I was hoping this story would have a happy ending, like yesterday's blog, but I kind of knew it wasn't going to.
Poppy died last night after a brief illness. Actually, I don't know if it was something she always had that just manifested itself in these last three days, or if it was something she just suddenly got. I don't even know what was wrong with her.
It started out Saturday. I noticed she was very lethargic and not eating with the same gusto as the other sheep. She was laying down a lot while the others were up and nibbling at the grass. I knew it was serious when I tried to entice her to eat some grain and she refused. Usually walking with a bucket of grain is inviting yourself to be trampled on by the sheep who will do anything to get just a morsel.
I took Poppy's temperature and it was 105.5, too far above the average norm of 102. I called Jeffie, the 4-H leader for advice. I was just wondering if I should call the vet, but I kind of knew the answer.
Jeffie asked me a bunch of questions. Was Poppy breathing hard or differently? No. Had she gotten to any poisonous weeds? No. Did she have runny eyes or nose? Any diarrhea? No and No. She wasn't a young lamb or a very old ewe, being just barely one year old. She was pregnant (I think, because she had a "good" mark on her), but not more than one week along, so that was an unlikely factor.
I couldn't figure it out. She was up to date on her shots and worming. None of the other sheep were showing any similar signs or symptoms. Jeffie was baffled too. The only thing she could think of was maybe pneumonia, not uncommon in sheep. I didn't have any penicillin and Jeffie wasn't crazy about the idea of giving it without really knowing what was wrong. She told me to get some Sulmet, kind of cure all for a variety of problems. She also advised against calling a vet who would charge me a "crap load" of money and warned me that the odds were not in my favor any how. I sort of knew that.
I went to the feed store to get the Sulmet. Though the feed store didn't have the pill form, they had the liquid form. I followed the instructions from a trusted goat web site that advised to give as a drench, rather than in the drinking water. It was to be a five day process.
Sunday Poppy got the second dosage. She looked much the same as on Saturday. I was encouraged a bit when I saw her sipping some water and gently nibbling at some hay, but it was obvious she was not headed for a speedy recovery. By Sunday night I figured I'd have to try something else.
On Monday Poppy was definitely worse. I went back to the feed store to get some penicillin. One of the web sites had advised against administering penicillin unless there was a fever involved. She did have a fever, and quite frankly, I figured at this point it couldn't do any more harm.
While giving her the penicillin shot I noticed she had lots of little bruises on her skin where there was no wool coverage (elbow, rear belly areas). And was it my imagination or was she getting a little anemic looking? Throughout the course of the day I checked the internet, searching for solutions, or just answers to what the problem could possibly be. The closest thing I could come up with was a Barber Pole worm infection.
But then why weren't any of the other sheep infected? Studies have shown that rotating grazing between one species and then another (cows and sheep) helps cut down the worm populations. I was doing that too.
Stress? Again, none of the other sheep seem to be bothered. All I could think of was Poppy was always the tallest, thinnest of the sheep. I equated her with a human model, tall and thin, but not necessarily unhealthy. Maybe it was something genetic in her that made her frailer and more susceptible?
I was getting confused with all the information. I just couldn't reconcile any of it with what was going on.
By Monday evening Poppy was definitely worse. I knew nothing could help her now. I only hoped she would go quickly overnight, so as not to prolong her suffering.
This morning she was dead. We dug a deep grave for her by Annabelle, the goat.
I think working with animals is similar to being a parent. Sometimes you can do all the right things and it still doesn't work out. We can only hope for the best.
Poppy, foreground, in April after shearing.