Jon thinks she’s getting dotty, but I think Izzy just has a mind of her own. Either that, or a stomach with a mind of its own.
Whatever the reason, Izzy is making a name for herself as The Lone Sheep, not something we see too often among sheep, whose name itself has come to mean “to follow blindly”.
Izzy has become a symbol for me of the individual, the one who looks inside herself and finds her own path, but also understands the importance of community. Even with her odd ways, Izzy is never rejected by the rest of the flock, but alway welcomed back.
Izzy stood on the hill overlooking the north pasture this morning calling out to the other sheep. But the sheep were in the south pasture and as many times as Jon and I tried to get Izzy to go to them, she ran back to the hill and called to them again and again.
I don’t know why she didn’t know the sheep were in the other pasture but I’m beginning to wonder if something is off with Izzy. Over the summer when I started to notice that she was spending a lot of time alone, I assumed she was just an independent spirit.
But her behavior this morning was unusual. And equally unusual was that the other sheep weren’t answering her. Often when one sheep hangs back calling to the others they will answer and she will run to them, or they will come to her.
Still, I don’t see this as a problem yet.
And it may never become a problem. If our pastures weren’t so secure, a lone sheep could potentially be in danger from predators. But our fences are secure and the donkeys do a good job of keeping other animals out of the pasture.
So we’ll just pay attention to Izzy for now. Who knows, it may turn out that she really is just a lone sheep after all.
Izzy is definitely a different kind of sheep. Actually in some ways, she defies the idea of the word “sheep” as “a follower.”
She’s not one to hang with the rest of the flock, just because it’s what the other sheep do, and is often out on her own, wandering the pastures.
This afternoon, when I opened the gate to the back pasture, the other sheep stayed in the pole barn, but Izzy followed me. Then, Fate and I followed her as she wandered the animal trail to the furthest fence.
Maybe she didn’t realize she was alone, or maybe she was just ready to come back, when about 15 minutes later, I heard her calling to the other sheep who had by then left the pole barn and were grazing.
After Ruth and Wayne’s Commitment Ceremony (I’ll post some pictures later) Jon and I went out into the back pasture and sat under the pine tree. That’s when I saw that Izzy was out there all by herself…
Much the way Zelda was sitting in the pole barn, as if waiting for us, the morning we euthanized her, Izzy was laying down in the barn this morning.
The other sheep were with her, but I was easily able to move them out of the barn without disturbing Izzy, who stood up, but wasn’t interested in following them.
Jon had his rifle and I closed the gates leaving the two of them alone.
I put hay in the feeders and as I filled up the water buckets for both the sheep and chickens I heard the shots and in moments, Izzy was dead.
I sat with my hand on her for a few minutes as her body quietly spasmed. I was a little surprised at how much I cried. Maybe it was because I didn’t have as much time to prepare for her death as I did for Zelda’s. I’m not sure why, but Izzy’s death touched a sadness deep inside of me.
Jon had already called our neighbor Jack who said he could come by after work and take Izzy’s body to the field behind his house. The ground is already frozen so digging a grave isn’t an option. Jack did the same thing for us when our sheep Deb died. This time of year, especially, the coyotes will be quick to find her.
Izzy is a big sheep and even with both me and Jon dragging her from inside the pole barn to the gate, where it will be easier for Jack to get her on his truck, it was hard work. I covered her with a canvas tarp but wasn’t ready to go back to the house.
I headed out to the back pasture, thinking I’d go for a walk in the woods, but then I heard Socks’ baa and when I turned around I saw that the sheep had left the hay they were eating and were following me.
Like a good shepherd, I guided them to the small patch of grass on the hillside where the sun had melted most of the snow. Fate circled the sheep joyously and when I squatted down Asher and Issachar came over to me. Asher leaned against my back as he grazed and Issachar put his face to mine.
“Well” I said to them, “It looks like you came at just the right time.”
Izzy was the first Romeny I adopted, when Donna, who worked at the hardware store in town, offered the four sheep to me a few years ago. We eventually decided to take the other three because Izzy was such a friendly and easy-going sheep and she had beautiful wool.
Jon called them the “Gang of Four” back then because they always stuck together. But over the years they all just became a part of the flock and when Jon and Izzy were in the pole barn together before he euthanized her, it was my Border Leicester, Socks who stayed outside the barn till I moved her to join the other sheep at the hay feeder.
