The Love Kitty
It has been difficult for hubby to get photos of Humphrey-kitty as he lives in the rafters of the barn. However, Humphrey has become bolder and comes down more frequently when the barn is clear of dogs. Often the dogs are about but ignoring Humphrey’s presence and then he is safe. I don’t know how he can tell. Well, sometimes he can’t tell and the white flash of dog up the pile of hay sends Humphrey-kitty scurrying back up into the rafters.
Sister described him as love starved as he just clung to her and crawled up onto her shoulders. Over the holidays daughter was quite taken by Humphrey-kitty for similar reasons. He really is very loving. Unfortunately, this cat-allergic owner is not very loving in return. And so often I’m busy doing this and that, fetching hay from his safe spot where he is fed; Humphrey-kitty remains love deprived.
We have decided to get a second kitty to keep him company. We need to do so soon before Humphrey gets much older and less accepting of a new friend.
I got into a panic I guess. The Pepto Bismol was not working and Christmas was coming for real. I had dewormed Birch, the ram lamb, but still there was no improvement. So, after some consultation with my shepherdess neighbour, I took up a plastic spoon and Ziploc bag and scooped some poop. I went to the Vet and submitted the sample for testing. This was the 23rd and they had regular hours.
I dropped it off and returned home well before company arrived. Lunch was already prepared; it just needed to go into the oven when the guests arrived. Late in the afternoon I returned to the Vet to pick up the prescribed medication for the now defined problem; a more specific dewormer and an oral remedy for a bacterial gut infection.
And then the next panic set in. Since the marking harness was too large for Birch, I had removed it. After the normal three week reproductive cycle of the ewes I put on him a homemade marking harness that was small enough to fit and did not rub him raw on his legs like the other. I used Beau-dog’s car harness and a marking crayon, the same as that on the ram harness, provided by my neighbour. Now, if Birch marked any of the ewes they had not conceived in the first cycle. This could be his problem or hers….
There were two that were marked in the first week of wearing the harness. And then some other ewes looked to me to be in heat but there was no observed interest or marking by Birch. I began to panic. What if we had no lambs? That would absolutely not do. Maybe I had made a mistake getting Birch….
I got online and found a mature ram on kijiji. There was a brief email exchange on the 23rd, a phone call the morning of the 24th and the ram arrived just after lunch. They had named him Rambo. I thought, unless he’s going to shoot a coyote, that’s not an appropriate name. I suggested the children name him and son-in-law came up with Abraham as he is to sire many. It stuck with me, and Abe it is for short.
He is a North Country Cheviot from Saskatchewan. He is 5 or 6 and has progeny to prove his worthiness. The seller reported that he likes bread and was good with their two children of four and seven years of age – which means there is less fear of him running across the field to bash a person as rams have been known to do. He can be “aggressive with a pail of grain”. If Birch has bred all the ewes then Abe will be the flock sire next year. Either way it is a win-win situation.
On Christmas day hubby and I outfitted Abe with the marking harness and let him out with the flock. We found that once we caught him Abe stood almost without being held and allowed us to put the harness on him. Stay tuned….
Over & Under
The Maremmas have been quite good about staying in the field with the sheep. I tell them, “Stay with your sheep” and when they get out and we head back to the field, I say, “Sheep, sheep, where are your sheep?”
Hubby has noted that there is a pattern to their getting out. Mornings are a popular escape time. At first Millie was going under the fence. It was some time before Ruby began to do the same. We have had more workmen around and this seems to entice the dogs out of the field. After several escapes and I was able to deduce that it was under the fence that they came, I plugged it with a log across the bottom of the fence.
That worked for a bit. Maybe one day. Then Millie began to get out again. After a few days I was able to determine she was getting out at the same spot by jumping over the fence. It was not an easy jump though. She was limping on a hind leg one day. She stopped jumping out so I deduced she caught her leg on the fence while jumping out.
Then Ruby discovered her own Houdini-ness and began to shrink to nothing and squeeze under the back gate. I wondered why the inside of her back legs were muddy. It was the squeezing part. Hubby put her back three times in quick succession. She’d go back in the front gate and scoot to the back gate and squeeze under it. I put a log along the bottom of the gate and that ended that.
They had previously been squeezing between the set of gates at the back and I had covered that with some plywood. Much of their getting out is to follow a scent, check out a sound or greet a visitor.
The morning pattern was an important one to note. In the morning Millie is coming off the night shift and is tired. Ruby is cooped up in the barn all night and full of puppy vigour in the morning. The dogs were accustomed to a good walk in the field first thing when we took the sheep out in the morning. Often Millie is sniffing the air toward the back of the property after I let the sheep out of the barn. So, I have begun to put the dogs out through the back gate in the morning. They have a good ten or fifteen minute run and check of the back field and then they return. They often end up at the house but they will come back into the field with the sheep. The other morning Ruby came to the house and Millie was sitting at the back gate waiting for me to open it for her. I walked Ruby back to the gate to where Millie had been waiting and put them back the way I wanted them to go.
It will take a while to catch on to the pattern. I often find I have to think like the dogs and try to work within that framework to make progress for all. It will change, again, I know – with the seasons, the weather, the day, Ruby’s growth, etc.