Horsey Therapist

Friday, March 31, 2006

Nature or nurture

It's lambing time here. And a warm spring day. Warm? It's in the 70s today!

I was going to go riding today. Really I was.

However, I'm inside with a triplet on the window sill.

I didn't see the order of things, but today's latest Ewe Mom had two lambs up and nursing when I found this third one looking dead, laying in the dirt, limp but breathing. So here he is, two hours later, a little more lively, dried off and cleaned up by moi-meme, force fed some lamb-manna and showing small signs of improvement. He has had no colostrum, and seems to have no sucking reflex. This is not good. He is holding his head up at times and pushing his legs around. This is good. I really thought he was dying an hour ago but no. Cute little fellow. I'll keep seeing if I can help him stick around.

I keep asking, what am I to learn from this?

So far, the answer is that the force of life is much stronger and more persistent than I ever imagined.

I also have the Velveteen Rabbit in the back of my mind, and maybe I can rub this little fellow into full life.

On a number of ocassions I've crossed paths with a dying animal. A dying wild animal. I have this uncontrollable urge to give water to a dying animal. A bit of Hope Against Hope that this animal might just be ill and in need of water? I almost didn't offer this lamb anything to drink, remembering the times I've forced water into a mouth only to have the dying process end within fifteen minutes or so.

I keep thinking he would have died by now, this little Jacob lamb. But he's still here.

I offered him to one ewe who is contained in a stall right now. She is there with her set of twins, born a few days ago. Normally the ewes do all their natural processes on their own among their flock out at pasture. One of her twins must have been stepped on -- we found her with dangling leg in the afternoon of her first day. We decided to splint the little leg and keep the three of them inside for a few weeks. So far so good with that one. Up and nursing, moving about a little.

The stalled ewe gave this little questionable lifeform some good sniffs, and it was touching to see him respond to the ewe's touch and her mumbling, gutteral sounds.

The lamb is still breathing, resting in the western sun streaming through my office window. Is this my ego? Some wounded place in me trying to keep alive this fresh little bundle of impaired life?

I wonder if he'll develop the urge and the strength to stand? To suck? To leap and run with abandon? What developmental horrors have I inflicted by force feeding him before he can stand? I'm not at all certain I want him to survive, but I'm darned certain I'm not going to give up easily. Even though there seems to be a good chance there is something innately wrong with him. Maybe his mother knew something at the start and did the most sensible thing, which was to leave him and focus on her robust babies. It's hard to imagine humans would ever display that sort of natural sense.

Oh! He's stirring. I'll see if I can interest him in another eye dropper of lamb manna.

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