21st August 2016
Prince Harry — the King of Hearts
On Sunday 21 August, little Harry Lamb came into our lives. This week-old wee fellow presented us with a challenge like no other. Despite being pitifully thin, with his spine forming a sharp ridge running the length of his back, his belly was grossly and abnormally engorged. We had learned that the Victorian farmer who was charged with Harry and his mum’s care had noticed Harry wasn’t putting on weight as any healthy young lamb should, so Harry and his mum were shedded for extra feeding and to keep a firm eye on the two. On closer inspection—and due to Harry’s condition deteriorating, despite all the extra care—the problem became painfully obvious. Harry had been born without an anus; a condition that is known as atresia ani. It is a congenital condition where the membrane separating the rectum and anus fails to rupture. To put it simply, Harry had been unable to poop since birth, leading to a massive build-up of gas and faeces inside him. Crying out in excruciating pain was Harry when he was surrendered into our care. It was one of the most heart-wrenching sights we have ever witnessed.
Having been alerted ahead to both Harry and his condition, we had arranged for a veterinary team to attempt surgery that afternoon; the next day would have been simply too late. Harry was pitifully weak, exhausted and dehydrated, and given surgery on young lambs is problematic even at the best of times, it was going to take a miracle for him to pull through. The dehydration was due to his lack of fluid intake caused by his abdominal pain. So advanced was this that all of his skin had been zapped of its moisture, causing it to harden and be almost armour-like. His little eyelids were retreating into his sunken eye sockets, yet another debilitating condition, this one known as entropion, but it really was the least of his woes. Surgery was his only hope, and we determined, however low the odds were, they were still odds, and that was something we were going to run with, as we refused to give in.
Right from the start, Harry touched our hearts, and he continues to touch the hearts of all those who come into his realm. Surviving the surgery caused his veterinary team to dance about the clinic doing high fives while little Harry peacefully lay in his bed with a happy smile taking up residence on his once-agonised face. Taking over an hour to fashion an opening which would be Harry’s butt, the next test would be to see if it would do what all good buttholes should. But on that note we would have to wait until the following day, when Harry delivered!!! Who would have thought we could be so excited over a little poop! On tenterhooks we would remain as Harry post-surgery was simply too weak to stand or suckle from a bottle. But as the hours marched on, Harry found the resolve to join them. Mustering the strength to wobble feebly about the clinic, Harry quickly determined that from here on in, things were going to be done his way. And, bless his little heart, who were we to argue?
While most lambs can be trained to drink from a bottle, Harry would have none of it, preferring to defy convention and lap from a bowl, and cold not warm milk proving to his liking. An intravenous drip would remain to provide fluids, glucose and antibiotics over the coming days, just adding to our arsenal of kindness that was willing Harry to stay in this world. And heeding our pleas, he began to rally. But not before he claimed a few more hearts at the vet clinic, including Clancy and Rosie, the resident dogs, who became besotted with the little lamb!! Harry’s preferred method of capturing hearts could well be described as daylight robbery as he teeters over to his unsuspecting victim, looks up longingly into their eyes, then shuffles at little closer and proceeds to reach inside and touch their soul. And if that fails to claim a prisoner, Harry’s ability to beat the odds that were so heavily stacked against him—yet still remaining the sweet, affable chap he is—certainly will. And he reminds us daily that we all live in the United Kingdom of Animalia and regardless of our species, we all need to poop!
Now home in our care, Harry is going to need round-the-clock monitoring and twice-daily cleansing of his butt, along with medications and injections forming an integral part of his post-operative care. But Harry is a much-loved member of our extended family, and that’s just what families do—they look after their folk.
Normally a lamb such as Harry would have had no chance on a large sheep station, where individual care cannot be afforded. And even if detected, the cost of reconstructive surgery and the massive aftercare involved would prove both cost and labour prohibitive. Rare is such a condition and one we had never encountered or heard of in a lamb before, and although it was one his veterinary team had not treated in his species, it was not beyond their knowledge, skills and kindness to do so. After all, if Harry were a beloved kitty or puppy, such procedures had successfully been performed.
Only the future and Harry will determine just how much functionality his butt will have, save that for now he is incontinent when it comes to pooping. However, this could well change as he grows and his muscles strengthen. But what we do know is that an entire new world of hope has just opened up for Harry, and we are working behind the scenes for the next exciting chapter.
Footnote: We are indebted to the dedicated veterinary team at The Vet Practice in Whittlesea—without their skill and love of animals, little Harry would not be alive today.