Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Making a decision twice

"Yes." My voice was weak and crackling when responding to the question posed by the person on the other end of the phone who was put on the line to confirm my decision to have Timpani and Windy put down this morning.

Timpani's picture in my book, Raising Goats Naturally
Although we've been out here for eleven years and have had to make such decisions in the past, this was by far the hardest. Even as I type this, I continue to question if it was the right decision. When the lamb was born without an anus and the kid was born with its intestines outside of its body, it was so obvious that we needed to end their lives. Today's decision was simply not that obvious or easy.

One thing I learned from this is that there is a big difference between survival and recovery. Even if one of the does managed to survive, her odds of recovering would not be good. She might forever be unable to walk and could possibly have other neurological problems for the rest of her life. One could certainly not breed a doe that can't walk, and because the uterus is a muscle, we have no way of knowing if she would even be able to give birth. Even if the kids were born, how would they nurse from a mother who can't stand?

Katy the llama is an experienced mother, and Oscar is almost four months old, so he is smart enough to find her teats even though she's laying down. But one of the things that we've learned with Katy over the past week is that an animal's condition can continue to worsen before the meningeal worms are killed by the treatment. Katy had recently peed and pooped before we took her to the clinic, but she lost the ability to do so within a few hours of her arrival there. She has a catheter in place now, and they've been manually removing feces. Although a little urine leaked out next to the catheter today, they said not to get too excited because it may not mean that she actually urinated, especially because she still does not have any feeling back there, and her tail still has no muscle tone.

I also received messages via email and Facebook from people who have had goats with meningeal worm in the past. Most did not recover, and some hung on for weeks before the decision was finally made to have them put down. Killing the worms and repairing spinal cord or brain damage are two entirely different things. Although modern medicine can certainly kill the worms, repairing the damage to the nervous system is mostly up to the animal's body, although they can be helped by anti-inflammatories and other drugs. And then it also depends on exactly where the worm got into the spinal cord or brain and how much damage it has done. Timpani and Windy had such different conditions because the worms in their bodies had attacked different parts of their nervous systems. There were so many questions and no one who could really answer them.

There are so many reasons why this was a hard decision, and the fact that it was Timpani and Windy seemed to make it worse. Their mother Viola died a couple days after giving birth to them in 2012, which is why they were my bottle babies. Because Viola peaked at two gallons of milk a day, I had such high hopes for them as milkers. But I remind myself that it was only hope because they had not freshened yet, and maybe they would not have lived up to expectations.

Timpani and Windy will be necropsied this afternoon, and we'll learn if there was anything else going on that contributed to their illness. As for what we'll do next on the farm, we'll be giving dewormer to the other goats that spent the summer across the creek being rotated through the woods, which is undoubtedly where they got the meningeal worm. It comes from deer, which I have never seen in our regular pastures, most likely due to the fact that our dogs go nuts if deer ever come within view. But this past summer, we had the dry does and retired goats in a remote wooded area where deer frequent.

Making the decision to euthanize Timpani and Windy is by far the hardest decision I've ever had to make. But looking at Katy's progress, I couldn't help but think that I might only be delaying the inevitable and prolonging their suffering if I chose differently. It's only noon, but I'm yawning as if it's midnight. This has been a mentally exhausting day.

Deciding again ...

I had just finished writing everything above when the phone rang. It was the vet. She said that Timpani had been euthanized, but when they went to euthanize Windy, they noticed that her neurologic symptoms had drastically decreased and she was walking. They felt that I should know that before moving forward with the euthanasia. Last night when we spoke, I had told her that unless the goats made miraculous improvements overnight, I was leaning towards euthanasia. This sure seemed to fit the definition of a miraculous improvement, so as my eyes started to fill up with tears and I got a huge lump in my throat, this time I said, "No! Don't euthanize her. Continue with treatment, and give her everything that we had talked about, including the thiamine and everything."

Then the vet told me that she knew she had to call when Windy looked her in the eyes. Her nystagmus -- quivering eyeballs -- was almost gone. The fact that she was looking the vet in the eyes says volumes because she was previously not even looking at anyone. You might remember I initially thought she had gone blind. I don't remember everything else the vet said. My brain just kept screaming that Windy was fighting, and if she was fighting, I couldn't give up on her. And after hanging up the phone, I cried even more than I did after making the first decision this morning. This time, however, I was jumping up and down crying tears of joy rather than sitting at my desk quietly crying into my hands, feeling defeated. I know that Windy has a long road ahead of her still, but being able to walk will make the journey a lot easier.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The toughest decision

Mike came into the house Monday morning to say that another goat was down.

