She was our brush with royalty.
She was diminutive, self assured and confident, fast as a cheetah, and studious. She was picky about who could touch her and gluttonous about food. I once couldn’t find her and thought she had liberated herself (again) from Retirement Village but found her buried, head first, inside her paddock’s enormous round bale of hay. She had burrowed into it by eating! She literally ate her way, all the way, to the center, and I just respect that so much. When she heard me calling, she casually backed out and popped her happy little head into the sunshine, all matted with hay, still chewing, and she looked at me. Nonplussed.
She hated being sheared but allowed it. Maybe she was smart enough to understand the relief that would come with a freshly shorn body, mid-summer. And her body was small! Startlingly petite without all that wool. She also hated fireworks but seemed to gather near to a bonfire.
She knew Klaus apart from all visiting dogs but still gave him a gentle little Stick Leg Treatment when he was being spicy. She knew to hide behind the legs of the tall bachelors, perhaps thinking her round little body was invisible, but most likely not caring, just calculating her next sprint around the back field.
Her name was Marigold because the day she came to live here, in June of 2020, was the first day that our French marigolds bloomed that year. Little Lady because, well because that’s what she was.
Her eyes were domed, always glassy and clear, with perfectly straight, slotted pupils. She had an honest, private gaze. She had hooves like little high heels and intense little legs. Solid black. And she chewed with a slight sideways grind that frequently made me hungry. After a long while and many pep talks, we got her to wear a little yellow halter, just to make capturing that much simpler, and I loved how it looked on her, with her floofy gray and white wool exploding in great clouds all around it. The day she got sick I removed her halter to make her as absolutely as comfortable as possible and it left a slight indentation in her face hairs. She let me massage it and sing Norwegian Wood.
She had triangle ears, soft and black and attentive to every sound. She was fond of sitting out in the sun or out in the moonglow, often staring downhill. She was impervious to snow. Her pasture mate, Romulus, is equally stout and contemplative, so they made a great match. The day she died, he watched over her and observed her removal solemnly. He lost all protectiveness. His guard had fully dropped.
Little Lady Marigold was a Suffolk sheep, a stunning fifteen years old this year. She was vivacious and low maintenance in all conditions. She ate well and drank well too, as evidenced by the little rainbow sheen her lanolin fleece left on the surface of her drinking water. We never knew her to be sick or even slow moving, not once, not until this week.
This Monday morning when LLM would normally be bleating and running left and right along the red steel gate for her breakfast happy to tell Romulus she was first today, she was downhill instead, and quiet. She was standing upright but would not come to me. I took a deep breath and said a prayer, heavy with that familiar sensation of this is bad. She let me approach and hold her but would not eat. Her breathing was a little challenged, a little shallow, and she just seemed… sad. She had lost all of her bounce. Gradually she walked around more, and I was too encouraged by that. She sought the sun on her face. She napped. She sipped water. And she hid herself away in her shelter.
The next two days were quiet for our regal little woman, and the gentle January weather was a blessing. It made it easier for me to make sure she was dry and softly bedded down, surrounded by eating and drinking options. I stayed with her most of those two days, only touching her when she said ok. My husband started her on a round of penicillin just in case she had a respiratory illness, but deep down we already felt she was just dying gently. Our friend and mentor, Maribeth, who was Marigold’s first farm mom, reminded me of LLM’s age and how very far past life expectancy she already was when she came to the Lazy W.
Early Wednesday morning, we discovered that Marigold had passed in her sleep. She was never in acute distress as far as we could tell, and she had curled herself up neatly, hopefully feeling safe and cozy and loved. Gosh she was loved. We wrapped her in two floral bedsheets and buried her gently, in that meadow behind the yurt. We gather there frequently to pray and be reflective, so she will be near lots of loving energy forever. I plan to grow a thick patch of French marigolds for her there, and BW has designated a gorgeous old tree stump as her grave marker.
Romulus and the other three bachelors watched from a distance, and Klaus stood with us. He got to say goodbye up close, and as he did so we gave thanks for Marigold teaching him how to gather and collect an animal safely. A shepherd, after all, he did this with her as needed, maybe a handful of times, and it was amazing. He was swift, gentle, and smart about it. She was an excellent teacher, and held a grudge of course, as was her right to do.
We already miss her so much. She was a singular presence here at the farm, a vibrant energy with an irreplaceable voice. If you have ever visited and heard Marigold “bleating” you know what I mean! It was a heavy handed, guttural sound that in no way matched her sweet appearance!
I would never have thought to myself, “You know what I want? An elderly Suffolk sheep!” But now I cannot imagine not having known her. Now, I see that she was gift, a beautiful, low, round, bossy, affectionate, introverted, brilliant little soul, and we will never forget her. I will also never stop giving thanks for her peaceful end, for the void of tragedy in her long, lovely life. She was a Lady, the Queen of Hearts.
If you grow some French marigolds this, year, please think of her.
“I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.”