Finding your true north…
On the 15th of June, a sheep who had long ago lost her way was to find her true north. This is her story.
Just where Victoria, as we have named her, started out her life we shall never know, but it was no doubt on a production farm. What is important here, though, is just where she has landed.
First spied four years ago on the heavily vegetated and kangaroo-filled hills just shy of the Monument Hill Reserve, east of the township of Kilmore, was Victoria. Here she happily grazed and frolicked with seven of her equally dare-devil buddies. However, since that time the years and possibly shooters were less than kind to them all. Leaving the lone Victoria to eke out an existence as best she could.
With her human-induced fleece growing continually as selective breeding has dictated it must, Victoria was to become her own worst enemy. However, sitting on the radar end of the binocular view of a kind-hearted local resident was Victoria. While the responsible animal protection agencies were alerted to her plight, it seemed that the task of reining the now recalcitrant sheep in was too much of a challenge.
And perhaps it was.
For our first attempts to capture Victoria, after several painstaking and muscle-wearying hours under the heat of a midsummer sun, were to alas be rewarded with seeing her move hovercraft-like off into the distance from where she was never seen again.
Never, that was, until last week.
And so our posse of kind crusaders assembled yet again. This time, 18 team members, along with Vet Nurse Ruby Dog (although, truth be told, she cleverly stayed warm in the vehicle) plus our fort-holding troop who remained steadfast at the sanctuary to ensure all would be well, took up our stations and swung into gear for our most challenging rescue yet.
Our first challenge came when we quickly realised that none of us knew exactly where north lay, so disorientated had we become even before we set off on the heavily treed and inhospitable terrain. Establishing markers became our quest as we laid down the rules of our engagement. With walkie-talkies all keyed to the one station, we set off on our mountain trek, leaving scouts along the way to increase our chances of a sighting.
With the increasing sleet, the wind chill factor soared, increasing the chances of frostbite to our ever-numbing faces and hands. Across steep mountain rises, rocky outcrops, dense vegetation, plunging gullies, flowing streams and through dense soup-like fog, we tracked Victoria.
@edgarsmission After surviving for years in the Australian bush, hidden under 26kg (57lbs) of burdensome wool and dodging rescue attempts, our team finally brought Victoria to sanctuary! 🐑❤️ Did you know that sheep, like Victoria, require at least annual shearing for their welfare? This is a direct result of human selective breeding for wool that is harvested for commercial purposes and speaks to how we have altered their lives. The wild mouflon of Europe and Asia, from whom they are descended, was a coarse-haired animal with a downy undercoat. This body covering responded to the seasons, growing dense and providing protection in the cooler months, only to then be shed in the summer months. Today sheep rely on humans for sustenance, shelter and shearing, and failure on any of these fronts oft times proves fatal for these animals. #friendsnotfood #animalrescue #farmsanctuary #rescuesheep #rescueanimals #sheepshearing #animallover #sheepoftiktok #sheep ♬ IMPERIAL PIANO – Treia Music
On and off.
We lost sight of her constantly as her smarts and agility outwitted ours. But we spotted her every now and again.
Yet never once, not once, did any of our team even hint at giving up despite the increasing hour, plunging temperature of their body, and opportunity to do so. For sitting above all else was the welfare of this sheep. Everyone knew that soon the window to save her would close, as we were soon to be denied access to the property on which she roamed.
Our efforts were finally rewarded, and the true spirit of our team really came into play after the last sighting of Victoria was called in – far far from whence we started. Here, head and hearts came together as a strategy was hatched, and then supremely executed.
Yet she can always wear it as a badge of honour that it took the minds of 18 determined humans to rein in one mighty stoic sheep.
The trek down the mountain that day, with the resilient Victoria strapped to a stretcher holding her head high, a team member at each corner and several points all around, will stand forever more as one of our proudest and most defining of moments.
They say that to find your true north is to find your inner self. And for now, Victoria is well on the path to do just that.
Rid of her burdensome 26-kg wet and matted fleece that had become encrusted with sticks, twigs, blackberries, insects, and despair, she is now free to live her most authentic self. To live beyond the shackles of being labelled a farm animal and to live in a place surrounded by her own kind, where she will only ever be considered a friend.
The image of our jubilant, albeit drenched and exhausted, kindness crusaders triumphantly descending the mountain after five arduous and muscle-aching hours, with Victoria strapped to a stretcher, only to be met at the bottom by none other than the tearful local resident, Vicki herself, who never gave up on this sheep, will stand as one of our finest moments.
And too will always well salt water in our eyes.
Victoria’s will to live, her tenacity to survive against the odds and her stoicism to do so under the burden of that ever-increasing human-induced fleece, is surely worthy of a Hollywood treatment, if not a very special inspirational place in our hearts.
And we can just see that final scene being played out on the big screen, with spine-tingling music playing, akin to that famous scene from the “Man from Snowy River” – save the colt from old Regret is a wayward sheep, who joins not the wild bush horses but the native bush kangaroos.
The learnings of this day for us all are many. That sheep are stoic; that kindness is tenacious; that humankind has responsibility for all we have tamed; that the greatest fulfillment in life comes in helping others fulfil theirs; and that there are two paths in this world we can take: the well-worn path or the path of surrendering to the vulnerability of getting lost and using compassion as your compass to find your true north.
That – and few things in life come close to the delight of waterproof shoes!
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