More good news mission work–Today an update on Baby Blenda.
Almost a year ago, we had a little lamb who absolutely should not have made it. Born of a difficult labor, she came into the world nearly dead–the only way I knew she was even alive was that barely perceptible heartbeat. No movement, no eye response, no visible breathing—just a stubborn little heart that would not give up.
Emergency measures got her breathing and conscious but it was very apparent from that moment that not everything else was working as it should. Baby animals born to difficult circumstances often have brain damage that renders them unable to properly move or suckle properly. Several hours in and the little lamb didn’t have a sucking reflex and could barely hold her head up, much less stand. I needed a plan B.
Luckily I had spent enough time in the horse world to have heard of the Madigan Technique. Often foals from difficult labors are born with no suckling reflex and other neurological oddities and are called “Dummy Foals”, officially called Neonatal Maladjustment Syndrome.
Studies had shown that this was often due to not having that critical time in the birth canal, where the deep squeezing action activated important brain chemicals that “woke up” the baby brain. Via a simple rope squeezing technique, the birth canal experience could be recreated post birth and activate the brain properly. Thousands of foals had been saved this way and I couldn’t see why it wouldn’t work with a lamb.
Using a small cord and propping my phone up for a YouTube video, I recreated the rope system for 100 pound foals onto my 7 pound lamb. We held the squeeze for 20 minutes, the same amount of time typically spent in the birth canal. During the squeeze, the little lamb seemed to fall into a deep slumber–which told me it was working so far as that is what foals do as well when squeezed. Once the 20 minutes was up, I loosened the rope and held my breath.
And she shook her head and for the first time looked truly aware and awake! I offered her a bottle and she immediately began sucking! It was truly a miracle…a miracle wrought by wonderful veterinary science.
Evie christened the lamb “Blenda”, after a Scandinavian warrior princess. Blenda’s battles weren’t done yet. Her difficult beginning left her susceptible to infection and we were soon fighting one. We had just got over that when I realized she had one more struggle in life: She was blind.
Likely due to the oxygen deprivation at birth, Blenda was not fully sighted–something that became more apparent the more mobile she became. Large, solid objects she seemed to see, but smaller details were lost to her and she had an assortment of accidents in learning to navigate her world.
Luckily for Blenda, she got help in the form of two friends: Our Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dog, Punzi, who loves all babies and treats them as her own; and through her adopted sister (another bottle baby), Panda. Panda, born of our most dominant ewe and full of zest and courage like her mom, became fast friends with Blenda from day one and led her on one adventure after another, never leaving her best friend behind, even when Blenda would get lost, quite literally, in the weeds!
Today Blenda is a loud, demanding, no-nonsense member of the great Dalarna Icelandic sheep herd. If you didn’t know and didn’t watch close, you would never know about her sight issue and would have no idea she started this life in such a dramatic way. She will become part of our breeding herd and I have zero doubts she will make a great mom. She is loving, happy and has zero issues getting her fair share of hay, grain and treat from my pockets.