The first one, Seychelles, went down about two years ago. Seychelles was the middle one, a blocking back, a tank, roly in the middle and ready to smack around poor Zora, the runt, whenever the grain was brought out for the night. The triplets were Cheviots, brought over in a red Chevrolet van from over the hills in Massachusetts, bound for a life without a ram on a two -acre fenced-in parcel in the Taconic Hills of New York.
For over a decade and half, they had lived with each other and the family,. content to sit on contented falls days overlooking the homestead from the higher perch under the large solar panels. No major troubles besides getting attacked by a pit bull had truly marred their days, but Seychelles went down in the middle of the barn doorway. She wanted to eat, but her legs wouldn’t work, so we had the intelligent, humane vet put her down to end the pointless suffering. The exsanguination proved difficult and rough, but she lived and died in the care of people who valued the dignity of animals.
Della was next, a year later, the alpha always at the front of the triune line, in charge of her sisters at all moments. Her death happened in the barn without human intervention, and she was buried in the near-frozen land next to the barn beside her sister. Cheviots have noble, sweet and elegant faces, and even in her last, rickety days, the dominant female Della was the embodiment of the line of bold, strong cheviots that have occupied that sloping hillside.
Two other young female cheviots had come in when the two sisters were alive, but now there was only the original runt of the sisters, Zora, always getting pushed away from the grain, forever butted apart from the spoils by the two bigger girls. Yet here was Zora, alive in the worst of winter, over fifteen years old. an advanced old age for a sheep. For months in that winter we thought that she would simply die, the last of her sisters, the runt without her alpha or bullying sister. Yet she lived, with the intervention of grain separate from the two young tough girls, and she ached her way through the summer and in to the fall,and now into the winter again, nearly a year later, on arthritic, barely functional legs that splay out in odd angles behind her.
She has stood on the periphery but within range of her inherited pack, never challenging for their position or grain, an enduring testimony to the power of animal determination to find life amidst the social turmoil and degradation of her own species. She has survived a long, long time, though not likely more than into this winter. Though the dominant ones make take power, it is the crafty, marginalized, stoic ones who can prevail.