I mentioned earlier this week that we had a ewe of twins suddenly go down with a raging fever Sunday afternoon. 108.7 degrees! Normal for a sheep is 100-102 degrees. (See all the completely-inapplicable-to-anything-in-your life facts you can pick up as a reader here at High Cotton?)
We called the vet.
We weren’t sure exactly what it was, but heatstroke seemed likely–although odd. We moved her to the cool concrete garage floor, started some fans running, and Mr. Fix-It started shaving her. (“Shearing” implies something neat, intentional, and organized–he was just shaving as fast as the clippers would go through.)
And we started praying. (Without any other way to help sometimes, our kids are becoming quite the farming prayer warriors.)
The vet got there and started an IV (you can see that dark spot on her neck where the catheter was put in), and the garage floor did it’s job. Her temp was back down to normal within an hour.
She was able to sit up like she is in that picture, but she wasn’t able to stand up on her own. She would eat and drink if we put the pans right by her head, but she couldn’t move to them if they got bumped away by the lambs. We didn’t know if she had brain or nerve damage from the high fever.
And, what about the lambs?! If she couldn’t stand, what would they eat? Had the fever had dried up her milk? Would she just reject the lambs from stress?
I tried hand feeding the little guys on Sunday and Monday, but they were having none of it. So I hung a bottle of milk replacer up and draped it with their momma’s wool (that crazy contraption hanging up there by her head) in case they might try it if they did get desperate. And we kept praying.
By Wed with no significant change by lunchtime, we conferred with our vet again. She was bright-eyed and eating, but unable to stand up. Was this a hopeless situation? She’s a valuable, purebred ewe that produced a fine set of twins this year and last year for us…we decided that we hadn’t completely exhausted the playbook and came up with a couple more strategies to try.
But when I got home on Wed she was prone on her side again, kicking her legs uselessly. I have to admit, I thought she was a goner.
Crying and praying (and sneezing), I heaved her up, up, up onto her feet one more time.
And she stayed.
For an hour!
By Thursday she was getting up and down by herself and her appetite had increased significantly.
The little ones were nursing every time she was up on her feet and they’re frisking about like normal lambs, so we even think her milk supply is ok, although it’ll take close monitoring.
We let her graze fresh grass from the backyard last night and everyone is moving to new spring grass this weekend so hopefully all those fresh vitamins and minerals and yummy, leafy foods will help her get back on track. While we don’t feel like she’s completely out of the woods yet, she definitely seems to be on the road to recovery. What a blessing!
It’s frustrating not knowing exactly what set all this off or what might have been going on inside to cause her to react to the heat so badly while everyone else was fine. I guess it’s a good reminder that we’re not all-knowing God.
It also brings home my point from a few weeks ago. If you’re visiting a farm, be careful how you judge the animals’ appearances. She might always be a little stiff, a little slow, a little scraggly… but what a trooper! Still nursing, still mothering, still dedicated to her job! What an example of perseverance!
What a lesson to the rest of us!