I went to see my ponies out in the fields on Valentine’s Day. I told my partner I would only be gone for forty-five minutes, since I was only making a quick check on them, but when I got there, I decided it was such a nice day, I’d have a look around with my dog Tess for any dangers in the overgrowth.
Well I was about three quarters of the way around the field before I arrived at the bottom of a very steep hill. To my surprise, I found a sheep stuck on its back, completely tangled in brambles…. And somehow it was still alive!
Eventually I got it free from the brambles — not easy without gloves — but it was too weak to walk; it could barely lift its own head. I knew I had to get this sheep back up to the farm, but carrying her up the hill was difficult since to get a hold of her and it was about the size of my border collie Tess, except heavier! It was too big for me to put my arms around, but I managed by heaving her up by the scruff of the neck and hips.
About twenty minutes later with Tess hot on our heels, I was thankful to reach the top. We finally made it to the farm gate but it wouldn’t open and I had no more strength in my hands to undo it. I called my horses over; Tim – a 12.2hh fiery grey Welsh X who is always happy to stick his nose in all goings, and Foxy the 13.3 Highland Mare.
“Foxy, I need your help: I need to get this sheep to the other gate. Will you please allow me to put it on your back and carry it over? It’s very ill and needs your help!” Yes, this is actually what I said to my horse. I’m sure she understood, because she gave me a trusting gaze and stood still. Up the sheep went and I asked Foxy to walk slowly and steadily (There was no head collar or lead rope, it was just 100% trust.) She walked as straight as an arrow to the other gate. The sheep kept kicking her side but she stayed calm. Foxy is a very sensitive horse so for her to ignore it was amazing.
Once at the other gate, I took the sheep off of Foxy and placed her onto a pile of hay. I still had at least 2 acres of field to go through to get the sheep back to the yard, but I knew that there was no possible way I could manage to carry her that far. Leaving the sheep (I had named it Juliet by that point) on some hay, I went to get a wheelbarrow to carry her to the farm.
When the farmer showed up, he looked at the dying sheep and knew from many years of experience that there was no hope for her. Sheep never fight to live. It’s a sad but true fact.
Juliet staid determined through the night to stay alive. I knew nothing about sheep, but I was ready to do anything to make sure this sheep survived. Tess cared for this her as much as I did, always going to lie next to her, or watching her balefully from afar.
That following week, she had more control of her head but still could not stand. I noticed that she wasn’t using her right hind leg, so I decided to phone a clinic. They informed me that since Juliet was still living, it probably wasn’t broken or dislocated since both of these are excruciating injuries and sheep will die because the pain is too much. The vet was impressed that I had gotten her to eat and drink, but told me not to get my hopes up.
By this point, I was more than attached to little Juliet. I had a friend who happened to be a sheep expert and she confirmed that a sheep will die if in the slightest pain, so I took on the responsibility of massaging Juliet’s legs twice a day, and the pleasant job of trimming her rear end. In an effort to get her to move, I was advised to start challenging her to move 30cm to reach her hay and water — sheep won’t use their legs unless you encourage them to.
I’d spoken to the farmer again and he said he would get one of his stable hands to make a frame for her to sit in that would let her feet move freely and strengthen the muscles. He congratulated me on my effort to nurse the sheep back to health, and said I could keep it if I wanted to. This definitely kept her off of the butcher’s list.
Over the weeks, Juliet had gotten used to Tess always wanting to be close to her, so I took a cute photo of them together and put it on Facebook, calling it “We’ll always be friends forever, wont we?” It spread fast and got over 4700 Likes. I couldn’t believe it, to be honest!
On March 10th, after being in her swing for 4 days, Juliet the sheep could walk by herself. She was wobbly at first, but I felt like a proud mom watching her child take its first steps. We reckon that Juliet was stuck for more than 2 days at the bottom of the hill — how a fox didn’t find her is amazing in itself. She is a true fighter who I have had the privilege to care for.