Another goat? Yes, about ten days earlier we found Timpani, a mini mancha, laying in the snow first thing in the morning. She was hypothermic and couldn't stand. Even when she was warmed up, she still couldn't stand. Her symptoms reminded me of the goat we had about eight years ago that was paralyzed from a spinal cord injury. Goats fight all the time, and it's pretty amazing that they don't wind up with more injuries than they do. Timpani was very happy, and when we put warm water and food in front of her, she ate like there was no tomorrow. Because her only symptom was semi-paralysis, it really appeared that she was injured, rather than ill.

Katy with vet wrap on her neck, holding the IV catheter in place.
Cria Oscar has been staying with her at the clinic.
Then last week, Katy the llama was unable to stand, so we took her to U of I and learned that she had meningeal worm. (See last two posts for the whole story on Katy.) I told the vets about Timpani, but she actually seemed to be doing better by then. She could stand some and take some wobbly steps, so we thought she was on the mend.

And then yesterday, Mike found her sister Windy (short for Woodwind) laying down and unable to get up. Unlike Timpani, Windy seemed very sick. At first glance, I thought she was blind because she didn't look at me, but after flicking my fingers at her head, I realized that she could see. Mentally, however, she was absent. I stood her up in front of a hay feeder, and she refused to eat. I put a bucket of warm water in front of her, and she completely ignored it.

I came into the house and called U of I, explaining all of her symptoms. I told the vet tech on the phone that because we had already spent a fortune on Katy, who was still not well, we needed to be mindful of costs. However, I really wanted to bring the goats to the clinic because I wanted an answer. Knowing that meningeal worm requires snails and deer to reproduce and infect a goat or llama, I was wondering if that was really the culprit. Could I really have two or three animals infected? Because I had said that Windy was so sick, I didn't expect her to survive for 24 hours, she said that I could just bring her in to have her euthanized and necropsied. That was a sobering thought. I felt my eyes start to fill with tears and don't remember what the tech said at that point, but I knew that it was the cheapest, most accurate way to get definitive answers.

Windy at the vet clinic
Ultimately we decided to take the goats to the clinic and have them examined. Initially everyone, including a neurologist, thought that Windy had listeriosis. Her symptoms were classic. She was leaning to one side and had the classic eyeball twitching of a goat with listeriosis. She had to be leaning against someone or something, or she'd fall down.

Timpani in her crate when we arrived at the clinic
When they first examined Timpani, they thought that she seemed to be lame rather than ill, but as they observed her more, they noticed minor neurologic symptoms as well. After a few hours, they decided to start treating both of them for meningeal worm, based upon symptoms and Katy's diagnosis, and to also treat Windy for listeriosis because her symptoms would have indicated listeriosis, if not for the llama's diagnosis already.

Today, they did spinal taps on the goats and confirmed a diagnosis of meningeal worm for both of them. Unfortunately, the vet professor said that goats do not respond to treatment as well as llamas do. Considering the fact that Katy was supposed to be hospitalized for five days of treatment, and she is still hospitalized and can't stand, pee, or poop on her own, that's not terribly promising, and goats don't respond as well as llamas? What does that mean? The vet professor said that goats have about a 20% recovery rate.

Really, considering Windy's condition, I would think her odds are even worse than that. But what about Timpani? She was nibbling at the vet's boot liners and everything else she saw at the vet clinic. Other than her wobbly gait, she acts almost normal. The vet and I talked about euthanizing both goats and doing necropsies to be sure that there isn't anything other than the meningeal worm at work here.

I've posted a couple of status updates on my own Facebook page, as well as the Antiquity Oaks page, and a few people with meningeal worm experience have responded. One said that they had a goat that seemed happy and kept eating for a month before they finally decided to put him down. Several others talked about having goats die in spite of treatment.

I told the vet I wanted to wait until morning before making a decision. I'm afraid it's going to be a long night.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A few steps forward, a few steps back

Katy the llama is still at the University of Illinois vet clinic, and we don't know when she will be coming home. One day things look better, the next day they look worse, and some days it is a mixed bag.

The paralysis initially got worse, as evidenced by her inability to even pee or poop, so they had to insert a catheter and manually remove feces. Yesterday she pooped, so that was good. Today she didn't, so that's not so good.

She has had problems with her blood sugar, so they had to start monitoring that and giving her insulin when necessary. Today she seems to be stable in that area. They've also been monitoring electrolytes and ketones in her urine.

