The hot weather makes everyone crabby and unfortunately seems to impair our thinking abilities--whether we be four-legged or two-legged. Getting through the day with a minimum of effort and movement seems to be what everyone is trying to do.
In an earlier post I talked about Blue, the ram getting himself hog-tied with string from a big bale of hay. That was at the beginning of the week. Thursday night was a bit hectic after I got home. When I pull into the garage, I generally do a quick look over on the sheep. I don't usually do a headcount, since its almost impossible to do without going out into the pasture. Instead I look up and down the fence and about making sure no one looks hung up or distressed. Things looked fine. Shortly after I got home, the pump man came (again---more later on that!) to look at the pump. That took some time, then I was busy doing my normal evening chores, and getting everyone watered and on and on. Finally it was time to call the sheep in, and when the 26th one came through the gate and there was no 27th, I had that familiar feeling of dread sink over me. I thought I knew who it was that was missing, but did a quick scan over again to make sure. When a sheep is missing and you don't hear bellers out in the field from the abandoned sheep, it is a very bad thing. I quickly gathered up a halter, a small can of feed and a bucket of water, not knowing what I was getting into, and because of the heat, not wanting to travel back and forth. June is a big old Dorset ewe. She is very tall, but not really stocky. When she was just a lamb she developed pneumonia, and it has left her with some lung damage. She also has a delicate metabolism and has had a couple of spells where her thiamine absorption has gotten out of whack. I have learned how to help control this, but I have to keep ahead of the game to do it. I expected to find her stretched out dead, but at first I couldn't see anything at all. Finally I saw her standing in an area where there are some shade trees and some old dead fall. Exactly where she was standing when I got home. Because of her distinctive tall frame, she is easy to spot. However since she was standing in one of their normal hangouts, I thought everything was fine.
As I got closer, I was thinking that perhaps her thiamine was off again, but since she hadn't had any change in her feeding habits (which is usually what causes the problem), and it usually comes on with slower symptoms, I wasn't sure why she would. Then closer still, I could see she looked horribly stressed, and decided that the heat had just been too much for her. When I got up to her, though, I realized she had been 'tied' to a tree by a grapevine! For Pete's sake! It was effectively tying her neck to the tree, but not cutting off her airway. However, she would not have been able to lie down or move for how ever long she was caught up. It was likely not more than 5 or 6 hours, as my Mom usually does 'well being' checks mid-day on the sheep, and she thinks that June was in a different spot at the time. The weather, however was relentlessly hot that day.
So, because I didn't think to bring a knife or any kind of cutters, I had to maneuver the vine off over her head. I slipped the halter on and poured some of the water over her neck and top of the head. She didn't like that at all, and had enough wherewithal to stagger off towards the home paddock, with me encouraging her from behind. She was very out of it, eyes glazed, and so very hot.
Once in the paddock, I pushed, and pulled her up to one of the stalls and locked her in. She was refusing any food and could only stand by propping herself against the side of the stall. I went to the house and made up two 35 cc syringes of A-lyte/water mixture, another syringe with 12 cc's of nutri-drench and an injection of Thiamine (just in case). I was able to drench her orally with the A-lyte and nutridrench, however I felt like she needed more to get her re-hydrated. Unfortunately I had only had a little of the A-lyte left. I went back to the house and rummaged around in the 'sheep cabinet' and found some Pedialite in individual small bottles. I was able to carefully drench her with another 140 ccs of the Pedialite. She was still so distressed, and you could feel the heat just steaming off her. I didn't think I had anything to lose, since I felt I was losing her, so I dragged the hose up there and started running it over her legs, belly, back and neck. She didn't like it much, but after a bit, she felt less hot. Since it was so hot in the barn, after her 'treatment' I turned her out in the lot with the other sheep. A really good north breeze had come up, but you couldn't feel it in the barn. She went and staggered across the lot and found a corner of fence to prop herself in. It was dark by then. I went in the house, but checked on her several times over the next few hours. I finally dozed off and when I woke it was after midnight. I got up and put Boone out and went out to check the sheep. June was walking in big aimless loops, still staggering. I was just getting ready to get the halter and put her in a stall, when she fell down. She was able to lay on her brisket in the 'normal' sheep resting position and she seemed like she was content to stay there so I left her. I got up at 4:00 to check her again, expecting her to be dead, but she was laying in a different spot and best of all chewing cud. Several hours later when I fed everyone their grain she dove in with gusto. She was still unsteady on her feet, but definitely stronger. She looked horrible though--you can tell it took alot out of her. The drenching with the hose didn't help either, since it just stirred around all those weeks of dirt accumulation! The next day after I got home in mid afternoon I drenched her with about 70 ccs of A-lyte (restocked) and gave her a handful of cookies. She seems to be doing okay, but I'm not sure how she will do long term if this heat continues.
One time a fellow shepherdess was telling a funny story about having company over at their house. About mid day or so, she told her guest that she needed to go and 'count sheep'. Her guest thought this extremely funny and had a good laugh over it, but to the shepherdess it was a normal part of the day.
Counting the sheep is deadly serious to the Shepherd. Only when that 27th comes in, does the Shepherd smile and relax.