Wednesday, March 14, 2012

In Case You've Ever Wondered If Sheep Have Feelings

Over the last several days, I've watched two of our old sheep behave in a way that I'm sure "the experts" would not agree with. The same experts who'd also most likely say that chickens don't have the awareness or concern for their friends and family either.


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Jester, Joshua and Elizabeth are the last of our original flock of Jacobs. They are all at least 11 years old, if not older, maybe much older. Jester became a favorite sheep early on, not only for his interesting horns, golden eyes and "moo-o-o" instead of "maa-a-a", but for some unusual behavior.

Jester is the flock guardian. He adopted Emily when we brought her in. She was a six month old lamb trying to mix with a flock of older sheep. Not only was she young, but her breeders had allowed her to be bred and she soon had Annabelly. He adopted her too. Then came Billy Belly and Baby Belly. Also adopted. Casper Belly? Yep.

By adopted I mean he watched over them. He'd stand by them watching you while you trimmed feet, vaccinated... Billy Belly's first hair cut? Jester stood right on the other side of the gate and watched. Those original Jacobs were all tight, but for some reason he took special care of Emily and her family and we call him Uncle Jester.


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Standing with Emily and Casper Belly back in the winter.



Last Tuesday I noticed Jester not behaving normally. See him staring out through the fence, looking back at the barn? I knew something wasn't "right". I walked back and found Joshua standing back at the barn. If a sheep isn't interested in eating, there's a problem. A big problem. Sheep are good eaters.

Vets were called, tests run, nothing conclusive, but something definitely wrong. Over the next several days, any time Joshua didn't feel up to walking out with the rest of the sheep, his friend Jester stayed back with him. That's the two of them up by the gate in the top picture.


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Here he stayed by Joshua's side even though I was sitting in the stall with them, which made Jester very uncomfortable. Anything I did to Joshua, Jester watched. Sometimes he'd stamp his foot at me, maybe trying to protect him by trying to scare me away. In the end though I think he understood.


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We lost Joshua last night. All the sheep seemed to know and Ewen McTeagle especially seemed confused and upset as we wrapped Joshua in a sheet and put him in the truck to take him to the university. I will never forget the look on his face as he'd sniff the sheet and then look up at Tim. Jester was nowhere to be found.

After the sheep settled down and headed out to graze I saw Jester and Elizabeth out by the tree, away from the other sheep. Jacob sheep are very flock oriented so this is very unusual. Jester just stood there looking back at the barn, looking at me. And while I wish I knew how much they understood or could tell us if we could talk, I never wonder if they care.

Don't ever wonder.

45 comments:

Deb at Merciful Hearts Farm said...

My heart is breaking for all of you. I've observed similar in our sheep, goats & cattle. They know. They care. They are precious beyond words.

♥ Brigitte ♥ said...

Your post make me really sad. It is sad to lose a beloved pet. In your case, a beautiful sheep. Do it well, Joshua.

Tami Weingartner said...

I'm sorry you lost one of your WoolKids today. That really sucks....

Susan said...

We really know so little about sheep. Or goats, or cows, or horses. They are ver sensitive to each other, some more than others, much like us. It is so sad to lose one and it must cause a ripple in the herd as well. Good old Uncle Jester. I am sorry for your loss.

I need orange said...

I am so sorry for your loss.

Anchor Cottage said...

My eyes are wet)-:

Sheepmom said...

So sorry to hear Joshua passed away. The flock will certainly feel his absence and some will miss him more than others. Jester must be one of those real sensitive souls. I'm sure he knew you were trying to help. I hope he adjusts soon.

Karen said...

I do love your horned sheep:)
While I don't have the relationship with my three lawnmower sheep that you have with yours, we did have something happen the other night that was rather unusual, and I honestly had to wonder if they were letting me know that something was wrong.
http://wyndsonfarm.blogspot.com/2012/03/getting-by-with-help-from-your-friends.html

Lori Skoog said...

Oh Sara...you had a feeling about this. So sorry about Joshua...and yes, like with the horses, they know when something is wrong. Somehow they adjust. A sad time in Punkin's Patch.

Nancy K. said...

It sounds like Joshua's passing was peaceful. What a lucky sheep to have two close friends help him cross the Bridge...

Peacecat said...

Sara - I am sorry! This is a very touching post.
((HUGS))

June said...

I am so sorry to hear of the passing of Joshua. All of our 4-legged friends hold a special place in our hearts. It is always hard to lose one.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Aw I am certain that they all knew.. Jester and Elizabeth just needed some of their own time together to mourn their friend. I am so sorry:(

Marcy said...

I'm so sorry you lost Joshua. I feel for Jester and Elizabeth. We can all learn great lessons about love and caring by watching our beloved animals.

Alice said...

Oh my! Jester was the guardian ( angel) for Joshua. Your sensitive pictures tell the story. How lucky was Joshua to have such a special sheep friend with him to the end. May we all be as blessed. Extra {{hugs}} to Jester who must miss his good buddy.

janna Edrington said...

I'm sorry Sara. And I'm sorry for Jester but Joshua was very lucky to have all the sheep and people love.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

I'm so sorry. I think they do realize what's going on, more than we humans acknowledge.