Being recumbent -- not standing -- is bad, so they've been lifting her in a sling twice a day and doing physical therapy. The good news for today was that when they removed the sling, she was actually able to maintain her weight on her own four legs and take a couple of steps before collapsing. But getting up is the hard part, and she can't do that yet.

Yes, the bill has left the stratosphere. But you get to a point where you've already spent so much money that you really want to get a live animal out of the deal, so you keep saying yes to each new treatment that becomes necessary.

Little Oscar is doing well. He is nursing and eating hay and llama feed, and because of all the people surrounding his mother daily, he is getting very accustomed to human interaction. If there is anything positive about the whole situation it is that he should be much easier to train after this experience.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Llama emergency

 It all started on Tuesday morning as I was pulling into the parking lot of the Illinois Farm Bureau for the board meeting of the Illinois Specialty Growers Association of which I'm a board member. My cell phone rang. It was Jane telling me that Katy was laying down in the pasture, unable to stand. I suggested that she check her eyelids, and if they were pale to give her a dewormer. I checked in a couple of hours later and learned that they had given her a dewormer and also took her hay and a bucket of warm water. She was eating and drinking but still could not stand.

When I got home Tuesday at sundown, I checked on her. She still was not standing, and although she was eating a little bit, she was not drinking. Mike checked on her first thing Wednesday morning, and she was still not standing, so I called the University of Illinois vet clinic, and they said that we could bring her in. The only problem, I explained, was that she was at the bottom of a hill in an area that was completely inaccessible by vehicle. How would we ever get her into a trailer?

The vet professor said that we could use a blanket as a sling to put it under her body, and that once we had her on her feet, she might actually be able to walk a little. So, when we were done with morning chores, Mike, Jane, Jonathan, and I went out there with a blanket and two halters -- one for Katy and one for her little cria Oscar, who is not even four months old yet, so still needs his mama.

Oscar had never had a halter on him prior to that, and he was not happy about it. First we tried a sheep halter, and he went completely nuts, twisting and jumping into the air, spinning around like a whirling dervish. The sheep halter slipped over his nose bridge and started to cut off his air, so I ran to the barn to get the smallest llama halter that we have. I didn't try it initially because I thought it would be too big, but it actually fit pretty well. He was still not impressed, however, so Mike simply picked him up and carried him into the barn to wait for his mama.

We rocked Katy side to side and got the blanket under her, then the four of us lifted her to her feet. (I snapped this picture as Mike and Jonathan came to the conclusion that Jane and I needed to help.)

We were very happy that she was indeed able to walk a little. She had trouble with her back feet, crossing them sometimes, which you can see in the picture above.

She went down completely one time about halfway to the trailer, and once we got her up again, we all tried really hard to keep her on her feet, as getting her up was the hardest part. As she went past the stall where we'd left Oscar, he completely forgot his disdain for humans and was pressing against me to get to his mama, which made leading him to the trailer a piece of cake, as he was simply following her.

After getting them into the trailer, Jane and I went into the house, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and we were on the road to the U of I vet clinic, which is normally a two-hour drive. I'd forgotten how much pulling the trailer can slow you down, so it was a little longer. Once we arrived, it took the vets and techs 15-20 minutes to get her out of the trailer. Oscar was very upset by the whole thing and spent more time spinning and jumping around in the parking lot. The poor little guy has only seen about five human beings in his whole short life, and suddenly he was surrounded by more than a dozen, but Jane did a good job keeping him from getting too wild.

Everyone finally gave up on getting Katy to stand up, and finally six or seven people pushed and pulled and slid her out of the trailer and onto a cart. They wheeled her into the clinic, and Jane led Oscar while someone else was attempting to move him by pulling on his tail, which I've never seen anyone do with a camelid, although I know people do that with cattle a lot. It didn't seem to work at all, and I'm not sure why I didn't say anything or offer to just tap Oscar gently on the back of his legs, which is how we normally train llamas to lead.

I'm not sure how we wound up with a professor, two residents, an intern, and a dozen students, but things happened very quickly. At least six tubes of blood were drawn and sent to the lab, then they did a complete abdominal ultrasound and even got an imaging specialist with whom to confer. There were lots of white spots all over Katy's liver, and although that was not normal, it did not explain her symptoms. They poked and pinched her in various places and discovered that she had very little feeling on the right side of her body. Blood results began to trickle in with some results that were not terribly surprising, such as, she was dehydrated. Another blood test looked like she was fighting an infection and that she might have a parasite problem. Ultimately a spinal tap confirmed a diagnosis of meningeal worm. One of the students showed us the spinal fluid, which was cloudy. It should have been clear enough to read through. The fluid was sent to the lab, and about 90 minutes later, at 6 p.m., as we were already driving home, we got the phone call with the confirmation. Yes, it was meningeal worm.

