14th February 2014
A car races up the drive, an ashen faced occupant steps out, “Come quick,” they beckon and the craggy voice continues, “please save my sheep.” It was almost a week since the outbreak of bushfires in our area, the worst fires to hit Victoria since Black Saturday. Whilst the human toll thankfully from this fiery beast would be zero, livestock losses would be enormous. Over 12,000 sheep alone would perish with many more having to be euthanased on compassionate grounds; their injuries too horrific and painful for any creature to endure as their prospects of recovery were virtually zero. Forever we will be haunted by the images of burnt and blackened sheep, aimlessly teetering zombie- like about fenceless barren moonscapes of gloom, of faces so horrifically swollen, of eyes reduced to mere slits that refused to open and of farmers who had all but given up as bullets became the kindest option for their sheep.
That this determined creature had survived for almost a week, was in itself a miracle of hope. One can only imagine the fireball which she had become as her sheepy buddies around her fell like ten pins in a bowling alley. But this girl ran, ran for her life, just as you and I would with all the strength and gusto she could muster, two big singed patches of wool on either side of her hindquarter the only remaining legacy of the long fleece that had once covered her. With the smell of burning wool adding to her terror and smoke clouding not only her eyes but also her judgement, somehow she evaded the ultimate death blow of the burning blaze. Perhaps it was a patch of bare earth or a gully in which she found refuge but by some stroke of good fortune, this terrified sheep looked the fiery beast in the eye and won.
With lumps in our throats and the gentlest of hands, we assessed the sweet ewe we were to christen Melody. Whilst we wanted nothing more than for this dear girl to pull through, we knew that burns such as hers, while not initially fatal can have life threatening consequences down the track, thus prolonging the poor creature’s suffering and of this we wished to have no part. And so, placing emotion to one side, it was our considered opinion along with that of our learned vet that we should provide much needed pain relief, essential life sustaining antibiotics, soothing salve (specific for horrific burns such as the ones we saw before us), hydration and the most hospitable environment we could for the next 24 hours it would then be up to Melody to tell us if she wished to stay or go. The next 24 hours would see us religiously checking Melody’s hooves to ensure no separation of hoof wall appeared as it oft times does in these cases, causing the hapless creatures hooves literally fall off. A death blow we most certainly did not wish to see.
But not even 24 hours on and Melody clearly showed that the fire storm had failed to extinguish her will to live. She began to chow down on delicious grass hay, sweet smelling grains and started drinking in fresh, cool water, as if the last time she had done so was a distant memory. There was no doubt this girl we saw before us wanted to live, she was so so brave, something she would be told over and again as we applied daily dressings to her wounds. With infections kept at bay and healthy pink skin slowly emerging beneath crusty scabs, each day gave us hope that in the coming months we would be able to fulfil our promise to Melody that a life truly worth living awaited her.
Melody is joined each evening by the little lambs Nellie, Romeo, Lucky Phil and Charity – all reassuring the stoic survivor that she truly has found heaven on earth, whilst a dear old suffolk wether named Albie keeps a constant vigil by day. In the many hours we have spent alone in the stable with Melody since her arrival here at Edgar’s Mission, we cannot help but empathise with a creature who just like us, feels pain, cherishes her life and simply wants her place in the sun. And when you come to see farm animals like this, not as the mere nameless production units of which they sadly have become, an unchained Melody of happiness fills your world with hope.