Submitted by Lloyd Erickson
It was a dark and stormy night in mid-November when the young ewe knew her time had come. Some ancient instinct took her away from the other sheep and away from the warm barn, away to a sheltered spot under the low hanging branches of fir trees. The owner had not rounded up the sheep at dusk, as was his habit, but had taken his wife out for dinner. When he arrived later to bring food into the pens, it was pitch dark and raining and he did not notice the young ewe was missing. It was not until the next morning when the owner came to the pens that he spotted the ewe was not there. Fearing the worst, the owner marched up the fields toward a white spot. The young ewe was there along with something more. Two new lambs, bright and curious, were standing behind their mother. Both lambs were as black as the night they were born in, carrying the colour of their father. They were identical, with white tips on their tails and white fronted faces. The only difference between them was that one had a black nose, and one had a white nose. The owner carried the lambs to their own stall in the barn, and toweled them dry. He fed the ewe an extra ration of grain and grass.
These lambs were born three months early. Normally they come in mid-February. Due to rain and snow in December and January the lambs have to be kept in the barn most of the time. And, of course the mom is kept in with them. But they all need to be let out, even for short periods. Sooner or later the quick growing lambs are let out into the field to mix with the other sheep.
It was an idyllic pastoral life for the little lambs, until one day in mid-February when someone’s dog got into the field. It got excited trying to play with the sheep, and it succumbed to canine instincts. The dog picked on the lamb with the black nose. It nipped at lamb’s side then bit its leg, its shoulder, and its neck. Then the dog left. I don’t know whether the larger sheep interfered, or the lamb managed to move out of harms way, or whether the owners of the dog intervened. The torture stopped before the lamb was killed. When I found the lamb it was in the lean-to next to the barn; it had not come into the barn with the other sheep. It could barely stand. Its head was held low at a funny angle. Investigating, I found a deep gash in its neck, sufficiently deep that tendons had been cut. There were cuts on its side that we had to sew together, and its right leg was wounded somehow such that the lamb could not put its full weight on it. The lamb could not lift its head to suckle its mother. We would have to bottle-feed it. On the positive side, there had been relatively little bleeding, considering the number of cuts and gashes. And, of the two lambs, this one had started feeding on grain, even competing with its mother at the food bucket, so grain it got. At this time of writing, two weeks after the incident, the lamb is accompanying the flock to the field. But its head, which it can’t lift, is still cocked at a funny angle. And the lamb is still limping.
I am certain that a dog caused the damage to our lamb. The cuts are all on the lower part of the lamb. I have seen dogs play fighting, nipping and biting the same areas where there are wounds on the lamb. I am suspicious that some unthinking person allowed their dog to run off-leash next to our field and didn’t have adequate control. I have seen people doing that over the past few months, and I’ve asked them to put their dogs on leash. Some people argue that they have some god-given right to walk their dog’s off-leash here; they don’t realize they are walking on private property (see photo). Some people argue that their dog is super friendly and wouldn’t harm a flea. As you can see, it’s not the dog’s fault; it’s the owners’ fault.
With respect to this incident, it is possible the owner did not see what happened, since that type of event happens so quickly. Even if they had seen that the dog was in the field, they might not have realized how badly the lamb was injured because the lamb, and the rest of the sheep, might have run away. It’s also possible that a dog running at large caused the incident and the owner didn’t know about it. Either way, I am still angry.
We had two new lambs born on February 18. So far, they’ve been kept in the barn. But they will have to go outside soon. Please keep your dogs on a leash any time you are near our page wire fences. They are there to keep my sheep in. And keep your dogs out. But sometimes dogs do get in. If I ask you to put a leash on your dog, please do that. Do I need to bring the injured lamb over to show you why?