Two tiny babes arrived last week. Their mother, like all mothers, immediately protective. Nervously nuzzling first one and then the other. Squatting to let them nurse. Instinctively knowing what to do.
One baby is a little larger and very healthy. He is already trying to buck and play.
The second is small and fragile. She struggles to find the nipple when nursing, tires after suckling just a few seconds. The second day it is obvious she is not doing well. Her mother continually nuzzles her, talks to her. These are her first babies and she is overwhelmed. One wants to play and explore this new world, the other is lying quietly-barely moving. If she makes it through the night she has a chance.
Day three brings renewed hope, she has been able to eat enough to fill her tummy.
Wait. She is not feeling well – she stretches to ease the pain in her tiny stomach. Can we give her anything to help? It is a slim chance, but all we can do. And then it is over. This tiny life has ended.
The next day we leave the mother and her surviving baby in the same barn so she will figure out the second baby is gone. That evening we put her with the other ewes and lambs. In the morning we let them out to graze. All day we can hear the mother calling for her babe – not the one nursing, the one that has died. Her pain is evident in her plaintive cry. When we let them in for the night she runs back to where she last saw her baby. Her head hangs in grief.
I don’t think there is a way to measure a mother’s grief – no matter if we are two legged or four legged.
From RealRancher Carla Crofts – Sweetwater, Wyo.