One thing we know when we get pets is that they will die.
When we moved to the farm in 2005 we needed some sheep to keep the pasture grass down. Although only May, the grass was already knee high. We bought four sheep, lambs actually, all ewe lambs. We pointed out the four we wanted from a larger flock of about 20. The lady delivered them to us (with two llamas) later that day. We agreed we would not name the sheep.
As it happened one of the ewes, the one my daughter had picked out, became very friendly, she had a unique brown spot on her back which was why my daughter had chosen her from the flock. She was a Suffolk Dorset cross, and because of her friendly nature she became my daughter’s favorite sheep and was soon referred to as “Favorite”, so that actually became her name; Favorite Sheep.
Favorite sheep at one year of age (before her stroke) after being sheared.
Favorite sheep had a good life, grazing on 10 acres, she had lambs. One summer, she had a stroke. I had noticed one of her ears was floppy, and something was not quite right. I later realized she had suffered a stroke, her tongue hung out and she got a fat cheek as she would have problems eating and her food (sheep chew cud) would build up inside her cheek. When sleeping she would have great globs fall out of her mouth. She started to smell bad; a result of constant drooling.
That year we did not think she was pregnant, but she surprised us with lambs, lucky lambs in fact. It was January (in Canada) she had given birth and wandered off. My daughter and I happened to be going out to take pictures of other lambs and found them, still wet, one still in the sack, with temperatures below freezing they would have died if not for the timing. We were able to realize it was Favorite who had given birth, she had blood on her rump, but was not producing milk, so we had to bottle feed the lambs. We did put them in a stall together for bonding, and she did look after them as a mother, with the exception of being able to feed them. We kept one of the lambs, and named her Blackie.
Over the next couple of years we had to watch her carefully for lambing and feed her a lot extra prior to lambing, she got more oats than the others because she was not an efficient eater. Most “farmers” would have culled (slaughtered) her long ago, but our sheep are more pets than livestock. Although she was a burden in some ways her sweet friendly personality was also treasured. As much as she was not the brightest sheep in the barn she still seemed to be the leader.
After her stroke – Favorite is in the front, you see her droopy ear and eye not as bright, and can almost notice her fat cheek.
She had two more years of having lambs, twins each time, each time having one that had a spot on its back.
This past Sunday I went out to feed dandelions to the sheep, they grow tall next to the house where the sheep cannot get them. I noticed Favorite sheep was missing. This is not unusual sometimes she is off by herself sleeping. But upon walking around the pasture I knew something was wrong, and I would probably find a body. There were piles of wool strewn across the pasture, a sign of a death, often predators drag the body which causes fleece to be removed. Sure enough I found her partially eaten remains.
I actually suspect she died rather than been killed, a predator would have been more likely to kill a smaller lamb, but of course I have no way of knowing.
Her this year lambs are old enough to be without her but it was sad, I saw them standing in one of the piles of her wool calling for her.
I write this to share her memory. Many sheep go through life with one destiny, to be slaughtered as babies, killed as lambs. Favorite was lucky to be female, and lucky to have ended up on a farm of suckers, who could not slaughter their own animals. She may not have known it, but she was loved and will be missed.