Sorry to JJ, Zinnia Cyclamen and Lane for leaving you in suspense but I have to get readers somehow!!!
The vet was not too optimistic on Autumns chances of survival, her back legs had big holes which went right through the muscles, he said the biggest threat would be from infection, if I was prepared to wash out the wounds twice a day for two weeks she might have a chance, he also put her on large doses of anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. He also said that the wounds had almost certainly been caused by a dog and we would have to be vigilant as once a dog had tasted BLOOD it would be back!!! If we could move the sheep to another field as far away as possible it might prevent another attack.
I returned home and put Autumn and her mum in a pen so I could treat her, we had to hope that she was a fighter. It was too late to move the ewes then so we would do it first thing next day. Everything seemed calm and we hoped that it was a one off.
Next morning we went out to the field to move the ewes, they seemed nervous and distracted but that was only to be expected, we did our usual walk round to check that they were all together. Over by a hedge we saw a ewe stretched out and not moving, we ran over to her, she was alive but had an enormous chunk of skin that had been RIPPED away leaving an expanse of FLESH exposed. The OH ran to fetch the jeep and once again I was on the way to the vet, he moved the ewes to our farthest field.
Again the problem would be infection, the vet decided to stitch the flap of skin back in the hope that it would act like a sterile bandage that would keep the wound clean while it healed. He was not that hopeful but it was her only chance. She also needed high doses of anti-inflammatories which he warned us would cause the loss of any lambs she was probably carrying.
I had to hold her down as he stitched her, the STOICISM of sheep never ceases to amaze me. What they can endure and survive is incredible.
I took her home and put her in another pen where I could treat her aswell. Only time would tell whether either of them would live. In the meantime we went to see the Gendarmes. They were sympathetic but could do nothing unless we found the owner of the dog[s]. They also told us that we didn't have the right to shoot a dog if we found it worrying our sheep, but if no-one knew --------?
We decided to visit our nearest neighbours to see if any of them had seen any stray dogs around, no-one had but all said they would keep their eyes open. We are the only sheep farmers round here so there had been no other incidents.
We also visited the President of the local chasse, he was sure that the dog[s] would not be hunting dogs as they are trained to ignore all farm animals, but nevertheless he would be on the lookout for any stray dogs. And that was as much as we could do.
We spent the next week checking the ewes several times a day, all seemed quiet. Autumn was making progress, the wounds were healing although I don't think she ever forgave me for the pain I must have caused her as I washed them twice a day, she has always been wary of me. And the other ewe was recovering too, the flap of skin stayed in place long enough for new skin to grow back and she was able to go back with the flock.
THEN the OH had to go back to England and we had to move the ewes to a field nearer to where they had been attacked!!!!! It was an unavoidable move. Everything remained calm.
On the 8th of December I spent a very enjoyable few hours in our nearest town doing some Christmas shopping. I arrived home at about 3pm and as I parked the car I knew immediately that something was WRONG, the ewes had broken out of the field and were milling around the farm buildiings and I could feel their DISTRESS, it was hanging over them. I had been in such a good mood. I got them back into the field and spotted a small group of sheep huddled by the ram paddock. I ran over and found one ewe who appeared to be okay with THREE AGNELLES ONE WAS DEAD AND THE OTHER TWO WERE BADLY INJURED. And I was on my own. I managed to get the two injured sheep into the jeep and sped off to the vet. There was nothing he could do for them, so I brought them home again. I phoned a friend who came out and shot them for me.
Now you may be surprised by what I did next. I skinned them and gutted them and hung them. It seemed right not to WASTE them, I didn't want to THROW them away. I cried all the time I was doing this but it just seemed the right thing to do. It helped me to have something to do, it took my mind off the terrible events of that day.
Something else has remained with me from that day. When I found the dead and injured agnelles I said there was a ewe with them, she was unhurt. I made a note of her number so that I could check her properly later. When I looked at the tag numbers of the dead agnelles I realised why the ewe had stayed with them, they were HER LAMBS. All the other ewes had ran in terror but her instincts had kept her with them, she hadn't been able to save them but she had stayed with them. I shed another tear for that ewe.
It would not be my last TEARS.