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Leaving a hole.

It is with sadness i have to announce the loss of another of my wee sheep flock. Pearl tragically lost her life last weekend. She came to me last year along with her mom Barbara, and younger brother Pepper (who i also regrettably lost to urolitholiasis last year). Both her and her mom were pregnant and so my forever North Ronaldsay flock rose rapidly in numbers with Pearl delivering beautiful little black Gem and Babs having twin boys Kelpie and Willow.

The new family of shore sheep kept themselves separate from my hand reared grown up caddies but nonetheless settled in to a new norm living on grass and frequent seaweed and treats from me.

A few days before xmas hormones got the better of Pearl and she was desperate to find a mate. She had never scaled my fence line before but that day she escaped. I didnt know if she would survive on the shore without her own Mom so the next day i went looking for her and found her on the shore with a ram protecting her. Now i dont breed my sheep- they ususally come here as orphans or injured, and i have no desire to increase numbers so i had a dilemma- do i let Pearl continue her pregnancy and potentially introduce 3 more members to the flock (she was a triplet herself) or do i try to get her aborted? I consulted with the vet- they wouldnt send out those drugs for me to administer and they had no plans to visit but they said they could arrange to come over on a plane, and if i could get Pearl in my van to the airport they would inject her and leave on the same plane. I ummed and ahhed and decided in this occasion the pregnancy was too advanced but thety it could be something i would have to do in the future if Pearl continued to escape in the breeding season.

And so i prepared myself for the possibility of 3 lambs in May (late for a north ronaldsay- everyone else has lambed on the island by now). I already had lambig stuff because i had bought them the year before anticipating Babs might have 3 again- but she didnt so i allowed her to rear both boys herself.

A few weeks ago i was due to go to town for SFRS training and the day before i was to leave Pearl started being fussy about eating the sheep concentrates i give them all (basically to make managing them all easier). I informed my animal carer, and pleaded that he please makesure she got something to eat (she would still take crackers from my hand at that stage). He did his best, collecting her dandilions and telling me she had eaten a few crackers.

On my return we only had two weeks until her due date and i tried to catch her but she is wild and i felt chasing her was not in her interests and i was reassued that she was eating a few crackers, fresh dandilions and seaweed daily and that was a lot more than a lot of heavily pregnant north ronaldsays get when they are gathered off the shore for lambing.

But only 5 days from her due date she was considerably weak, anorexic and was easy to catch and transfer to the barn, where i started her on a programme of concentrated glucose drenches, injectable calcium and multi vitamins. The vet sent over an injection to induce her- she may lose the lambs but it may save her life.

Two nights later she went into labour and produced a healthy girl then boy. She proudly licked them clean, nickering at them and allowing them to try to suckle. I doubted she would be able to feed them so i started tube feeding them. I offered her some soaked sugarbeet and oats and she ate it and some grass.

I felt maybe she would be able to eat now she had delivered her burden and gain strength. But it was apparent she would still need ongoing help and on one of my drenching visits i found her collapsed and tragically she passed away. Devastated and guilt ridden as i was i needed to attend to the babies.

I owe it to Pearl to do my very best for these guys now- she literally gave her life so they could have one. They have their moms strength of character and cheeky personalities- they are already using their front hooves to bash me when they want attention.

And i promise you Pearl i will do my utmost to keep little Coral and Jasper safe in your memory.

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