(Full disclosure: Dale wrote this tribute to one of our best ewes this summer and I have searched for a fitting pic to go with for a time. He has reminded and asked me often - a task "for my spare time" as I'm the website gatekeeper it would seem. I finally found one, and on a day when our hearts feel a little heavy, it is time I post this.)
We animal farmers do care for our animals more than many will ever know. If anyone ever tells you that we don't, just know that it is false.
Our first seven ewes were given names: Mary, Molly, Dottie, Zoey, Sparkles, Tulip, and Petunia. Since then, pretty much all of our ewes have been given names. We did try to give just letter-numbers like "pro" sheep farmers. However, names are what happens when you have two young daughters, naming websites, and a pen and paper, schemes and a sense of humour. Naming our ewes became a tradition, and it works for us. Some people know their sheep by their ear tag number. Ours get an ear tag, but it has a name on the ear tag. I thought as our flock grew that it would become impossible to glance at the sheep and learn all their names with any degree of accuracy. But amazingly, we get to know the names and the faces at a glance.
Back to our original ewes. They were the basis of our growth. They were the sheep we learned so much about shepherding with: how to fence, what to watch for at lambing, what feeds they need most and when -- they taught us a lot. They all had their own individual personalities and their own temperaments.
One stood out the most though. A feminine, pretty ewe named Petunia. She was a beauty. She was a calm and tame sheep, but not in your face tame. She had a pretty, lovely-shaped ewe face with clear classic markings that made her stand out from the rest. She was quiet and uncomplaining. She was the ewe that you wished you had about 500 of. Petunia needed no name tag; she was so easy to recognize that she never got one. Over time, we watched her become the flock matriarch.
Today, Petunia died. It is not surprising that an eight year old sheep is toward the end of their life. Out of those original ewes, we only have two left now. But for me, her death marks the end of an era. She stood out in the crowd, because she was just so pretty, calm, and ideal. More ewes will no doubt come and go. But none will hold a candle to the lovely Petunia.
Rest In Peace, Petunia.