For the past six months or so, Izzy has spent more time by herself than with the other sheep. A very unnatural way for a sheep to live. If she were in the wild, she would have died long ago, prey to some preditor.
I am grateful we were able to give her a quick and easy death and that her body will return to nature.
When Izzy first started spending time alone away from the other sheep, I wanted to believe she was just being independent.
But as time passed, I began to see that something else was happening.
She began calling out for the other sheep not seeming to know where they were. And they didn’t answer her or join her as sheep usually do. She became more easily startled and confused.
Izzy was very friendly when we first got her, but in the past six months or so, she wouldn’t let me get close to her.
And since we started feeding the animals hay a few days ago, I saw that she wasn’t eating it. When all the sheep ran to the feeder, Izzy would go out to the pasture and graze alone.
With the recent snow, there is little to eat. She would never survive the winter not eating hay.
I didn’t think much of the strange way she was walking till I read the symptoms of Huntington’s Disease this evening as I was researching dementia in sheep.
That’s what both Jon and I thought might be going on with Izzy. Her behavior was just too unusual for there not to be something wrong with her and dementia seemed probable.
But then I found out that sheep do get Huntington’s Disease. Actually some of the research into the disease is being done on sheep.
The symptoms that I see in Izzy are a lack of coordination, and a jerky “unsteady gait”, problems with mental ability and an inability to eat and dementia. It is mostly a hereditary disease.
This morning Izzy stayed in the pole barn while the other sheep ate their hay. Later Izzy wandered out alone to the far pasture to graze. She was out by herself all day, sometimes calling to the other sheep but never with them.
This morning Jon and I talked about euthanizing Izzy. I wasn’t quite ready to do it, I needed a little more time to get used to the idea. But this evening, after reading about Huntington’s Disease, I have no doubt that it’s best to euthanize Izzy as soon as we can.
Now that I understand what is happening to her, I can only imagine her confusion and fear.
Since she is so skittish now, it won’t be easy to get Izzy into the barn. Maybe because of the cold weather, she’ll stay there again tomorrow morning, as she did today, while the other sheep eat. Then I can close the gates and give her some grain to help keep her calm.
Jon and I decided that it’s best for him to shoot her.
I can’t help but think how Asher and Issachar, our two new wethers, came to us this fall and we are about to lose another sheep. It’s hard for me not to believe that those twins came to take their places.
All the sheep were grazing in the back pasture this morning. The back pasture is overgrown with wildflowers that would have gotten caught in their wool, but now that the sheep are shorn they’re no danger of messing up their wool.
Izzy walked away from the flock finding her way back to the barn by herself. It may be her eyesight or hearing that makes her separate from the flock. Or some kind of sheep dementia, if there is such a thing.
The other sheep don’t answer her calls which is unusual too.
Some people have suggested that she might be looking for Zelda, but she started this behavior before Zelda died.
I’ve seen our two new sheep Asher and Issachar hanging around Izzy in the past couple of days, but today they stayed with the rest of the flock. They seem to be enjoying the meal the back pasture provides.
The rest of my wool is 3 ply worsted and all the skeins are 200 yards.
I have six red skeins from Socks and Izzy. It’s a mix of Border Leicester and Romney.
Socks is one of my first sheep and Izzy is also known as The Lone Sheep because she’s often off by herself.
I have 7 skeins of Pumpkin and Griselle’s natural gray wool a Border Leicester/Cheviot and Romney mix. (It’s a gorgeous light gray that works well on its own or with other colors.)
Pumpkin is Socks’ lamb, a sweet whether and Griselle is one of the Romneys that we rescued from a nearby farm.
And for the first time this year, I made a Barber Pole yarn with Kim and Biddy’s natural wool. It’s gray and white, a mix of Karakul and Romney. I have 5 skeins of that. Kim is our only karakul sheep who I often mistaken for the puppet Lamb Chop.
I also have just 3 skeins of Biddy’s wool in its natural gray. That’s 100%, Romney. Biddy is one of our friendliest sheep always ready for a treat. We rescued her along with Griselle.
So if you’d like some Bedlam Farm wool, there’s still some available. Just click here to see and buy it.