Notes from Windward: #62


A profile of Marge, one of our elder sheep

Marge relaxing in the Elder pen
It's time for the sheep in the Elder Pen to graze. Marge struggles to her feet and hobbles over to meet me. Her arthritic knees fail her enroute and she stumbles and falls several times on her way to the gate. But Marge is determined to get there. She knows I have a special treat for her - alfalfa pellets. All she has to do is make it to the gate.

Marge is a retired sheep. That means that her childbearing days are over. It also means that she has special privileges. She lives in the Elder Pen where there is not as much competition for food and status as in the Main Pen. The Elder Pen has a longer grazing period than the Main Pen and is allowed to graze unattended. So Marge is able to graze at her own pace and to go where she chooses.

She has a pattern she usually follows. First, she gets her treat from me at the gate. Next she nibbles at the grass near her pen. Then she circles around the main pen picking up the hay that has fallen on the ground near the feeders. After that she hangs out near Heather's place for a while hoping to get one of her favorite treats - bread.

Marge is the daughter of Ten and Lambie Pie. Ten was one of the first ewes purchased for Windward. She was a Suffolk sheep and was the first Windward ewe to have triplets. Lambie Pie was a Polypay ram and was one of the most beloved of the Windward sheep. Among Marge's offspring are twin ewes born in 1997; a ram born in 1998; and triplet ewes born in 1999. Marge and her mother have the distinction of being the only Windward ewes to have borne triplets.

Not a pretty sheep, Marge is a big girl with a big face. She is eight years old and now, because of the arthritis, it is difficult for her to stand and walk. At her age her fleece doesn't grow much so she can no longer be shorn. Although she looks shaggy, she is assured of having a nice warm coat for the winter.

Marge is not one of the 'friendly' sheep. She has a history of being wild - i.e. skittish and easily startled. However, she eagerly comes to be fed treats by hand. She will tolerate a pat on the nose when she gets her treats but she does not want to petted or unnecessarily touched.

Marge has demonstrated that she has the determination to go for the things she wants. Last year she developed an eye infection. She was sequestered from the other sheep to prevent the infection from spreading. Marge didn't want to be alone. She wanted to be with the flock. So she escaped from her isolation pen, went to the gate of the main pen, and stood there waiting to be let in.

We have started giving Marge Glucosamine to ease the stiffness in her legs make her final months more comfortable. Unfortunately, she doesn't like it and we must use subterfuge to get her to take the pills. For our first attempts, we hid her pills in bread. She caught on to that right away. No matter how we disguised it, after a few chews on her bread, she found the Glucosamine and spit it out. The same thing happened with bananas. Finally, we found the solution. We cut the Glucosamine tablets in half and mix them with alfalfa pellets. She takes the pills willingly in her crunchy treats.

Sheep-sheep! Sheep-sheep! It's time for the Elder Pen to come in from grazing. As the sheep come back to the pen, I can see that Marge is not stumbling as much. Walking around has done her some good. She hurries to the pen with her companions. They get their oats now, a very special treat.