Saturday, August 11, 2007

Helping animals deal with grief

Some one on one of my sheep lists asked the question this spring - "How do you help a ewe deal with loosing her lamb?"
There were many replies on the physical aspects - make sure her udder isn't getting too full, keep an eye on her to make sure she is eating, watch out for signs of infection. However, a very large number of shepherds gave answers on the emotional aspect of helping the ewe with her loss.
One person said that they leave the lamb with the ewe until she decides it is gone and then she'll move on with her life. Others gave advice about changing scenery, making sure the ewe was with her buddies within the flock.
This group is made up of many seasoned shepherds, who make their living with sheep, as well as small farmers and people learning their way around the flock. No one seemed to find the discussion strange.

A few years ago, a good friend had two dogs that had been inseparable for 9 years. Literally - they even slept touching each other. When the older dog passed on, the younger one was bereft. To try to help the poor dog get some sleep, I gave her one of my wool rugs. It seemed to comfort her and she slowly recovered from her grief at loosing her companion.

When Rosemary, our mmama llama passed away this week, both her sons were sitting with her. It comforts me to think that they were comforting her. Muppet is about 5. He and his little bro, Kermit get along great, so we thought we'd just leave them together. But Muppet is not wanting to get up and around. And Kermit was just laying there with his big brother. They were the picture of dejection. And I was having trouble getting either one to eat.

Their sister, Pequena, also seemed to be subdued and know what happened, but she is currently guarding the lamb and ewe flock. She is serious about her job and patrols the fence and keeps an eye on the lambs when they stray from the flock. So we put Kermit in with her. Unlike Muppet, she was not going to sit around and mope and be sappy with the little guy. She knocked him around a bit to let him know he could not nurse off of her. But then she let him stay right with her as she went about her day checking fence, cooling off in the water trough and checking all the feed pans to see if the sheep left any grain.

Tonight, Kermit seems much more alert and he is back to being curious about lizards in trees, funny spots of dirt and little lambs who are crying. We still can't get him to accept a bottle, but he is eating hay and grain. Muppet is back to his tricks. He snuck in while I was milking and stole a bunch of grain.

We will keep giving them extra attention and treats and keeping an extra close eye on them for a while. Actually, helping animals deal with grief is kind of like you do with your human friends. Just be there and help out where you can.

No comments: