. Every night it’s the same, and it goes like clockwork. They know the routine as well as I do.
Last night I went through the motions as always, but when I got to the sheep there was a problem. I opened the door to let them in and Stella was nowhere to be seen. I walked out to the pasture and called her. “Here, sheep sheep.” I listened for a telltale baaa. Nothing.
Now anyone who’s been following our blog will remember that we’re no strangers to lost sheep, but unlike our first two, Stella and Harriet don’t even think about escaping. Ever. I started combing the property thinking that maybe she’d inadvertently grazed, head down, right under a fence. I toured the back pasture, I looked on the front lawn, I even looked in the orchard across the road where the horses are grazing. Nothing.
It was obvious Stella hadn’t left of her own accord, so I started to fear the worst. I turned my attention to the wooded section behind the pasture, looking for clumps of bloody wool or flattened grass where a carcass might have been dragged. Nothing was out of place.
I returned to the barn, wondering if somehow she’d gotten in with the goats and I just hadn’t noticed. I checked all the stalls twice. She simply wasn’t there.
I went outside again for another tour of the pastures and that was when I spotted a little cloven foot sticking out from under the ramp to the barn. It was attached to Stella who had wedged herself into the spot where the ramp meets the ground, and in doing so had knocked out one of the supports. The 14 ft ramp appeared to have her pinned to the ground.
I ran for the bottle jack from the garage and frantically pumped up the ramp. Although it took the weight off of her, Stella didn’t seem to want to move. Pulling her out wasn’t an option because I had no idea what injuries she’d incurred. Although I was afraid I’d give her a heart attack, I decided I’d have to get in there with the tractor and lift the ramp high enough to free her completely. As soon as the ramp came up Stella stood up, shook herself off, and leisurely wandered around looking for grass. I took a deep breath and registered yet another nervous breakdown narrowly avoided.
Why Stella didn’t make a sound to let me know where she was is beyond me. She was silent through the whole episode. Perhaps she didn’t want to attract predators, but she sure wasn’t doing herself any favours. Goats would have been all about yelling their lungs out to get help. The more I get to know sheep, the more I wonder exactly what is keeping their ears apart.
Last night I counted sheep many times in my sleep, and, no thanks to them, they were both there. Disaster averted.