Counting Sheep; Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe
When I think about trying to remain emotionally unattached to an animal, whether a domestic foster pet, an individual in a wildlife study or a domestic farm animal, I always think about my friend Vicki and her valiant effort to remain emotionally unattached to four sheep named Eeny, Meeny, Miny and Moe.
When I was a teenager my neighbor friend Vicki decided that she would raise sheep for a county fair project. She volunteered at a local veterinarian’s office every summer, and it was her life’s dream to become a veterinarian one day. Doc Smith told her he didn’t think it was a good idea, but since she had her mind made up, to remember that whatever she did, not to name the sheep. He didn’t want her to become attached to them when it came time for the livestock sale during the county fair.
Vicki took Doc’s advice and told me that she was just going to call them Eeny, Meeny, Miny and Moe. She thought this was better than the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4, because it wasn’t a ranking per say, just a way to keep the records straight. And these certainly were not names, just a way to tell them apart. I nodded my tacit approval.
Some days I would ride on the back of the mini-bike with Vicki while she fed and tended to her flock of four sheep. The first few times, it was business as usual; making sure they had food and water and checking them for any signs of disease or wounds.
The next few times, I noticed that after feeding, giving fresh water and giving them a once over for any signs of illness or injury that Vicki had started to give them a small pat on the head before leaving. Then as we would walk back to the minibike, she would turn to give them one last look.
I went away with my family on vacation for a couple of weeks and upon my return, I rode with Vicki out to the farm where we found the four sheep playing in the field. This time after feeding and watering, Vicki began to tell me about what had happened with the sheep while I was away.
She started with, “Jo, you should have seen Meeny playing in the field last week. She was running and kicking and having a great time. Oh, and then Moe, just didn’t want any part of socializing with Miny. He seems to be the introvert of the four of them. Eeny seems to be the star of the flock, don’t you think, I mean she is really cute, isn’t she?”
I smiled and agreed with Vicki, as we climbed back on the minibike. I couldn’t help but worry about my friend with the livestock sale coming in the next few weeks. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I was already feeling queasy when I thought about the four little lambs going to the market.
The last week before the livestock sale, Vicki told me that she wanted to tend to the sheep alone so that she could begin to mentally separate herself from them. She said that she was feeling a bit more attached than she had hoped and was feeling as though she would not be able to complete the last phase of the project, entering her sheep in the livestock sale.
Now this was a bit of a problem. You see Vicki’s family did not live on a farm. The farm where the sheep were raised belonged to a friend of her family’s and the home for these sheep was only temporary. Moving Eeny, Meeny, Miny and Moe, to her backyard was just not a possibility. Vicki knew she couldn’t ask Doc Smith to allow her to keep the sheep on his farm as he had warned her in the beginning not to get attached and he was not a fan of her taking on the sheep project in the first place.
A few days before the livestock sale, Vicki told me that she had been crying over the sheep while working at Doc Smith’s office. She said he didn’t say a word to her, but she felt he knew what was at the root of her sadness.
The day of the livestock sale came, and Vicki’s parents told her that she had no choice but to sell the sheep. She reluctantly loaded them up and they all went to market. Vicki told me that I didn’t have to come and that it actually might be easier if I didn’t because she knew I too had grown attached to the four of them.
An anonymous buyer purchased all four of the sheep and Vicki said a teary goodbye to each and every one. Her father made it quite clear that Vicki would not be raising any livestock the following year. That was just fine with her.
The next Monday, Vicki went to Doc Smith’s office as per usual. As she walked from her minibike into the office she couldn’t help but notice that there were a few more animals in the field than the last time she was there. As she stepped into the office she said “Hey Doc, when did you decide to get four sheep?”
“The moment you told me you were going to raise sheep for a county fair project.” he answered.