Saturday, February 20, 2010


This past Monday, as my DH was off for the holdiay, we decided to have a late lunch in town as well as pick up a needed part for the '53 Merc he's working on. We left the wethers and Loki in the pasture area that had been cleared of snow, eating breakfast, and the girls had the run of the area around the barn. Both groups had plenty of hay to nibble on to keep them happy.

But when we came home, we were not prepared for what was going on down towards the barn. Two loose dogs had walked across the fencing  on the property line we share with the county, on top of the snow, and were attacking the sheep!

I flew down towards the barn to find the boys standing between the dogs and the ewes. Somehow the gate to the corral at the barn was open and they were keeping the dogs from even getting close to the girls. But the price the dogs were extracting from the boys was terrifying.

The first thing was to get the dogs away from the sheep. The larger dog was a black and tan medium dog of maybe 40-45 lbs. That dog saw me and stopped his attack. The smaller dog which looked to me like a cross between a terrier of some sort and some kind of bulldog was still attacking poor Shaun who was struggling, brought down in the mud and melting snow. I had to pull the smaller dog off Shaun, then chased them out the gate to a now waiting husband.

We were lucky in that both dogs had collars with tags and owner's phone number. Ralph took control of the dogs and calling the owner and 911 while I got the sheep penned inside the barn and started to assess the damages. I ran to the house after penning all the sheep and called our sheeps' vet, Dr. Rob to come on an emergency. I grabbed B-vitamins, ProBios, towels and some warm water and went straight back the barn to do what I could until Rob got there.

Loki had very little damage - a couple of facial wounds where it looked like one of the dogs might have tried to get him, as well as a superficial gash on one leg. He was the least hurt of all the sheep.

Sven had all the wool from the back of his head and a shoulder torn out by the roots. His ears were both torn but the worst for him was a bite to his right eye. At first I thought the dog had taken his eye completely, but when Rob examined him, he found it to be the lid that was very damaged. We'll know more when the swelling subsides.

My buddy and rock, Colin, had quite a bit of the wool on his hindquarters torn out and had gashes and puncture wounds to his back legs. He was/is limping as his right hock was nailed pretty well. He, too, had the ears torn a bit and a gash above an eye.

The worst one was Shaun. His wool from the middle of his back to and including his tail was ripped out and he sustained many, many gashes to his haunches. His skin is just raw from all the wool being torn out. Some of the wounds had mud in them from his being downed by the dogs. We got most of the dirt out of the wounds, but Dr. Rob felt it would take time for the body to push the remaining dirt out. It was too deep and would have caused Shaun even more pain to scrub them out.

Both Shaun and Colin were in shock by the time the vet got there.

Had we not gotten home when we did, I'm sure we would have found one or more of the sheep dead, or at the least, way more torn up. I'm certain Shaun would have been dead if I hadn't gotten to him when I did. Every day since I have been treating each sheep. At first we did massive supportive care with injections of B-vitamins and dosing each with ProBios to support their rumens and keep them from shutting down. Injections of banamine for pain and Draxxin for it's awesome antibiotic support were given as well.

Right now, the boys have improved to the point of not requiring the banamine but will get another Draxxin injection 14 days after the first one. Draxxin is wonderful and the fact that it works for fourteen days just means less stress for the boys - and me. I still have to watch for wool falling off the sheep due to stress as well as to keep observing the pregnant ewes for signs of stress or abortion of their lambs. I may not know all the answers until April when the girls are due top lamb.

We're not out of the woods yet, by any means, but I'm hoping that with good supportive care the boys' bodies will heal. Their mental wounds may not heal so easily. Every time I look into their faces I remember the terror I saw in Shaun's eyes as I pulled the vicious dog off of him. My mind knows I did all I could for them and there was virtually no way I could have kept loose dogs, walking on top of the 4+ ft. of snow at the fence along the swampy are of the pasture, from walking over the top of the fence onto our property - but my heart is torn over seeing the boys in pain and hurt,...and terrorized. And I am so angry at loose dogs and their owners.

The owner was cited by our animal control officer. On March 8th, he will have to appear in court to please guilty or not guilty. Here in Arizona, the law is on the side of the livestock owner. I really can't say too much here, for the reason that this will all be decided through the courts. But, I can say that I am so glad we caught the dogs and they had collars with tags on which were active phone and contact information.

The boys are heroes in my eyes. They put themselves between those dogs and the ewes. And I thank God these are Shetlands - sweet, gentle, tough-as-nails Shetlands. And a part of me hopes they gave as good as they got.

This attack did something else as well. No loose dog will be tolerated on this property any longer...ever.


Tammy said...

I'm crying for you and the sheep Kathy. What a horrible, horrible thing. We do the best we can, and try and think of everything but sometimes we HAVE to leave. Owners of loose dogs make me so very angry. For years we were good around here, and now suddenly we have six or seven that visit around. These dogs are owned by people that could not/would not be able to reimburse if anything happened. Can't get blood out of turnip as they say. I live in fear of this happening. My fences are good, but as you know the dogs have more time on their paws and determination as well. I hope that things go your way in the court. I'm very glad that the dogs were at least tagged.

Every time I think of the boys standing there taking it for the girls I cry. For those that think wethers are useless, I'd think this is an excellent example of 'earning your keep' and then some. Beautiful boys. I pray that your ewes and their unborn lambs will be fine. There is a good chance, because of the boys, that they will be. If the ewes had had to fight like that, there would have been little hope for them, I think.

