Deb, Taking Her Place



Deb was fine yesterday morning.  I took pictures of her grazing with the other sheep.  Of her and Rosemary hanging out together.

It seems so “all of a sudden” with sheep.  But in the afternoon, when we let the animals out to graze Deb ran into the fence then fell on her side.  It wasn’t until later that we knew the problem wasn’t that she hit the fence, she hit the fence because something was already wrong.

She stumbled out into the pasture, disoriented,  not able to find the flock.  But she found the fence and leaning against it, followed it back to the pole barn.  The other sheep quickly followed her.  Supporting her.

Jon was on the phone immediately and the Vet came a couple of hours later.  After examining her, he gave her three injections and left four days worth of injections for us to give her.  There  were three things  he thought it could be. (I honestly can’t remember what they were) If it was one of them we would see a big difference by the next day.

By noon today she wasn’t better, she was worse.  Both Jon and I know how sheep quickly get sick and die.  That, most often, there’s little that can be done for them.  That the Vets only have so many solutions.

I’ve had sheep for about five or six years and I’ve seen it happen more than once.  How they suddenly seem to get sick.  How they don’t get up again.

The first time it happened I wasn’t sure my sheep Tess wouldn’t get better after collapsing in the field.  I had to trust Jon.  The difference is that now I feel like I can pretty much tell when a sheep is so sick and suffering so much, it’s more humane to kill her than keep her alive.

I could see it with Deb this morning.

When Jon went into the barn with his rifle to shoot Deb, I stood outside and repeated  to myself, the Loving Kindness chant I’ve come to depend on whenever I’m feeling scared or sad or need to be comforted.

May you be filled with lovingkindness, may you be well, may you be peaceful and at ease, may you be truly happy.  

I heard the gun shots and a little bit later felt a letting go.  A shift in the reality I have known for the past three years since Deb was born.  It’s like she slid from one space to another.  Like the puzzle pieces slightly morphed to accommodate this new reality.  I cried for her and me earlier in the morning, I didn’t cry then.

Yesterday, when we first separated Deb from the other sheep and got her in the barn, I sat next to her, quietly wondering if I was being of any comfort to her.  She was leaning up against the gate that opens into the pole barn.  Liam, the wether, who was born around the same time she was, was laying down on the other side of the gate, as close to her as he could get.   I knew then she was getting more comfort from being close to him than from me.

So I left her to be with her flock.  Every once in a while she would call out and one of them would answer.

This afternoon, when Jon shot Deb, all the sheep went out to graze.   I laid a tarp over her and thought of Eve Marko’s blog post today called  Take Your Place.  

She wrote:
“It’s as if the trees are saying take your place among us. The small shrubs that struggle in vain for sunlight in that place of shadows, they’re saying take your place among us. The branches fallen on the ground say take your place among us. The grass that’s brown because we’ve had no rain tells me: take your place among us. Take your place.”


That's deb on the left with her mouth open. She was born making noise.
That’s Deb on the left with her mouth open.  When she was born, she came out baaing.

9 thoughts on “Deb, Taking Her Place

  1. This was so beautifully written with honor and so much feeling. You can explained the same feeling I have when animals leave us. That space that opens at the time of their death.

    It’s the same I think with goats. I’ve had three. One left. When the other two got sick at separate times, none of the treatments worked. I ended up having to euthanize them in the end. I think the hardest part is going back and forth before finally saying enough is enough, time to let go.

    Thank you for writing today and sharing about Deb. She is beautiful.

  2. You took such loving care of Deb!
    I am so happy I was able to see her at the Bedlam Farm Open Houses and happy she had a wonderful life on your farm. I am very sorry for this loss and wish you all peace.
    With Love,
    From Fran

  3. I am so sorry to see Deb go Maria. This cannot be an easy day. Do you suppose it is some plant the sheep eat that bring on those sudden issues? I have often wondered if there is any way to know.
    My heart is with and Jon, and Deb, too.

  4. So very sorry to hear about her illness and death. You learn from experience when you need to let them go, as hard as it is. It is harder to watch them go on suffering, though. She will live in your heart, though.

  5. Thank you for your insightful and wise words, Maria. Coincidental that I needed to hear this today? I think not. Thank you. Are we growing in spirit as we move with more grace and acceptance through our many losses? More like what Bhudda described as, Suffering joyfully in the sorrows of the world…? I hope so.

  6. A sadness that creeps is what happens when one of our animals is sick and dying. I know that is how you felt when Deb fell ill and you and Jon had to decide what needed to be done. The two of you have such a rational way of handling things of this nature. Even with minds and hearts clouded with concern you are able to manage this kind of sad situation with clear heads. I truly appreciate your sharing of “Take Your Place.” It is so comforting when one sees it as so much a part of nature, the way things return to the earth and then become part of it contributing to life in a new way.Sometimes it isn’t easy to take command and see what one has to do. You and Jon do this in such a loving, meaningful and graceful way. My condolences to you both for your loss, and my thanks for the way you teach us everyday.

  7. So sorry to hear about Deb. So sad to lose a sweet and loving creature, especially one you watched come into this world.

  8. Maria, I have been reading your blog since it’s beginning and shared your happiness and sadness with all your animals. I remember when Deb was born (can’t remember her Mom though). Jon and you are wonderful caretakers of animals – whatever they may be. Deb was truly grateful, we know, don’t we!

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