Silence of the Lambs

31 January 2011

Skyros, Greece

It was the third day after they had arrived to the farm. I knew something was wrong the moment I stepped into my room and heard only the older one. Whenever feeding time was getting close, it was always the tiny lamb with her piercing ‘baaa’ so loud I thought the windows might break, but this time it was the softer sound, definitely coming from the boy. I put the bottles of milk down, prepared myself, took a deep breath and peeked around the corner into my bathroom where they were living. The tiny one was lying on the floor, and the older one seemed anxious. Most of me knew by then what would happen next.

I picked her up and took the little creature to the warm spot in front of the fireplace where I used to feed them. She could barely hold her head up and felt floppy as jelly in my hands. Her belly was swollen. I wasn’t sure whether I should try to feed her as it was apparently a problem in her digestive system. I gently stroke her head and wondered if there was anything at all I could do. ‘Could you please not die,’ I asked her politely.

Amanda came home. She consulted with a vet friend and gave the lamb penicillin and some herbal remedy. When I think about it now, I’m not sure why she did it. She must have known it was hopeless the moment she saw the lamb. Maybe she did it for my sake. ‘Rub her belly,’ she said. ‘If it’s in the digestive system that might help. You know, like with kittens.’

One hand holding her head and the other one rubbing her belly, I watched the tiny animal fade away in my arms. I felt the last of her strength flowing out of her as her muscles turned softer and softer and her breathing slowed down. After a very long hour, her heart eventually stopped beating.

I knew she was going to die the moment I saw her on the floor. There are a million things that can kill a 3-day-old motherless lamb, especially a tiny one like her, and it could have been any of them.

But having a little animal full of life, following you around, craving for care and attention, and the next moment a lifeless bunch of biomass… it gets to you. Death always gets to you.

I closed in the sadness and made an effort to have a normal evening. We watched TV, had dinner. We talked about death. Working with animals you have to accept death as you accept the weather. Shit happens. You can’t take it all in too deep, or you’d never have time to take care of the living. The problem is, unlike Amanda, I haven’t been working with animals all that long.

I went back to my room and finished feeding the lamb I still had left. He would be lonely and missing his companion. They are herd animals, the sheep. I let him explore my room. He was full of energy and especially liked the warm spot just in front of the fireplace. I wondered how much he realized about what had happened. He didn’t crawl into my arms but he enjoyed lying just by my side, between me and the fire. As I was feeding him, it seemed to me his belly was swollen. I rubbed it for a while, just to be sure. A part of me realized I was being paranoid.

The other part of me knew what would happen next. ‘Your instincts often tell you the right answers. It’s just that you don’t always want to listen,’ Amanda had told me earlier.

I finally put the little lamb back to his corner in the bathroom. But he wouldn’t let me sleep most of the night. I’ve never heard a sound more heartbreaking than the series of ‘baaas’ that kept breaking through my sleep. In the daytime I would answer him back to comfort him but if I did it now, he would never stop. So I pulled the blanket over my head and plugged my ears.

Morning came. I woke up and wished I hadn’t. I didn’t dare to find out what had happened in the night. It took a while for the curiosity and hope to overcome the fear. So I got up and peeked around the corner into the bathroom.

There he was, another dead little creature on the floor. Cold, stiff and silent.

I took a few deep breaths. So it must have been a virus.

Sure I shed a few tears. Sure I wish at least one of the lambs hadn’t died. Sure I keep wondering if it could have been prevented. But the truth is, they would have died a lot sooner if we hadn’t taken them in, so those past days were a nice extension to their short lives. Maybe it could have been prevented. Maybe not. I will never know but I did my best and can therefore have no regrets.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. May The Little and The Tiny rest in peace.

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Published in: on 4. veebr. 2011 at 19:48  Lisa kommentaar  

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