Katy will be in the intensive care unit for five days of treatment. It sounds scary. The resident said that she could have seizures, but they would be ready to handle that, if it happens. She will need massive doses of dewormer, as well as anti-inflammatory drugs, which could cause ulcers, but they know that and will treat accordingly. Oscar is staying with her so that he can continue to nurse as much as possible -- and also keep her stress level down.

Oscar actually continued to be a challenge after we got into the clinic and they began examining Katy. He was jumping up and down a lot, even when he was allowed to be right next to his mama's face. First they tried putting a blindfold on him, as that generally helps llamas to calm down, but it didn't work with little Oscar. So, they then asked if it was okay to give him a mild sedative because they were worried that he might hurt himself or Katy by jumping on her head or neck. I agreed, and the sedative did certainly calm him down for about half an hour. He laid down with his head next to his mama's and seemed very content. Even when he became more alert again half an hour later, he remained calm.

Meet the meningeal worm ...

The meningeal worm infects the spinal cord and brain of llamas, which is why it can be so devastating, and you can't just give them a dose of dewormer at home like you could if they simply had an intestinal parasite. Although some people give their llamas a dewormer every month in an attempt to avoid a meningeal worm infection, it is highly controversial. Although you might avoid a meningeal worm infection, you will wind up with intestinal parasites that are resistant to dewormers that are being used so frequently, and intestinal parasites can kill llamas too, especially if they are resistant to the dewormers.

As for how the llama got the meningeal worms -- we can blame the white-tail deer, which frequently visit our farm. They are the normal host for the meningeal worm. They poop out the eggs, which are then ingested by slugs and snails, and then llamas accidentally ingest the slugs or snails when eating grass. Some researchers say that they don't even have to ingest the actual slug or snail; they think that the eggs may be in the slime trail left by slugs and snails. Although goats can also get infected by meningeal worm, it is far less common than llamas and alpacas.

Today ...

The resident in charge of Katy and Oscar called me a few minutes ago with an update. She said that Katy's condition has actually worsened. The paralysis, which was mostly evident in her hind legs and right side yesterday is growing. Her front legs are becoming less responsive, as well as her tail. The resident said that it may still be reversible though, and she asked for the OK to increase the anti-inflammatory drugs. As the worms die in her spinal column, they may be causing increased inflammation, which is what has caused the paralysis to spread ... at least that's the theory.

Although Katy appears to still be making milk, and Oscar has been helping himself as much as possible, they are concerned that he isn't getting enough, so she also asked for permission to begin giving him a bottle with goat milk. Of course, I said yes. In addition to making sure that the little guy doesn't go hungry, I also like the idea of them teaching him to take a bottle, rather than me, in case Katy doesn't make it. I know how hard it is to switch a goat from mama to a bottle, so I can't even imagine what it will be like with a cria that is probably 60 or 70 pounds!

Now, we just wait, hope, and pray.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Foul fowl weather

The last few days have certainly been interesting. It all started on Saturday when things got really windy. We lost electricity in the late afternoon. We've learned over the years that if it isn't back in a few seconds, it won't be back for awhile, so Mike tried to start the generator. Key word: tried. It wouldn't start, so he spent the next couple hours working on it. The sun went down, and he kept working with the help of a flashlight, then the barn lights came on.

Good news: Electricity is back.

Bad news: We knew that Sunday's weather was predicted to be worse, and we still did not have a working generator.

Sunday morning, we were lounging in bed, sipping coffee. Mike was texting our daughter who now lives in Ft. Worth, and I was gazing out the window. Suddenly one of the turkey's moveable pens lifted off the ground, flew high into the air, and came down on top of a 12-foot tall pine tree. Mike's head immediately popped up from his cell phone, and as soon as he saw that I was staring out the window with my mouth wide open and spewing expletives, such as "Holy cow!" he whipped his head around in time to see the pen landing on top of the pine tree. He flew out of bed, and as we exited the bedroom, we met Jane, who was also running out of her bedroom. Because I was still in my gown, I was glad to see that Jane was dressed.

