I was skeptical this morning when our Veterinarian told us he couldn’t get to the farm today, but to try and get some Pepto Bismol into my wether Pumpkin
Pumpkin hadn’t eaten since Saturday and was regurgitating white foam (this isn’t rabies, he’s been vaccinated). Since the Vet isn’t available on the weekend I tried to give Pumpkin a dose of baking soda and water, something I read online as a remedy for his symptoms. But he wasn’t having it. Skittish since he was a lamb, Pumpkin ran when he saw me with the syringe.
So this morning I knew I had to try a different approach.
Over breakfast, Jon and I talked about how to get Pumpkin into the pole barn and hold him still enough to squirt the Pepto Bismol into his mouth. We had a few different ideas, but I have learned, with Jon’s help, that the two most important things to remember are to stay calm and know that sheep always want to be with other sheep.
The barnyard is covered in ice, and the rest of the sheep, except for Pumpkin who was just outside the barn, were all in the back pasture grazing. Our plan was to get all the sheep in the polebarn then separate Pumpkin into the small stall inside the barn.
The sheep know the sound of grain in a bucket, so all I had to do was shake a bucket of grain and call to them. Since Pumpkin was too sick to eat, he didn’t respond to the grain. And as the sheep all ran into the polebarn to get the grain, Pumpkin got spooked and ran in the opposite direction.
Once the sheep were in the barn, I chased Fanny and Lulu out (they know the sound of grain too) and locked the sheep, without Pumpkin in.
Jon had to leave to get a covid test for a doctor’s appointment later in the week and said he’d call our handyman and neighbor Mike to see if he could come over to help.
But I had the feeling I could do this on my own.
I knew that Pumpkin would stay away from the barn as long as I was there. So I left the barnyard and did some chores. I fed and watered the chickens and filled the bird feeder. Then I got some treats for the donkeys and by the time I got back into the barnyard, Pumpkin was standing outside the polebarn wanting, of course, to be inside with the rest of the sheep. I was careful not to startle him into running away again.
I figured the longer I left him outside the barn the more he’d want to be in it.
I hung around with the donkeys ignoring Pumpkin then pulled one of the feeders next to the barn gate so when I walked up behind Pumpkin he’d have one less direction he could run in. The sheep were still preoccupied with the grain, so I opened the gate and walked slowly behind Pumpkin. He ran right into the barn.
That was my first victory.
Next, I had to get the rest of the sheep out and him into the stall. Getting the sheep out was easy. When they finished the grain, they were eager to leave the pole barn. When I opened the gate they all ran out and because Pumpkin was moving slower than the rest of them, I was able to close the gate before he got to it.
I can only think that by now Pumpkin was tired and had given up fighting me. Because when I walked up to him he just stood there while I held his head and squirted the syringe of Pepto Bismol into his mouth. Then, as if he knew what I wanted, he just walked into the stall.
I closed the gate behind him and brought him some hay which he started to nibble on.
I was feeling pretty good when I told Jon I had gotten Pumpkin in the barn and fed him the Pepto Bismol. Before that, I was seriously being to question if I really should have sheep at all if I couldn’t even medicate them when needed. But I think a part of me knew I was capable of doing this.
That comes from working with and knowing the sheep and what they respond to. I also think there is trust between us, even with a sheep as skittish as Pumpkin.
Patience and staying calm are as important as knowing that sheep always want to be together. A big part of what I did was to do nothing. And have a sense of what the sheep would do. Mostly I just opened and closed the gates at the right time.
I gave Pumpkin another dose of Pepto Bismol and left him to rest in the stall. The rest of the sheep are just on the other side of the gate in the pole barn to keep him company so he doesn’t get stressed about being alone. Our Veterinary, Jack, said it would probably be a couple of days before Pumpkin started feeling better and eating regularly again.
Other than not eating and the white foam, Pumpkin is acting normal. He was even chewing his cud after eating a little hay. So I’m hopeful and feel good knowing we’re doing everything we can for him. If he’s not better by Wednesday, we’ll ask Jack to come take a look at him.
But I have a good feeling about Pumpkin. I think he’s going to be okay.