I do know where to find them. All dead. All gone. Bodies strewn around the farm in various stages of decompositions. Wanton wastage to the wild dogs. All my beautiful children gone. No more kisses at feeding time. No more chasing them away from the alpaca food bowls. No more racing antics as they run from one to the next . . . no more watching them grazing quietly on the hill above the house, or racing down same helter skelter when I go to the feed shed with the yellow bucket.
No more pitiful bleating when bollocky boy loses the flock (again!) and wanders the farm over trying to find them . . .
I woke up at 5am on Monday and went to the loo. Looked out of the window into the grey gloom and saw three sheep being herded in terror. Raced into Ged and woke him up to get the gun which was locked away in the gun cabinet. By the time we were both up and dressed there were only two sheep huddled on the hill and no sign of the wild dog. Typical! There never bloody is when Ged and his gun are around.
Still, we went for a drive and a wander and luckily found the third sheep hiding with her head under a fallen she oak down by the river, her body screened by a huge clump of weed. She was exhausted, terrified, in shock. We fetched the Emergency Essence and dribbled it into her mouth and on her poll. We reikied and talked to her. She didn’t appear to be injured and eventually she got up and wended her way back to the others. She was limping on a foreleg, but otherwise seemed ok.
Ben and I spent the day building a yard below the hill where they have been camping out with the thought that we could tempt them down there with food. We laboured hard and were proud of the results and our efforts. But of course they were so traumatised by being hunted every night – so skittish and scared, that they wouldn’t come near us or our brilliant construction. So we just had to pray.
On Tuesday at feeding time first I tried to tempt them down, and then, in frustration, tried to herd them. Which is impossible with just one person. It didn’t work.
On Wednesday the prayers seemed to be working, since nothing else was. On Thursday we came home and couldn’t see any white woollies on the hill. I raced in to put supper in the oven and then Ben and I drove up to the top of the hill. Two sheep. One badly injured. We tried to tempt them closer with food but instead they limped off the hill, down the flat and up into the bush.
I had to leave them there and feed the small person and got Ged to sing him to sleep over the phone so I could go out and feed the alpacas. Then I ‘went bush’ and she had lain down in exhaustion and let me pet her and examine the injuries. I assured her that she would be ok and went home to fetch a bucket of hydrogen peroxide, clean cloth, and a syringe of penicillin. Cleaned and dosed her up and realised there was no way I could leave her stuck in the bush all night. She was a sitting duck, or a lying sheep. Easy prey.
(Language takes on a whole new meaning out here on the land with Nature as your friend and foe)
So I had to get her home. We weigh about the same and at first tries it didn’t seem possible that I could move her out. But sheer grit, determination (some would say bloody mindedness!) and adrenalin fuelled my endeavours.
She was on a hill of loose rocks and leaf matter so my feet could get no purchase and a couple of times we slipped and went roly poly together as I tried to haul her out. Finally she was wedged by some young trees and I couldn’t budge her. So I had the bright idea of getting bandages and ropes and hauling her behind the car (I admit that Ged and I started watching Django last weekend which may have inspired me). I retrieved what I needed from the shed and bound her front legs together (back legs would have been better but one had a deep two inch rip in it that was bad enough already without further stress). I positioned the car and was about to attach the rope when I realised I couldn’t drag her past the trees. Back to the drawing board. I tried to persuade her. I lifted her up onto her feet and finally she got the messages I had been exhorting into her ears. And me holding her up we walked step by step down the hill. I told her that she need only make it onto the flat and then I could drag her behind the car but she was very brave and we probably did 50 metres before she stopped and said she could go no further. I felled her and bandaged her and ‘hog tied’ her and very very slowly dragged her behind the car to the house.
In retrospect I should have made a sled. I’ll know for next time.
Got her home, cleaned her up again and liberally administered the Emergency Essence and Reiki. Covered her with a red blanket so she looked very Red Cross Emergency victim. And went in to clean up me and the house. By the time Ged came home (a day early to try and shoot these bloody dogs) she was doing well. Ged stayed home on Friday to nurse her and work while Ben and I went to preschool and yoga respectively.
When I got home she looked fine. I didn’t check her before we went to sleep. But I woke at 3 and after tossing and turning for a while decided to go outside and see what, if anything, was happening, before waking Ged up to go for a walk with his gun. Fleur as Ben and I had named her when we talked about her in the car yesterday, was in trouble. Wedged upside down on the hill by the fence. Breathing really laboured. Eyes dull, leg so hot and throbbing. More Emergency Essence, more Reiki in the rain. But after 15 minutes or so she started spasming and then there was a slowing of the breath. And then the final breath and she was gone. I came in and had a hot sweet tea. And then lay in the dark sobbing for the rest of the night.
Such an emptiness in my heart and on the farm without our little blobs of cotton wool littering the landscape. I love their wise citrine eyes, the short crop of black hair on the head and legs, sinking my hands deep into their luxurious fleece and imagining all the products to enrich our lives. I love the shearer and the huge event that is the annual shearing, I love their sweet faces and eager antics to steal every last morsel of food from the alpacas. I have loved them from near and afar and now they are all gone.
Our last remaining has long been crazy and won’t come near us and I don’t like her chances on her own.
What a waste! Like a fox in a hen house, the wild dogs have just brought them down, gnawed at them and then abandoned them to the ants, goannas and eagles. It has just been sport. Hunting practice. And it has felt like a war zone. And now there is a war. Me against the wild dog population. I am going to learn to shoot today. And I am going to hunt them down. They have wilfully destroyed my ovine family. It’s personal.