She and Mike ran out to the front yard as I ran for my camera. It seemed like it would be entirely inappropriate for me to yell after them, asking them to wait to remove the pen from the top of the tree while I switched to my zoom lens, which is why I didn't manage to get a picture of it. Those pens are not at all heavy, which was good for the tree and good for Mike and Jane, as it was easy to get down, and it had not broken any branches on the tree.

Once they had the pen down, they had to herd the turkeys back in there. Interestingly enough, the other turkey pen did not get blown away at all. We think it's because it was positioned at a 90 degree angle to the one that did get blown. As long as the wind could blow straight through the pen and under the tarp like a tunnel, it didn't get any lift. Unfortunately, the forecast was calling for the wind to shift in the afternoon from the south to the west.

The forecast was also calling for even stronger winds in the afternoon. Ultimately we decided to slide the pens up against the wooden fence, sticking the skids until the fence and tying the pen to the fence. Jane and Mike piled cinder blocks on the two corners of the skids that were not under the fence.

Mike went back to work on the generator, while Jane and I started chores. When we were feeding the sheep, we saw a ram lamb mount a ewe, which should not really have happened because the ram lambs were supposed to be castrated. Jane grabbed the little guy when he wasn't looking, and I checked for the presence of the family jewels. I thought that I felt two testicles that were very uneven in size. Since I had used a Burdizzo to castrate the little guy, I assumed that I had somehow missed the cord on one, so I was heading to the barn to grab the Burdizzo and try again. At that moment Jonathan was hurrying into the pasture to tell us that we were under a tornado alert.

"Well, we have a testicle alert here!" Jane shot back, as she was holding the little ram. I know tornadoes are nothing to play with, but we already had the little guy, so it should only take a minute to redo the job. I grabbed the Burdizzo from the barn and brought it out to the pasture. As soon as we were done and let the lamb go, I heard the roaring that was unmistakeably the sound of a tornado. I told Jane, who is from Baltimore and knows nothing about tornadoes, and we both started rushing to the house. Once we were close to the house, however, she wanted to stay outside and see everything. Amazingly enough, we were getting zero rain -- not even a drop! -- even though the radar showed purple and magenta over us, so we should have been getting buckets of rain. Later we learned that the tornado was only a couple of miles away.

We wound up losing Internet because the tornado knocked out electricity where our service provider's tower is located, but considering all of the people killed and houses damaged, we were extremely lucky. We are only an hour from Washington, IL, which made national news as it had some of the worst damage, and we have a friend closer to Chicago whose neighbor's barn was completely blown to bits. We've also seen a video of a twister touching down near Pontiac, which is only 12 miles from us. So, all things considered, we really can't complain.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sheep debacle, part 2

Sorry it's taken me so long to finish the story about moving the sheep, but you know ... it's been a busy week. And I really wanted to have a picture to go with the story, and that just isn't happening, so here's the story!

Wednesday (the day after the original sheep debacle) is a day when Mike doesn't go to work until the afternoon, so we decided that we would simply set up a lane using our Electronet to move the sheep from their summer pasture to the winter pasture. After all, we have moved them from that pasture to the barn for shearing in the spring, and it worked just fine.

So, Mike set up the Electronet lanes, and no one even told me that they were going to move the sheep. They thought it would work so well. Then they came inside and told me what happened -- and it wasn't exactly what they had planned. Yes, the sheep did run right through the lanes of Electronet just like they do every spring for shearing. Then they ran between the barns (rather than into the barn) and they ran into the winter pasture ... and they ran through the pasture and didn't even bother to stop when they reached the traditional electric fence on the opposite end of the pasture. They went right through those five strands of electric wire and just kept running!

Mike and Jonathan and Jane assumed that the sheep ran around the south side of the pond and right back to their summer pasture, so they had come inside to ask for my help in keeping the sheep from running through the electric fence again after they herded them back the next time. So, I went down to the opposite end of the pasture and was hanging out when I heard screaming from the south, which is the opposite of the direction they were supposed to be coming from. As it turns out, the sheep had not run all the way back to their summer pasture. They had stopped once they were out of sight just south of the pond. So, we opened the gate on the south side of the winter pasture, and the sheep were herded into the pasture! Yay! No ... not so fast!

They ran into the winter pasture heading west, and they kept running ... and running. Everyone (except middle-aged me) ran after them and tried to get ahead of them so they could cut them off before they reached the electric fence on the west side of the pasture and went through it. And believe it or not, they actually succeeded! Yay! Yes, really! Bravo! Okay, not really, bravo ... not yet anyway.

