I think tragedy is always most painful when it’s most unexpected.
This evening, Homeschooled Farm Boy (HFB) and I were out tending the sheep, and we had Tabasco (the Red Healer / Australian Shepherd mix) with us. Scooter the Amazing Wonderdog was also there. For whatever reason, Tabasco got extremely agitated about the nine lambs running around in the sheep area, and was barking at them like crazy. Scooter, for his part, simply stuck his face through the fence and tried to make sure any adventurous lambs didn’t try to slip out of the pen.
HFB and I finished the chores, and went outside to work on the fence for Mrs Yeoman Farmer’s new garden. Scooter came with us, and helped chase chickens away from the newly-plowed beds. Tabasco disappeared from our radar, which is not atypical for her.
Ten minutes or so later, I needed a particular tool. I walked toward the garage, and momentarily got a good line of sight into the sheep area. Tabasco had gotten in (she’s like a rat – able to squeeze through impossibly tight holes) and was doing something to one of the lambs. I shouted at her, ran and hurdled the gate, and then discovered…the lamb in question was DEAD. She’d apparently shaken it to death, as it was like a rag doll in my arms. I jostled and jostled it, but there was no response.
Needless to say, I beat the living daylights out of Tabasco as I shook the lamb in her face. She did seem cowed and submissive (by her standards, anyhow) after that, and crept along to my office. What stuns me is how out of character this is for her; I’ve never seen her kill anything but mice and rats before this. She somehow thought the lambs were predators or intruders — while Scooter instinctively realized they are livestock to protect and herd.
Obviously, I spent much of the evening in a funk. But as I explained to HFB, if we could’ve picked one lamb to kill early—this would’ve been the one. She was a triplet female, and was by far the smallest we had. She was barely gaining weight; definitely the runt of the litter. In a year when all the lambs are inbred (and so we’ll be butchering everything), she would’ve yielded much less meat than any other. And with her eliminated, her two remaining brothers will get a bigger share of the milk. Thank God this didn’t happen to a lamb that was the only offspring; the ewe would’ve simply dried up.
So, we’ll be keeping a much tighter leash on Tabasco and keeping her away from the livestock. She’s the best companion animal we’ve ever had, and I love having her around. I just wish she was half as good with animals as she is with people.