I've been in Indiana the last week visiting my cousin and her wonderful family. I drove 9 hours (one way) there and back all by myself with four kids! While I took off driving east, Jon went west and took the scouts from our church on a High Adventure trip to South Dakota. We both had a lot of fun on our trips but I think that driving 18 hours to Indiana by myself with four small children trumped any "high adventure" the scouts could have had!
While we were gone we asked a couple in our Ward to watch our animals for us. The first night we were away I got a strange text message from the husband that said something like, "Dogs attacked the adults really hurt called the police." I was so confused. Especially when a few moments later a picture of a bloody and torn sheep showed up on my phone.
I called him back immediately. He told me that he had fed the animals in the morning and that they had been fine. That night as he was going home he felt prompted to drive by our house and check on the animals again, even though he had already taken care of them. When he got there he found that the sheep had been attacked. He called Brother J in our ward, who is an old rancher, and when he came he could tell that they had been attacked by dogs. The Sheriff thought that the neighbors dogs got out (one chews through the window screens) and jumped over the low spot in the pasture fence while we were gone. They really tormented the sheep. The lamb didn't get hurt but Cutie Pie had several big bites on her sides and part of her lip had been torn off. However it was the ram, Solomon, who really took the brunt of the abuse. The dogs tore him to pieces-- there were parts of him hanging out.
When I talked to Brother J on the phone he advised me that it would best to just put Solomon down. We could try to take him to the vet but he had been hurt so badly that it was unlikely that he would live, and if he did live he would be pretty much useless. It was such a hard decision to make, especially over the phone, but we decided to let Brother J put him down and bury him.
This all happened while both Jon and I were gone, and so when we got home he was already gone. It was hard to go out in the pasture and not have him run up to us. It was hard to see Cutie Pie and Sweetie Bell graze without him. It was hard to see their injuries and imagine what worse things the dogs had done to Solomon.
The next Sunday was Father's Day. When I saw Brother J in the foyer after sacrament meeting I went up to thank him for the unpleasant task he had done for us. I told him I was glad that we weren't there when it happened because I don't think I would have handled it well. "He was a good ram, " Brother J told me, "You should have seen what them dogs did to him." Then this rough and tough rancher's eyes filled with tears as he said, "He must have protected them. I've never seen such a good ram."
I have been feeling sad about Solomon all week, about my wonderful ram who bravely protected his family... at the cost of his own life.
I know that "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" doesn't really apply to sheep but I have been thinking about the part that states, "By divine design, fathers...are responsible to provide... protection for their families." It impresses me that there was something innate in Solomon that compelled him to stand up for his family in the face of danger and to take the brunt of the abuse in order to save his "wife" and child.
He has made me think about all the good men in my life-- Jon, my father, my brother, my father-in-law, my brother-in-laws-- good men who I know would stand up for me. Men who would sacrifice their own desires, security and even their lives, to keep me and my children safe.
It isn't that I am a damsel in distress. I am certainly capable of standing up for myself, and I have a mama bear side you don't want to mess with. Yet, there is something so reassuring to know that there are good men who will protect me and sacrifice for me when I need it.
For example, one time when Jon and I were on a study abroad in Jordan I was molested by a man at a tourist attraction. Anyone who knows my husband can tell you that he is a soft spoken, gentle man, but when he found out what had happened he turned into someone I'd never seen before. He took the man by the shirt and yelled some of the only Arabic words he knew, "My wife! That is my wife!" I am sure that if people hadn't intervened he would have punched the man.
At the time his actions shocked me (they were so out of character) but I have thought a lot about it in the years since. The image of Jon standing up to that man, at a time when I was emotionally unable to, has been forever ingrained in my mind. I don't know if I have loved him more than I did in that moment. The moment when I knew that, if he could, he would always stand between me and danger.
Just like Solomon did for his family.
Thank you Solomon.
Thank you for protecting your flock, thank you for giving your life for others, and thank you for reminding me what it means to be a father.
And if there is a celestial kingdom for sheep, I sure hope you are there.