Even though the sheep were in the pasture where we wanted them, it was quite obvious to everyone that they would not stay in there because they have zero respect for traditional electric fencing. Oh, yeah, that's why we moved them to the eastern pastures four years ago! (Those pastures are fenced with woven wire.) Funny how you forget little details like that. I had thought that it was merely because we had been keeping the cattle in the western pastures, and since we sold the cattle in July, we could now put the sheep in there for the winter, which would make winter feeding so much easier. But no, there was a real logistical reason that we had not been keeping sheep in there.

I suggested that we just fence in the sheep exactly where they were. By now, they had stopped running near the northern section of the pasture, and they were eying us suspiciously. I told Jonathan to go get the Electronet that had been used to create the lanes and bring it back and start setting it up to fence in the sheep in the area where they were currently standing. And that is what we did. They happened to be standing in an area where there was woven wire to the north and Electronet already set up on the east and west, so all we had to do was set up Electronet along the south, and they would be secure. It wasn't a huge area, but this was not meant to be permanent -- just to keep them in this area until they calmed down and realized that this was an okay place to spend the next few months.

So, we finally got the sheep where we wanted them, and they stayed put. This weekend, Mike and Jane put up Electronet around the entire perimeter of the western pasture so the sheep would have a larger area to graze and more grass to eat -- at least for a couple more weeks. We have started feeding hay already, and the sheep have calmed down, so this should be the end of the sheep drama ... at least for a few months.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sheep debacle

On Tuesday, we were going to move the sheep to a pasture near the barn to make it easier for us to feed them over the winter. We had been gradually rotating them from one pasture to another in that direction, so it didn't seem like it was going to be a big deal to move them the last leg into the correct pasture.

In addition to myself, there was apprentice Jane, son Jonathan, and a volunteer who's been helping out every Tuesday lately. Since he had zero experience with sheep, we told him to stand in the middle of the ford of the dried-up creek bed so that the sheep couldn't run across there when they reached the pasture. It seemed simple enough. We'd drive the sheep west, and they'd only have two choices -- run into the pasture or into the creek. Simple, right?

We opened up the temporary electric fencing that had been keeping them in their current area, and they were eager to run out.

Things were going splendidly! They ran straight north and then west to exactly where we wanted them to be. Jonathan and Jane were following close behind, and I was way behind because I'm middle-aged and slow.

There were a lot of trees between point A and point B, so I was only getting an occasional glimpse of the sheep, but I could see that they were moving perfectly.

Then suddenly, I see them moving east! What? East? They were coming back! I ran towards the area where I knew they'd be coming through, and when they got near me, I started screaming, "No! No! No!" And they all turned around and started running west again. I was so proud of myself. Then a few sheep ran across the creek before getting to the ford. Jonathan ran across the creek to try and turn them around again.

From this point, it all gets very fuzzy, and there was no more time for picture taking. Apparently the volunteer had walked up out of the middle of the dried up creek bed and was standing much too close to the pasture gate, so the sheep saw him, and they turned around again and came running back to where I was -- and this time they didn't stop when I yelled and jumped up and down, trying to look scary. Half of them ran to one side and half to the other side, zooming right past me! And they kept running ... and running ... and running.

They ran all the way back to their old pastures where they had spent most of the summer. Jonathan and Jane were in hot pursuit. About two-thirds of the sheep stopped in their old pasture, but the other third just kept going and went through the hayfield and then through the fence on the other side of the hayfield and into the woods. Jonathan and Jane disappeared.

Somehow Porter our English shepherd, who has zero herding training, had gotten himself into the pasture and was determined to move two spring lambs into the old pasture with the other sheep. That was not going well at all, and he was completely deaf to all of my commands to "come" and "sit" and "stay." Finally, he did come to me -- probably because he was just too exhausted to keep trying to herd the sheep -- so I took him back to the house. I told the volunteer that he could leave because a bunch of the sheep were gone, as well as Jonathan and Jane, and I didn't know when they were going to be back.

I went back out there, and eventually Jonathan and Jane came back through the woods. They said the sheep were completely lost, but within a few minutes, we heard them. They were across the creek. Everyone split up to go look for them, and at one point, I heard Jane scream. It turns out that the sound she was following was a rabbit that decided to turn around and run straight at her, which startled her.

We eventually got the sheep back into their old pasture. No, we did not try to move them back to the new pasture, which is on the other side of our property. The sun was going down, and we had not even started on evening chores. What we had expected would take about 15 minutes had occupied us for more than an hour.

Check back in a couple of days for the exciting conclusion!


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