Anastasia means resurrection …
After a tragic first year of life, curious, resilient and cheeky sheep Anastasia is getting stronger by the day, inspiring us all.
Only hours after turning the calendar page to 1 January 2021, we heralded in not only the new year but our first rescue of it: a forlorn and tragic little sheep of around one year of age*, her first permanent teeth having just cut their path through her gums and now proudly standing centre stage in her sweet mouth.
Although freshly shorn, it appeared that human care had come too late to prevent a most aggressive case of flystrike, which oozed its wriggly menace and putrid smell over much of her rear end. Adding to her woes was a spine that more resembled a razor-edged snow-covered mountain range – her hip bones adrift as two lesser summits.
But her heartache and ours did not stop there: in caressing her form, if we unearthed one sharp and pointy grass head embedded in her soft skin, we unearthed hundreds. Many doggedly refused to give up their stake in her flesh. When they did, they left a gaping and often pus-filled hole in their wake, a final mark of surrender to our fingers. So debilitated, so weakened, and so without hope had she become that her ability to use her back legs was no more. Her many bedsore-like abrasions were a testament to this having been her lot for several wretched days.
However, since her arrival, our mission has become inching this sweet-tempered soul towards being the author of her own life. Our first stop has been those legs, reminding them just where and why they need to be. Round the clock care sees multiple rehabilitation sessions doing just that throughout the day and well into the night. Initially this also included fluid and vitamin therapy due to her dehydrated state; pleasingly, she is now drinking and eating well on her own.
Now at day ten, we have every reason to be quietly optimistic, for those legs, once ragdoll-like, give more than a hint that life is flowing back into them. A little push on our hand as we do her “elevator” exercises, a “wow, did you see that, she can control the movement of her leg” and that bit of resistance from those back legs where once there was none when we support her to stand – these all are harbingers of hope.
But strength in her back legs is not the only thing we have witnessed since her arrival, for each day has been like unwrapping a gift.
Words to describe our new friend? Curious, observant, a desire for friendship, astute, resilient, cheeky – words rarely heard when sheep are treated as “livestock”. And there is good reason for this. For in depersonalising their lives, we place a greater distance between them to us, which makes it easier to forget who they really are, and easier, too, to cause them harm.
But there was a time in all of our lives when we experienced a great and universal kinship towards animals: in our childhood years. Images of animals filled our hands, heads and our hearts, driven there by story books, toy animals, talking cartoons and the very animals themselves in all of their feathered, furred, fleeced and finned glory. As children, we loved animals and would never wish to cause them harm. And there is a biological basis for this too, as we are naturally drawn, by the goodness of our heart, to care for and nurture beings who are small, or vulnerable, or curiously “other”.
So perhaps now, in this new year, with the haunting memories of 2020 still lingering, it is time to look back to the future for better times ahead, and to resurrect that childhood kinship with the animal world. To resurrect its natural affinity, its sense of wonder, awe and appreciation, transforming not only their lives but ours to a kinder way of living for all. Remember that we are, deep down inside, kind and compassionate beings. We are who we are; we are not defined by the choices or unkindnesses we make or have made, because we can always change these to reflect that kind being who sits layered within us – such is the transformative power of kindness.
So just what to name our new friend of 2021? Why, “Anastasia”, of course, for it means resurrection.
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