Terry said...

I'm so sorry Joshua passed away. Jester is a very special guy with his big heart and good looks.

Sarah said...

So sorry that you lost Joshua. I don't doubt that he had a good and happy life with you. My sister-in-law had a few jacob sheep among the big flock. My husband said they would always stay together, seeming to know they were different from the others. I thought they were really neat.

farmlady said...

What a sad post. I'm sorry that Joshua had to pass on. We know that this will happen when we take these animals into our lives but it hurts so .
I know that animals have feelings and emotions like we do. Their muteness makes it hard for them to communicate these feelings to us but if you live with them you know...
Jester and Ewen are mourning in their own way. Be sure to stand with them and share their sadness.

Gayle said...

That is an amazing post...story about your life. I've often wondered the feelings of various breeds of animals. This makes me look at my Daisy in a whole new light. I send my thanks to Joshua for that...his friends knew him and now they've taught me about caring.

Peruby said...

I am so sorry for this sad event in your life. This is a wonderful post about how any living animal is affected by loss.

CrankyPuppy said...

Oh, I'm so sorry that you lost Joshua. We become so attached to our critters that they become an exension of our human family. I am sure I will ball like a baby when I lose a chicken.

And I don't care what the experts think. Animals do have feelings and do care for each other. I've seen this in rabbits and chickens as well.

Jody said...

What a wonderful sheep your Jester.
Sorry for the loss of your other sheep. I know how it feels to lose a beloved sheep.

kbdoolin said...

Well, you did it again. You made me cry. I'm so sorry for your loss but happy to know that your sheep live such long and loved lives.

I'm gonna tell Mom! said...

How sad and sweet and eye-watery, I am sorry for all of you.
kim

Kat Jessee Layton said...

I am so sorry for you loss, just the fact that your sheep have names tells me how much you care for them. I do believe that animals feel so much more than we will ever know. This touched my heart.

The Odyssey Farm said...

I'm sorry, Sara. Animals do know far more than we can comprehend. Joshua was lucky that you were his human.

Bandon, Oregon said...

So, so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing in your blog.

Faith

Nezzy said...

Yep, I've seen simular behavior with out critters 'round the Ponderosa too.

I'm sorry for your loss. We say 'round here...if ya have 'em your gonna loose some. It's sad but comes with the territory.

God bless ya sweetie and have an amazin' day!!!

bj from La Colline said...

They do care - I never wonder. Our beloved animals do have feelings and yet, there are animals who have a calling, a deep empathy for others. They are The Guardians.
My tears are for Uncle Jester. My heartfelt understanding for your loss.

kenleighacres.com said...

I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. I am so sorry for your loss. Joshua was very lucky to have such a wonderful guardian and to pass peacefully.

Reneelynn said...

So sorry...........Heading for kleenex..............

Sue said...

So sorry for your loss. One of the hardest things about having furry friends is that we lose so many of them along the way. I agree that some of them do become caretakers of their buddies, and we should have such a loyal friend as Jester was to Joshua.

flowerweaver said...

Jester was a loyal friend to the end. So sorry for your loss of Joshua. Maybe the university will tell you it was simply old age--the best way to go, surrounded by loved ones after a life well lived.

thecrazysheeplady said...

Thanks everyone for such kind and understanding words. Jester was unhappy for most of the day, but finally headed out to graze with everyone around 6:00 p.m....which made us all feel a little better.

Tammy said...

So sorry to hear about Joshua. I'm sure that Jester was a comfort to him as he was ill and died. I have no doubt that animals have friends and family and have concern for them. One would have to be blind not to see it. I have serveral 'senior citizens' here too, and am glad to see them up and going each morning. Back when Jeff, my ram got sick his twin brother, Callum (a wether) stayed right with him through the days of treatment before he died. After Jeff had died in the night, Callum was out grazing that morning, no longer needing to watch over him I guess. Fortunately that sad wether was intregrated with the rest of the flock and loves hanging out with his mom (even after eight years of seperation!) and sisters.
Take care, and I hope Jester is feeling better about things.
Tammy

small farm girl said...

I'm glad Jester is feeling better. I hate to see people grieve, but for some reason, it's harder to see animals grieve. I guess I'm a little weird that way.

Ed said...

Oh Man, thats a bummer for both you and the gang.

Ann W. said...

I'm very sorry about Joshua. Sheep can care about each other--I've seen it.

Eleanor P said...

I'm trying not to cry out loud. Rest, Joshua, until you and your friends meet again. Yes, I have no doubts that animals love one another.Just like we do.

Christine said...

I'm sorry he didn't pull through. They really make you stop and think, don't they? My vet suggested we leave Louise in the barn overnight so Thelma could process the loss. I think it helped.

liza said...

Oh, this is very sad and sweet. I am so sorry for all of you, especially you, Jester and Elizabeth.

cyndy said...

So very sorry to hear of your loss...always hard to say goodbye to those animals that are part of our life.

Shelley said...

As you can tell, I'm catching up on your blog. I'm sorry about Joshua. I didn't know him, but I'm sitting here crying anyway. I love animals and their innocence, loyalty, and love. It always tears me up when anyone loses a fur/wool baby.

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