This sheep facing inches from mine, begging for a cookie, makes my heart swell nigh to bursting.

This is Ava. Ave came to live here when we bought a group of ewes from an Icelandic breeder dispersal last fall. They let us have pick of the entire herd and although Ava was one of the oldest, something about her haughty aloofness appealed to me and I pointed my finger and said “That one.”

And so began our rodeo.

Ave is a wise elder. Smart, savvy and a thinker, she was the single most difficult animal to catch and load that day. Totally unafraid of us, she didn’t stampede off to get away but instead watched us carefully, let us get in close and systematically exploited our every weakness. I very much questioned my decision to own her once I finally got her on the trailer.

Once home, her attitude towards me improved little. She wanted nothing to do with me and I rarely got within 5 feet of her. However, I consider myself a pretty fair hand at catching sheep, especially on my own turf where I can make best use of my space. Ava came to obviously dislike me when I quickly and easily caught her not once but again and again and again. She got hooves trimmed, vaccinated and crutched with all the rest, despite her best efforts. She kept trying new tactics to escape me and I kept thwarting them. I became her ultimate nemesis.

Such was her distaste for me that she would foot stomp at me, baa and attempt to raise an alarm every time I entered the barn. She wanted the rest of the herd to heed her call to arms but alas, brainwashed by cookies and feed buckets they listened not. Her disgust at their behavior was evident by her refusal to associate with any of them save her half sister. She considered me scum of the earth and could not understand why the others did not do the same.

And then she had a miscarriage.

I don’t know what caused it but I do know it first broke her heart and then it nearly broke her body. She was heartbroken for days after losing her babies, baaing disconsolately and looking for them. Soon it became evident that the miscarriage had caused other issues, she was fevered and had a foul discharge. When she didn’t run at all when I went to give her meds, I knew we were in big trouble.

So I spent a good two weeks doctoring her with medicine, good feed and love. She had her own stall adjacent to the other sheep, but safely apart. At first she was too drawn inside her mental and physical misery to even notice me, but as she began to feel better, a whole new Ava emerged. No longer the haughty rebel, she stood willingly and quietly when I checked her vitals and began to show interest in me as more than an object to fight with. She waited at her gate for me to arrive each day and watched me wherever I went when I left.

But it wasn’t until she returned to the herd that I truly realized Hiw she felt. For instead of fleeing and watching me suspiciously from the far corner, Ava now followed me. Always one to avoid the rabble, she now fought her way to the front of the line for a pet and cookie. She still was a loner from the main herd but she was now part of my herd…and oh I can’t tell you how much that makes my heart happy. She who once hated me is now my friend and somehow that means more than all the other sheep who have followed me since day one.

Matthew 18: 12-13
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.”

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