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The Surprising Saga of Six Sick Sheep

Last Saturday my friend Jake and I went to visit our friends in the Noah family. The family consists of Mr. Noah the Elder, Ms. Noah the Elder, Mr. Noah the Younger, and Ms. Noah the Younger. The parents of Mr. Noah the Elder were visiting from afar. (I suppose the elder Noah’s parents are the Double Elder Noahs). Also included in the extended family are the donkey Mabel; the sheep Madame de Sevigny, the Duchess of Alba, Nell Gwyn and Camilla, plus two new sister sheep from the Cotswolds; a variety of chickens and cats; a parrot named Fred; and a dog named Darwin. In fact, the Noahs have collected enough animals that, should the rains come down and the floods come up, the ark could be at least two-thirds filled with animals from their back yard.

When Jake and I arrived, we were informed by Ms. Noah the Younger that Noah the Elder had gone to the apothecary to fetch medication for the six sick sheep. It seems that Mabel the donkey had kicked over the barrel containing several pounds of sheep food. The sheep, hardly believing their good fortune, immediately ate it all. They licked their lips, burped heartily and lay down moaning and complaining of a bad tum-tum. (Sick sheep are inclined to use cutesy expressions.)

Let me digress a moment. To better appreciate the basic cause of the problem, you need to know something about Mabel. Mabel was originally bought to be a watch donkey to protect the sheep from coyotes and mountain lions and other such predators that might be attracted to sheep. It turns out that Mabel was, herself, attracted to sheep. She chased them, bit them and tried to kick them. Mabel loves to kick things, particularly rounded things. For instance she amuses herself by playing soccer. Mr. Noah the Younger taught her. He kicks the ball to Mabel, who can kick it back with any one of her four feet. She will kick the ball for hours on end, particularly if there are no sheep to kick. On the morning in question, the soccer ball was outside the fence, the sheep were not immediately accessible, and Mabel wanted to play. The most rounded thing she saw was the sheep food barrel, so she kicked it. The barrel fell down, the lid came off, and the sheep feast began shortly thereafter.

Back to the story. Jake and I spent a pleasant few minutes talking with the two younger Noahs and Mr. Noah the Younger’s lovely companion Autumn. We were about to leave when Noah the Elder returned home with a large bag of sheep medication. Everyone’s attention now turned to the stuff in the bag. There were large syringes, small syringes, large and small needles, vials of potent looking medicine, and very few instructions on what to do with them. That shouldn’t be a problem. This was an intelligent group, consisting of an architect, a geologist, a biologist, a linguist, and an outdoor barbecue chef.

It was obvious that shots were to be given and other medication was to be inserted into the sheeps’ digestive tracts. But where? There was considerable speculation that a sheep’s bum would somehow be involved. I need to point out here, that “bum” as used in this narrative is a British anatomical term (as in “What a cute bum!”) and has nothing to do with a ne’er-do-well who doesn’t work and sponges drinks from others and, in general, leads a life to which many of the rest of us aspire.

The group of caregivers descended on the shed in which the six sick sheep were resting. We will call this the “six sick sheep shed.” (OK. I know you’re going to try saying that real fast six times.) Jake took it upon himself to demonstrate the fine art of a subcutaneous injection. This is accomplished by grabbing a hank of wool and pulling it upward until a little pyramid of bare skin is exposed. The needle is then inserted just under the skin, and the contents of the syringe are squirted in. That seems easy enough. Noah the Elder decided to take a stab at it. Jake helped by holding up the skin for Noah to insert the needle. Insert it he did—right in one side of the skin and out the other into Jake, who is now protected against overeating for at least three days.

Two other rather remarkable things happened before all the sheep were medicated. First, you must recognize the biological imperative that if large quantities of food are ingested and digested, the remains must be egested. Under the stimulation of being poked, prodded, and generally harassed, sheep egestion can be accomplished with uncommon force. Noah the Younger, who until this time had been watching intently as an innocent bystander, can provide eloquent testimony to this fact. It is interesting to note that although Noah the Younger is well over six feet tall, not one square inch of his body escaped the dousing.

Finally, while all the sheep doctoring was going on, Mabel wandered up from the other side of the pasture to check on the excitement. Bored with the lack of activity involving her, Mabel decided to initiate a game of “kick-the-roundest-thing-in-sight.” Jake’s bum sticking out of the sheep shed looked good to Mabel…and that’s the end of the story.