Friday, April 24, 2009

Lunching with Wolves, Part 1

Well, it wasn't exactly lunching. In fact, I don't think we had time for any lunch at all that day, but hopefully the wolves did.

This adventure started when we realized shortly after shearing last weekend that one of our older ewes was going to have to be put down. I called the vet, then looked to see what was left in our checking account and became instantly, doubly depressed. It costs well over $100 to have the vet visit and put an animal down, then another $100 to have the disposal people come pick up the body. And this old gal, though aged, was full of vigor, not at all like Gwendolynn. Definitely not a plastic bag candidate. With the firm belief that there had to be a better (cheaper, easier) way, I sat down and started calling around.

County animal control said yes, they took in animals for euthanasia, was I interested in "after-care"? "No thank you," I said, "just disposal." She asked what kind of pet it was, and I told her that it was a sheep.
"Is it already dead?!" she asked with some alarm.
"No," I said with measured words, "I just need it dead."
There was a pause, before she told me abruptly that they did not accept livestock, but would happily give me the number for the pet mortuary where they sent their animals. I told her I didn't think that was a realistic possibility and asked, "What about road kill? What do you do with those animals?"
They contracted out for that, and she gave me the number of the livestock disposal people, which I already had.
"Do those go to the pet mortuary?" I asked the disposal people.
"No, they go to the landfill." OK -- now we're getting somewhere! What about the landfill?

Unfortunately, there is no real landfill in these parts, and the number she gave me was for the local "transfer station" where trash trucks disgorge their daily pick-ups. The guy there said they could take maybe a dead bird or a rat, but definitely not a sheep. Actually, I knew this already, because once I had tried to load a dead ram into our trash can for pick-up and got a nasty note and a stern warning: "NO DEAD ANIMALS" Plus, then had to go dig a HUGE hole and bury a very smelly, very heavy, by then long-dead ram.

Ever the helpful sort, he asked why I didn't just shoot it and bury it myself. By now, several hours into this hopeless search, my patience was dwindling. "Because I am a fat, 65-year old lady with arthritis and the ground is like concrete!" He mulled this over for a minute, then gave me the number for the REAL dump, somewhere down near the border.

The woman who answered the phone there was very kind and sympathetic, but allowed as how they couldn't take dead animals either. Then she started to say something, reconsidered, and finally said, "I don't know how you feel about this, but..." I am sure she could hear my little heart screaming, "Yes? Yes, but what??!"
"Well, there is a place in Julian that takes dead animals to feed their wolves." And before she spread her wings to take off to heaven, she gave me the number.

The California Wolf Center is located 4 miles south of the little mining/apple/tourist town of Julian, California, and about an hour and a half from here. The wonderful people there confirmed the fact they did indeed take dead livestock, providing it was not killed with chemicals and was already dead. They sounded happy, and said they would even drive out to get it -- sometime in the next week or two. Unfortunately, we needed to move things along, so I said we would be happy to deliver the sheep to them ... that Friday, two days hence.

The next morning the vet came out to confirm that the sheep was not in any way infectious, and I got online to ask local livestock folks about the next step and received a tip about a "custom slaughtering" place halfway between here and Julian. Zounds, a plan falling into place!
From then on, it was just a matter of ironing out the details.

Yeah, right.

1 comment:

Cynthia said...

Wow -- these are the things that aren't covered in the "so you want to be a shepherd" books! Can't wait to hear the end of the story.