"Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion." Leviticus Ch18v23.
I beg to differ, I was lying with the sheep yesterday forenoon, and there was no confusion about it at all. I had a role to play when Mike the Vet came for a bit of radical chiropody. If getting covered in sheep-dribble, a bit of blood-spatter and sundry other sheepily fluids is defilement, then I was defiled.
Ewe "A for Annabel" was the first of our flock to deliver as expected. The rogue teens who fell pregnant but shouldn't started from the other end of the alphabet: Z for Zoe and Y for Yvette. Annabel became obviously lame about three weeks ago and eventually we called the Vet for an opinion. He reported a deep-seated infection that might yield to an assault with intravenous antibiotics but he felt that the infected offside 'claw' of the right rear foot would have to come off at some stage. Yesterday was Der Tag and the operation required some rope, a pallet, a bunch of medical kit, a saw and a patient. As a fainter at the sight of blood I was told off to hold the front end while Mike-the-Vet and The Beloved played "scalpel please nurse" at the far end.
The pallet serves as both operating table and, with the rope and some handy knots and splices, as a restraining device. And no, a sheepshank is of no use in the circumstances. A dash of i.v. ketamine and xylazine put the old dear into a state of zzzz, a torniquet (old inner tube and a stick as a Spanish windlass) was applied to the affected leg and the distal end was filled brimful of novocaine. Analgesia in sheep is not an exact science. They aren't valuable enough to have been worth experimenting on to ensure the correct dose, so you hope to give enough that there isn't too much unnecessary pain but not so much that it takes ages to flush out - there is a lamb attached to the system which needs to be taken into account as well.
It was pretty clear that the drugs weren't going to last forever and as there was a stirring of consciousness [as she started to kick off] I was required to hold her head down with a full body press and do what I could to supplement the knots which were immobilising the front legs not-so-good - where are the sailors or the boy-scouts when you need them? It would probably have been okay if I did faint, as I was really only dead-weight on the head and neck. Did I mention a saw? I was expecting a handy tenon saw such as my grandpa used on the finer details of boat-building in the 1930s, but not so: Mike brought out a wire-saw worthy of Bear Grylls and made short work of the task with that. A bit of antiseptic spray and some industrial veterinary bandages - the outer layer a fetching royal blue - and Annabel was ready for discharge. Untying the knots was even more trouble than tying them, which again made me wish for a sailor, not someone who has no intention of sailing ever again. All that then remained was to wring out my slobbered-on sleeves and so to lunch. Washing the blood-spatter off the pallet could wait.
If you were ever unsure about what to do at calving time, here's the answer: Calving under the moon by Sarah Ann Winters. But wait! We know that Vet.