At Catskill Animal Sanctuary, caregivers are often the first to witness new breakthroughs, life milestones, and everyday miracles. They say the first “hello, welcome home, you’re safe” to new rescues and to those born at Sanctuary. They’re right by an animal’s side, working through tears when it’s time to say goodbye. We recently lost Laverne to old age and our dedicated Assistant Health Care Manager Laura Cummins penned a beautiful post about participating in the birth of Laverne’s son, Davey — and watching them grow old together:
Beautiful, soulful Laverne.
I can vividly remember when Laverne first came to CAS in November of 2016. She was part of the notorious ‘Westport Rescue’ where we took in 120+ animals from the largest case of farmed animal cruelty in the northeastern US. Laverne came with four other sheep and we quickly discovered that ALL of the girls were pregnant. I’ll always remember Laverne as the first of their flock to approach me, even in my scary Tyvek suit, booties, and gloves. As I looked into those golden brown eyes, I could feel her sense of calm and growing joy. We guessed Laverne was the oldest sheep from their group and I always wondered if her lifetime of cruel experiences allowed her to quickly recognize that she had finally found a safe, loving home.
I was privileged to be with Laverne as she gave birth to her lamb, Davey. She was the third sheep from the rescue to go into labor and we quickly realized there was a problem. As we rushed Laverne to our vet for emergency assistance, I held her and told her we would do everything possible to save both of their lives. I so desperately wanted Laverne to finally have the experience of giving birth to a lamb that would never be taken from her. I held her close and she rested her head on my shoulders as our vet worked quickly to save the stuck lamb. With each contraction I spoke softly and told her how much we loved her and would always be there to help. In the end, everyone was able to be saved and Laverne gave birth to the biggest lamb I’ve ever seen, a beautiful boy named Davey.
As soon as Laverne could, she whipped around to inspect her lamb and immediately began gently cleaning him. It was such a simple moment but tears flowed freely from my eyes. Laverne was an old sheep who had likely been bred many times in her life, yet had always been deprived of the opportunity to be a mother. While there are many obvious forms of animal cruelty, the theft of families is abuse that often goes unacknowledged. Yet here I was, watching a little family begin their lives together. As baby Davey gained enough strength to latch for the first time, Laverne looked contentedly into my eyes — I know she was thanking me in her own way.
Laverne and Davey were immediately attached at the hip! Davey grew so fast that we quickly had to move them out of our infirmary and into their own big stall in the Main Barn. They were joined by another mama sheep from the Westport group: Bertha, and her two little girls, Suzie and Liza. Although the girls were a few days older than Davey, he was much bigger than them — but Mama Laverne still felt her baby needed ’round the clock protection. In a way, I think she was always on alert for that dreaded moment she had experienced before — when her beloved Davey might be taken away. Fortunately, Laverne had found Sanctuary and a home for her and Davey to grow old.
As the years passed, Davey grew to maturity and moved in with the big sheep flock. Laverne stayed in the Main Barn with our more delicate seniors, but the two could often be found checking in with each other. More recently, Laverne took on the role of companion to gentle Christopher, who was born at the Sanctuary in 2006. She also became Ms “Meal Time Reminder” and her loud “MMMBAAah” could be heard across the property.
In the past few months, Laverne slowed down and showed her age a bit. On her final day, I felt that we were very close to the end and had called for our veterinarian to come out as soon as possible. However, when I checked on her after that phone call, I knew it was simply her time to go. I called for the rest of our staff to come quickly. I sat with her for what would be the conclusion of our memories together.
I told her: “You are so loved. We’ll always take the best care of Davey. Thank you for sharing such monumental moments of your life with me.”
As she quietly departed this world, we wept for the loss of our good friend. I spent a quiet moment with Davey after he recognized that his mother had passed. It hurt to feel his sadness and pain as their beautiful years shared together came to an end.
While I may never know for sure, I hope that Laverne left this world with confident that her son would be safe with us for the entirety of his life. Though their lives began in cruelty, from the moment of their rescue they know only freedom, love, and compassion. I will always feel deeply bonded to the two of them and I know Laverne’s lessons will always be with me. Rest easy sweet Mama Laverne, we are so fortunate to have known you and your fierce mothering.