Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Barnyard Lady Killer Bids Farewell

He arrived at Catskill Animal Sanctuary with 13 ewes and lambs and he was bad to the bone. There wasn’t a stall that could pen him in, not a creature who had authority over him. The humans called him Rambo, for he was all horn and rage—until…at last…he wasn’t. He transformed from wild to wise and became the self-proclaimed guardian of all the barnyard animals. He herded them, rescued them, guided them, and comforted them. They looked up to the Jacob ram and, if they were female, had a crush on him.

Yes, Rambo attracted the fairer sex of many species, especially the wingèd variety. Barbie, the rescued broiler hen, was one of his favorites. In Animal Camp, CAS director Kathy Stevens describes seeing Rambo approach Barbie and hoof the ground, the signal he used with humans to get a massage out of them. But Barbie didn’t understand the signal, so Rambo showed her what he meant: Ever so gently, he massaged her body with the tip of his horn. A few days later, Rambo could be seen relaxing in the barn with a busy Barbie at his side, pulling hay from his coat. As their relationship intensified, so did the jealousy of Hannah the sheep.

Hannah fancied herself the rightful mate of Rambo, in a Fatal Attraction kind of way, and was never far from the object of her affections. In fact, she fretted if he wasn’t in her sightlines. As Stevens entered the barn one day, she saw Rambo but no Hannah. This was odd and prompted her to ask a CAS employee about Hannah’s absence.

“She’s in time out.”

“What happened?” asked Stevens.

“She head-butted Barbie halfway across the aisle.” Hell hath no fury…

As Rambo aged, arthritis gripped his body and slowed him down, but it didn’t impair his sense of responsibility to his flock. A couple of months ago when the cows escaped, he couldn’t round them up himself so he did the next best thing: He hobbled to the humans and alerted them to the situation. Stevens knew Rambo would soon face his final transformation and she tried to steel herself for it.

She was right. Last Saturday Rambo transformed from earthbound to spirit while surrounded by everyone who loved him, both human and nonhuman. In a fitting portent, just the day before, the sanctuary had welcomed 14 sheep rescued from neglect—one of them a Jacob ram. While a new era begins for the flock, it seems Rambo’s legacy is sure to continue.

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