Monday, March 3, 2008

An unhappy weekend

This past weekend was not a good one. One of my favorite ewes aborted her lamb, a beautiful little silver ewe. On the way out in to the field to pick up the lamb for burial I found Moses, my four-year-old cat whom I had rescued at 4 weeks of age at a sheepdog trial after his mother had disappeared, dead apparently having been hit by a car. I always try to make sure the cats are in at night, but Moses didn't come when I called him the night before. Perhaps it was because he couldn't. Moses was a real PIA and harrassed the older cats, but this is not how I expected his life to end. I expected I'd have still a good decade or more of his orneriness. Life will certainly not be the same without him. He's buried on the hillside of the as-yet-unfenced pasture in the unoffical pet cemetery. I think this spring I'll plant a redbud there to shade the graves. I've picked out a stone marker for his grave, and Jimmy will carve his name on it before we place it there. Good bye Moses--I didn't know when I saved your life four years ago that you would be with me for such a short time. I won't wish for you to rest in peace, because that just wasn't your style, so instead I hope you're having a grand time stirring up trouble while you wait for the rest of us to join you in the great beyond. I'll miss you.

This is Moses posing on the newel post last summer at my old house.

And JellyBean and Moses hanging out on a dog bed together.

And while I'm talking about my cats, I should tell Si's story. Si was one of my mother's cats. He came from a feral cat population that she was taking care of--one of the kittens born during the period when she was trapping the females and having them spayed. When mom died on New Year's Day 1998, each of us kids took one of her house cats to live with us. I chose Si because he used to make me laugh whenever I went to visit mom. He'd come up to me and start rubbing against my legs. Then he'd look up, his eyes would get big as saucers, and he'd run away as if I were the Devil himself. He never failed to do this any time I went home. Maybe it was a game with him, but at any rate it earned him the name "Simple Simon" from me, and so I brought him home 10 years ago to join my other feline friends.

Recently Si has been ill. It started with him seeming to have difficulty eating. We made a trip to the vet where we discovered a large lump along his esophagus just below his jaw line. I had the vet draw blood and do a needle biopsy. Nothing really showed in any of the tests other than that the lump appeared to be a swollen lymph node. He was put on antibiotics, but a week later he was no better so we went back to the vet and this time I left him there so he could be sedated and have his mouth and upper throat examined. The vet could find no obvious cause for the swollen lymph node (though she could see the inflammation), and while he was sedated, we decided to go ahead and do a punch biopsy to make sure that no cancerous cells had been missed in the original aspiration. He was put on a stronger antibiotic and came back home. A week later the pathology report came back: no cancer. Still the only thing showing was inflammation of the lymph node: idiopathic (of unknown origin) hyperplasia (basically an enlargement). The pathologist did say that this is sometimes seen in cats of Si's age (14) and that it usually resolves on its own. In the meantime my cat is shrinking away to nothing. He weighed 7 pounds at his last vet visit. I feed him numerous times during the day, but the only thing that holds sustained interest for him is canned dog food mixed with water--not exactly packing the protein punch a cat needs. He has finished the second round of antibiotics, and I have removed the stitches from the second biopsy site. He's healed well there, but the lump doesn't seem any smaller. And he's still not eating well. My next plan of action is to get him some Pet-tinic (lixotinic) for cats and see if I can't at least get some vitamins and other nutrients in him on a daily basis. I need to talk to the vet again and see if "usually resolves on its own" means weeks or months.

Si still likes to go outside for an amble on nice days. Generally he goes out the front door and then shortly thereafter appears on the back deck expecting me to know he's there (I can see him from my office window) and let him back in.

I hope we aren't nearing the end for Si. He's too cool of a cat to leave me just yet, so I keep praying he'll get better and start eating again. If you're reading this, perhaps you can say a prayer for Si too.

Roaming Dogs

The other issue I had to deal with this past weekend was roaming dogs. A very long legged husky type dog has been coming around, along with two half-grown pups that look like white german shepherds with tipped ears. The adult has no collar, but the pups do. I mysteriously lost a hen back behind the pasture earlier in the week and the evidence made it clear that a hawk was not the killer. I now wonder if it was these dogs, since my chickens live with my dogs and so wouldn't necessarily think to escape if a dog came upon them.

When I first saw the three dogs, they were in the side pasture (the one not being used for sheep because it has only three strands of high-tensile. I ran out to chase them off, but they weren't exactly afraid of me. Later, I found that they had scared JellyBean up a wild pear tree and I had to take the stepladder out and wrestle through the thorns on the tree to set it up and coax JellyBean down to where I could grab him. They kept coming back down the driveway all day, but my dogs were out in the yard and ran them off each time. Finally they stayed up by the road and walked along the sheep pasture fence, crossing back and forth on the road and nearly being hit several times.

They have been back at least once a day since then. That first day, some folks stopped by looking for the alpaca farm next door and said they lived nearby. I asked if they had seen these dogs or knew who they belonged to. They said the dogs had been chasing their horses.

When I told Jimmy of the dogs, he decided it was time I went for target practice with the rifle and the .22 pistol. There is some sort of black humor in this because Jimmy stood there with a perfectly straight face and told me that if the dogs got in and were chasing the sheep I would need to shoot them. Okay, but did he really think I could shoot at the dogs and miss everything else (i.e., the sheep)? Not to be deterred, we went to Tony and Mary's house on Sunday for target practice. We were steadying the rifle on the back of Jimmy's pickup truck and I mentioned that I doubted I'd be able to hold it steady enough for good aim without the aid of the truck. Jimmy blithely said, "You can rest it on a fence post." To understand the humor in this you'd need to know that Jimmy is 6'5" and I am 5'4". Every fence post on the place is taller than I am! The solution? I can rest the rifle on the woven wire itself. Not nearly as solid, but certainly more appropriate for my height. I'm happy to say that although I haven't target shot in probably a decade, I still had good enough aim "to kill a dog" according to Jimmy. Let's hope I don't have to put that theory to the test.

When we had left for Mary and Tony's, we had a tunis ewe we were a bit suspicious of, and we expected we'd find her with a lamb or two when we got back. But we came home not to a tunis lamb, but to another karakul lamb instead. Another ram lamb, and nearly a carbon copy of the first little masked ram I posted a picture of several days ago. Since Claire looks nothing like Lacey (although they may share some genetics) , and I got two lambs that look nearly identical in their unusual markings, I'm guessing this is a color that Josias will tend to throw.

We're expecting nasty weather to come in tomorrow, and since we've had a break from new lambs today, no doubt some will come in time for the bad stuff. All the current lambs are out in the mixing pens and they've gotten big enough to do the lambie races and other crazy antics. It's so fun just to sit and watch their apparent joy at simply being lambs and being alive!


~~Sittin.n.Spinnin said...

We have more animals than we have ever had before; 5 cats (one my son brought home when he moved back in), 4 dogs (one my son brought home along with the cat) and live on a dirt road that people go 60 mph down on a regular basis. And my neighbors want the county to pave it! ...I love living like I do, but it is so hard to lose a special pet like that.

RFP said...

When I sent you my latest email I hadn't read your most recent blog entry. I am so sorry about Moses. Would pedialite or ensure help Si any?
I hope we can come see your lambs before they are all grown~RFP