I'm so very glad you came home when you did. And I'm sure as usual YOUR above and beyond care of them, brought them through this. Keep us posted on what is happening and how they are doing.

With this much damage to the poor boys, I would think that your wool crop will be pretty much gone on them too, which is another thing to bring to the floor. I just can't imagine how painful that would have been for them to have it pulled out like that.

Take care of yourself, I'm writing a book, so better stop.

melanie said...

Oh my goodness, my heart goes out to you! How brave those boys were, and they are all in my prayers (you guys, too!)

I hope you get justice, and be sure to have "something" ready for the next time it happens...I'm checking right now to make sure my "something" is loaded...

Theresa said...

Argghh, poor boys! Fingers and toes crossed that they get through this and you too. Big hugs. And how brave they were! We've had dogs bother the goats, but not as seriously as that.
Let's hope it's a one time thing. As a dog owner ( all fenced) I always live in fear of them running loose for all sorts of reasons and that has kept me working with our loose dog problem neighbor. Why should the dogs pay for owner stupidity, but my goats shouldn't either.
The last time I saw the pair of loose dogs they were beating feet from the horse pasture. As annoying as it is that both Nick and Dandy are like guided heat seeking bombs when it comes to dogs, the goats have learned to run into their paddock for protection. I often wonder if they are safer at night able to go into the horse paddock or locked into their own area.
Good luck and lots of prayers going out your way.

nursedragon said...

Oh God! I was speechless as I read your account of what happened to your sheep, Kathy. The poor, poor animals! Had it been me, I would have been sorely tempted to end the dogs on the spot, not to mention the owners. Such irresponsibility!

The boys all deserve commendations for their bravery. Thank goodness there were enough of them to fend off the dogs as well as they did.

Mark and I both send our sympathy. I hope Loki, Sven, Shaun and Colin recover quickly and well. Let me know if I can help, even if it's just holding somebody still for some meds.


lois said...

Dear Kathy, I am sure that they feel your love and it sustains them...and that time will heal their hearts and minds.

Faz the Cat said...

Dogs and sheeps are always a constant problem. We had a lurcher in Wales who behaved herself for years around sheep and was completely used to checking the fields with me everyday, then one day she just went for a ewe who was caught in some brambles. I think the sight of the sheep looking vulnerable somehow turned her and she went straight for the sheep's throat. After that I couldn't take her to check the sheep anymore just in case.

Now I live in the city with no sheep or dogs, quite a change I can tell you.

Mimi said...

Kathy thank God you were able to get home in time to save your sheep! That has to be one of the biggest fears I have. Not coyotes but stray dogs. Your boys are heroes and should heal well with your care.

Jennifer said...

I can't imagine the number of emotions you must be feeling. Thank God you did get home when you did!!! It is wonderful those boys did come in as heroes! I'm sure you will do everything you can for them and they are very thankful for it.

Cheryle Hoover Davis said...

Oh, Kathy! I'm so sorry to hear about this! I know how that feels, as I've experienced it myself...dogs running loose killed all my beautiful ducks one time.

I'm so proud of your wethers! Aren't they the most beautiful creatures? To protect the girls like that. I hope that they all recover 100%. Prayers go to your house...from ours...

Ken (my Wife's farmhand ;-)) said...

Oh my gosh! I feel so badly for your brave boys and we're really pulling for all to get through this terrible incident. Y'all did a wonderful job once you got back home and it's a good thing you did. I marvel at how well you guys sprang into action and only hope that we can tend to our flock half as well. We feel so grateful that our 3 "big white dogs" LGDs keep our flock/herds out of harms way. We have so many, many coyotes and stray dogs but the Pyrs have never let anything so much as stray onto our place. The site of our little doelings sleepng all around our Great Pyr boy is a sight to behold. We'll be checking in daily to assess everyone's progress. All the Best, Ken and Mary of Fancyfibers Farm

Kayten said...

I'm new to your blog- got here via Melanie- but I hate what happened at your home. The 4' of snow should be irrelevant. You must really have had your wits about you to react as quickly and efficiently as you did.
I only have a 3 sheep, 5 goats, a pony, and 3 camelids, but have had a Maremma almost since we moved here, as we have a preponderance of coyotes.
Right now, our second Phoebe is going through adolescence and is somewhat of an aggravation to the livestock, but I have noticed that she always stations herself between them and any threat, so I'm hopeful that genes will out if and when push comes to shove with an intruder. Have you considered an LGD?
Good luck with the nursing care. It 's exhausting, especially in winter.

Mayleen said...

Just checked into the blog - so sorry to hear about this! I hope the boys heal up quickly and that the girls recover emotionally. I'm glad I have the horses here as a buffer for Ole. When we finally move to our own place and expand, I really want a guard dog.
Let me know if you need anything!

Becky said...

Hope they all pull through it, that is a horrific thing to happen. They are lucky to have you as a shepherdess.
I didn't know you'd moved, glad I saw one of your comments on Sharon's blog, I'd have never found you, I had been missing your commentary :)

Sharon said...

We hope that our dogs and llamas would be able to protect against stray dogs, but we know that dogs, not coyotes, are the real threat. That worry makes it hard to go on vacation in peace. I ache for you and for your animals.

Monica said...

I ran across your site looking for fleece sources in Arizona and I love Shetlands. I am so sorry to hear about what happened to your sheep! I will be praying that they recover quickly!