Lambing season is the time of year when my insecurities as a shepherd are revealed. Every year brings new challenges and new things to learn. This past week, we almost lost Ina.
Ina is our head ewe; the leader of our flock. All of our other ewes know where they stand with her. We have built our flock from Ina’s ewe lambs over the past three years. She is one of those irreplaceable ewes. Ina is strong willed, yet gentle. She nurtures her young, yet lets go of them when it is time. Ina comes when we call her name and guides the other ewes where they need to be. This past Tuesday, I thought I had lost Ina. Tuesday morning when I went out to do chores, Ina was obviously not well. She was lying down with her head on the ground. Her breathing was very heavy and labored, her nose was runny, and she had no desire to eat. I had been concerned about her the previous few days. The night before I had even gone out to the barn in the middle of the night to look for her. I just had this feeling that things were not well with her.
There are times when I feel over whelmed by the fact that I am responsible for keeping all of our animals healthy and alive. They trust me to provide proper care and nourishment to them. They trust me to keep them safe from predators and to create safe boundaries for them. They trust that I will be there when they are in danger, need my assistance, or are sick. They trust that I will know what to do for them at all times whether they are healthy or not. I am their shepherd.
As I finished up chores, my mind raced through a mental list of what could be the wrong with Ina. She is only about 10 days from her due date, so two things came to my mind, either toxemia or milk fever. I quickly went back to the house to scan my shelves for the various supplies I felt I needed. Having never seen one of our sheep so sick, I put a call in to our vet as well.
Though I am their shepherd, I find that at times like this, I am the one who needs shepherding. It is times like this that I stop, take a deep breath, and pray for guidance, discernment, and the ability to do what needs to be done.
While waiting for the vet to arrive, I made a trip to the feed store for some supplies which I did not have on hand. I also monitored her temperature and found that it was actually falling. I began treatments for toxemia. Though I had tried to get Ina into a stall in the barn, she just wanted to be in the run-in with her friends. I covered her up with my coat and some towels to keep her warm. The vet had told me over the phone that what I had described to him did not sound promising. Ina’s prognosis was not good.
As I stood looking down on Ina, I suddenly felt a sense of how dependent each of our animals are upon us. Ina lay there completely unable to do anything for herself and she counted on me to figure it out and to provide the right medicine for her.
Once our vet arrived, he did a complete exam of her and began listing all that we could do for her. I could tell that he had little hope that she would recover as he must have said four times that her prognosis was not good. I, however, had not lost hope nor did I plan on losing Ina. We began various treatments and 45 minutes later, the vet had “done all he could” and as he closed his car door, he once again said, “her prognosis is not good.”
It is during situations like this that I am reminded how I too am totally dependent upon a good shepherd. It is God who provides for me as I provide for my animals. I am dependent upon his directions, strength, and guidance.
Within 45 minutes of the vet leaving, Ina perked up. She lifted her head, opened her eyes and wanted to nibble on hay. All afternoon, I watched over her. In the morning I had put an email out to my Romney email group asking for help. By the afternoon, my phone was ringing with calls from other shepherds from across the US. I am forever grateful for their words of encouragement and wise counsel. Before going to bed, I gave Ina one more treatment for milk fever. During the night, I went to the barn every two hours to check on her. At the 2:30am check, Ina was standing in the middle of her stall, eyes wide open, and eating. She looked at me as if to say, “Why am I in here?” I stood with my mouth wide open in amazement for at least ten minutes. As I left the barn, I looked back over my shoulder and said, “Welcome back Ina!”
As I went back to bed I thought of my own heavenly shepherd. Once again, he had given me the discernment I needed, and placed people in my life who would direct me as I cared for Ina. I was overwhelmed with how He watches over me and tends to my needs.