11th March 2013
A Penny for Your Thoughts… And a Timely Message.
Panting heavily beneath a grossly swollen tongue that was threatening to block her airway was Penny. With the temperature shooting skyward of 32 degrees, no breeze and an unforgiving scorching sun overhead, Penny had been left for dead. Her severely sunburnt ears and the frantic scratch marks in the soil that surrounded her told she had been desperately trying to rise and seek shade for some time. Penny had truly been forgotten. One can only imagine what thoughts had been racing through her head in the hours and even days before her rescue by a kind hearted motorist, who happened to be travelling along that lonely stretch of road. That Penny had recently been shorn and was severely underweight compounded her woes.
Swinging into action to rehydrate and cool the distressed ewe, the race was on to combat her rising body temperature before this killed Penny. But to cool her too quickly would also pose serious health issues and could potentially compromise blood flow, which would prove fatal. Our efforts to save Penny were somewhat hampered by the tiny ewe’s lack of trust in humans and it will require no less than our best sheep husbandry skills to pull her through. Minute by painstaking minute, Penny’s panting decreased. Propped up against a bale of straw and welcoming the good breeze of our quickly surrendered office fan, the life slowly inched back into Penny’s eyes and her tongue began to more closely resemble what a sheep’s tongue should.
For now, Penny is resting comfortably, albeit still unable to stand. It will be some time before we can assess the full extent of her trauma and determine if she will suffer any long term damage. As our hands gently stroke her body, we cannot help but feel our stomachs sink at the reality that we can count each and every vertebrae protruding from her shockingly bony body. With this we vow to Penny that if she can fight on she will never know the painful growl of an empty stomach again. In the meantime we ask each and every individual reading this story to take a penny for their thoughts and heed this most timely warning. Please be extra vigilant with animals in your care during periods of excessive heat, such as we are now experiencing in Victoria. Ensure there is plenty of cool fresh water available, plenty of shade with good air flow and a kindly human on hand to act if animals show any signs of stress or if they are not coping.
Penny’s story is a tragic reminder of just how forgotten farmed animals have become. There exist paddocks and paddocks of livestock with no mandatory requirement for daily checking or care and disagreement abounds as to exactly what fits the definition of ‘adequate’ shade. It would seem that there is far more than just a physical fence that separates us from sheep. It is a convenient lapse of moral consideration that allows hapless and innocent animals like Penny to languish in pain and suffering while we humans wallow in denial. Science, common sense and a pure heart should all tell that an animal’s capacity to suffer is not diminished by the label we place on them. This was never more poignantly real than as I sat silently in a soft bed of straw, returning the gaze of Penny, thinking, ‘There but for the grace of a different species go I,’ and while we she and I may not speak the same language we both feel with the same heart.
Please if you see a farmed animal in trouble let your conscience do the talking; speak to the farmer if you can, contact the RSPCA, police or Department of Primary Industries and keep the 1800 animal cruelty hotline keyed into your phone 1800 751 770 and please keep Penny in your thoughts.
Blog update 12th March – One day on, one day stronger
Blog update 15th March – I C U