Thursday, September 24, 2015

Goodbye George

George was euthanized on September 15, 2015.  He would have been 14 on his next birthday, March 2, 2016. His quality of life had deteriorated and I thought he was suffering. Getting up was hard for him. It was hard for him to lay comfortably. He wasn't eating enough. He was going to waste away. I had to do it. Others agreed. His time had come.

George, age 13

George died in my arms. It was a peaceful end. The vet helped me get him into the truck. I took him to Valley Pet for cremation. His ashes were returned to me in a nice wooden box. The box was in a green velvet bag. I have a cremation certificate. George's box is on the coffee table. I talk to him.

I have so many memories of George. He is (was) symbolic of my farm. He is (was) the mascot for the Sheep 101 web site. People used to send him e-mail when they had questions or wanted to greet him. I talked about him. People knew who he was. My farm sitters liked him.

I never meant to keep him. When he was born, no ewe would claim him (I never knew who his mother was), so I bottle-fed him. Someone wanted to buy him, but he had a hurt leg when it was time to go. So, I ended up keeping him. His first job was to serve as a companion to my ram; Tarheel, at the time.

This was an important job, as no sheep likes to live alone, and rams can be especially problematic when they are kept by themselves. For several years, George lived with the rams. When he got older, he stayed with the ewes, as I was concerned the rams might be too aggressive with him. Plus, I had multiple rams, so they didn't need a wether companion.

Baby George:  the lamb no one wanted

For several years, I displayed my Katahdin sheep in the breeds display barn at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. Though George wasn't 100 percent Katahdin, he went along. For a few years, Samantha led him in the Parade of Breeds. He walked well on a halter, but preferred just to follow me.  When I walked him around the Festival, people wondered why he followed me; I had no bucket of feed.

Of course, George did like buckets of feed. He was notorious for sticking his head in the bucket and causing me to spill grain. George had a huge appetite. He liked grain, but his favorite food was tree leaves. I fed him leaves up until the day he died. Towards the end, I picked leaves for George daily.

George was very fat in his prime, age 4

George was 5/8 Katahdin x 3/8 Dorper. He weighed 206 lbs. in his prime. He was definitely fat. I didn't want to keep him separate, so he always got fed whatever the ewes or rams were getting. During the summer, it was just pasture. But during the winter, they'd get some grain, so he'd get some grain. They needed the extra nutrition for their babies; he did not. But, he was too smart to be separated for feeding.

George was the mascot for my Sheep 101 web site.  Sheep 101 is a web site to teach students, teachers, 4-Hers, and the general public about sheep. It was originally set up in a question-answer format. George answered the questions. George's picture appeared (still appears) on every page.

George was born in the first lamb crop to be born in Western Maryland. Like the rest of the lambs, he was born in the garage. He grazed around the house, until the pastures had been planted and fenced in.

George still in his prime, age 8

George never required much care. He never got sick. He got an annual CDT injection like the rest of the sheep. He might have been dewormed as a lamb, but wasn't dewormed again until a month or so before he died (I was concerned that he was grazing in the same small area). His worst attribute was his feet. Many of my sheep don't ever need their hooves trimmed. George's hooves needed trimming every year, sometimes more often. He never cooperated when I trimmed his hooves, though once he fell asleep in the tilt table.

George's official name was George W.  He was named after President George W. Bush.  One year at the Festival I could tell who people were going to vote for based on their reaction to George's name. Sadly, George's namesake lost the next election.

Me, George, and Samantha at the Festival

I'm going to miss George. I already miss George. I always looked for him. I called his name and he answered me. In the last year or so, I made a point of making sure he was okay.George had a good life. He got to be a pet on a sheep farm. He got to live like a sheep.  He lived past his life expectancy.

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