Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Very Sad Day

I'll start by thanking everyone for their prayers, thoughts, and notes of encouragement on this very sad day. I cannot express how much they all mean to me. And now, for those who don't already know, I have to tell you that two of our beautiful sheep were killed this morning by what we believe was a loose dog. Could have been a coyote. Could have been more than one. It was hard to tell.

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When I was a young girl, I rode horses every chance I could get. I rode at camp. I rode at friends' houses. I took a few lessons. I rode every horse I got close to. And I never fell off. I thought I was quite a rider to be able to boast that no horse had ever "thowed" me. But then someone I respected said to me, "Well, you can't be much of a rider if you've never fallen off." HUH? Truth is, if you ride enough, and challenge yourself enough to grow, you will eventually fall off. Probably numerous times.

Guess I felt the same way about shepherding: I'd never lost a sheep. I must be doing everything right. But the reality is, if you have sheep long enough, you will eventually lose one or two or three or more. I stubbornly refused to believe that this truism applied to me, until today.

Sheep fall prey to so many dangers: old age, injury, worms, dogs, each other, themselves for pete's sake. (I have often saved Shadrach from killing himself.) Sheep are not the sharpest knives in the drawer. Sheep are vulnerable. They have only one defense: speed. And their speed is often matched by the critters who want to eat them. They need protection. Their need for protection has to be balanced with their need for the freedom to graze in the open. Freedom and constraint battle constantly in our husbandry decisions. We do our best. I know I'm not perfect and that the world is an unpredictable, dangerous place sometimes.

But nothing prepared me for the sight that greeted me in the pasture this morning. Our beautiful Esther down. On the other side of the paddock, little Eli down as well. And the remaining five huddled against the shed. (Mordecai sustained a small wound on his throat that I don't believe is serious, thank God.) I thought of all the plans I had for Esther's exceptional fleece, about her incredible journey to come to the farm, and all the progress I'd made in making her less afraid of me. And little Eli - the only non-bottle-fed Gulf Coast sheep who enjoyed a good long face scritch, and the one who insisted on eating his hay standing in the middle of the trough while all the other sheep ate around him. My heart broke into a hundred little pieces. Then I got hopping mad. So mad. I vowed right then that this week, I will learn to responsibly use the 16 gauge shot gun we own. Nobody takes my sheep from me.

I've been through the grief spectrum several times: sad, mad, disbelieving, fearful, accepting, blaming, flippant. Right now, I'm feeling very vulnerable about the critters, both sheep and alpacas, left in the pastures. How can I protect them better?

Well, I'm a pragmatist. And an optimist. God brings good out of every evil - sometimes we get to see it and sometimes we don't, but I believe He does. So what good will come out of this tragedy? One thing I can do is to make a list of the most reasonable improvements we can make in the field, and get a plan in place to implement them. Next on the calendar: tighten the existing fences, and put up real fences in the day pasture where only electric netting sits now. And while that's going on: start the search for a good guard dog. Or two.

And lastly, make myself believe that "the best I can do" is really the best. I. can. do.

14 comments:

  1. I feel for you, my friend, and I know exactly how you feel. We do the best we can -- and I know you do -- but sometimes we are still surprised by what life throws at us! All you can do is exactly what you are doing -- learn from the experience and make changes where you can. You know the old adage: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!" Let me know when I can be of help!

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  2. I'll call soon. May need The Welder, too.

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  3. Oh Cindy, I'm so sorry. I guess you are getting a taste of what the Good Shepherd must feel when we, His sheep are lost. How His heart breaks for your sheep as well. May the God of All Comfort be very near.

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  4. Again, I say "don't beat yourself up over this". Marauding dogs are a constant problem with livestock. All those improvements are sound. i like the shotgun and LGD along with the fences. In New Mexico we used to have large packs of feral dogs run through our property not to mention the street gang coyotes. Sheep just are so vulnerable for all the reasons you present.

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  5. Thank you all for your love. It is such a comfort. It's true, Karelin. In church yesterday I was thinking how Jesus' heart breaks when he loses one of his sheep from his fold. I felt His presence with me in my pain.

    And the pain is beginning to subside. We must move ahead. I can't let this get me down. It's just part of the "package" of being a farmer, a job which most of the time is an indescribable joy.

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  6. Cindy, I am so sorry about your loss. But I know you - you're one determined individual, and you'll protect your family - whether it's a sheep family or a people family! :)

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  7. This is so sad. It is always very hard to loose any animal that you cared for and love.

    I am so very sorry for your loss.

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  8. Cindy, my jaw dropped when I saw this. I am so sorry! Knowing how much all your furry guys mean to you, I know this is painful.

    The behavior sounds more like feral dogs than coyotes if that makes a difference in how you tackle the problem. This situation seems to be growing because more people are letting their dogs loose in the country because they can't afford to take care of them.

    If there is anything we can do to help, let us know. Gene is also willing to help with fencing if he is available.

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  9. I share your great sadness. -- I wanna practice shooting, too.

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  10. Sweet girl and family- we are so sad for you and with you- the loss of an animal is a grievous thing for us. that GOD knows when a sparrow falls - we know HE knows your grief and is there with you in this difficult time. We just take comfort knowing ALL animals are in heaven - maybe it is silly- but hey- HEAVEN is a BIG place - so we beleive Ester and Eli are roaming in the fields of the KING and lying with the lions with no fear. We love you

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  11. Anonymous4:39 AM

    Dear precious friend,
    I just love what Karelin and Jim and Lynn shared about our Lord. I know you trust Him and the Lord regards Jacobs Farm and every one of your animals as precious and belonging to Him so I just know that He is grieved too. Yes, God will turn what the enemy intended for evil out to good and those precious sheep knew how much you loved them and how good you were to them and now they can rest beside the cool still waters and quiet green pastures with our Lord beside them. Fear not, for the Lord our God is with you. Be strong and take courage my friend. I will pray for a hedge of protection over everything that concerns you including each and every animal you have. The grace of God is sufficient for you in this very hour. Blessings of grace and peace.

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  12. Cindy, I just heard last night about your losses and I am so sorry. Looks like you are already moving forward with great hope for the year ahead and a good plan to further protect your flock! - Erin @ Juniper Moon

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  13. My heart just breaks to hear this story! So terribly sorry for your loss.

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  14. I, too, am sorry for your loss. Don't kick yourself over this. I agree, God will bring good our of this in the end, whether we see it or not.

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