Andrew Jackson stood at the dining room window, looking out at a hot Sunday afternoon. Heat waves rose from the roof of the shop that stood across the yard, and the woods at the far end of the pasture shimmered in the blazing sun like some kind of desert mirage. A lone hawk wheeled high in the sky. Most likely it was just trying to stay cool up there. Eventually Andrew turned away from the window and went back to join Rose, Jennifer, Randy and Jackie who were sitting at the table relaxing after a pleasant Sunday dinner.
“It’s unbelievably hot out there,” he said.
“It’s unbelievably hot in here too,” said Jennifer blowing a stray strand of hair away from her cheek and wiping her damp forehead with her hand. “What’s wrong with our air conditioner?”
“It’s not the air conditioner,” said Rose, “it’s just the air. There’s too much of it and it’s too hot and the air conditioner can’t keep up.”
“Why don’t we just get another one?” Jennifer wanted to know. “I mean the one we have just keeps the upstairs sort of cool but down here on the main floor it’s like a sauna on days like this.”
“Days like this,” said Andrew. “We have a couple of days like this a year. The rest of the time we’re pretty comfortable. The truth is if we’re going to spend money on air conditioning, it’s going to be air conditioning for the sheep.”
Jennifer laughed. “We’d need a pretty major air conditioner to keep the whole pasture cool,” she said.
“You have to admit it would be awesome though,” said Randy who had his little daughter Allison on his lap and was feeding her little bits of leftover potato from his plate. “We’d be out in the pasture every day then wouldn’t we Ally?” he said. Allison stopped chewing and turned her head to look at him for a moment.
“Dada,” she said, that being one of the two words in her young vocabulary.
“Seriously,” said Andrew, “if we’re going to have a lot more of this heat, we’re going to have to put a couple of big fans in the barn so the sheep can go inside to cool off. Or something. We got a couple of lambs out there that look like they’re having a hard time.”
“Is it worse for sheep than for cattle?” asked Jackie. “The cows don’t mind the heat do they?”
“Cows are OK if they have shade and lots of water,” said Randy. “Sheep on the other hand can start having all sorts of problems if it’s too hot and humid.”
“Like what?” Jennifer wanted to know. “Heat stroke?”
Randy chuckled. “Not exactly,” he said. “Believe it or not, they tend to get pneumonia.”
“Really? Why pneumonia?” Jackie was intrigued.
“Let’s face it,” said Randy, “sheep are not the hardiest animals on the planet. And they regulate their body temperature by breathing harder, which put extra stress on their lungs and makes them susceptible to problems like pneumonia.”
“Not to mention,” said Andrew, “if it’s too hot for too long sheep can have trouble with bloating and digestive problems because they need more salt, so they’ll eat too much to try to get it.”
There was a moment of silence. “And we thought coyotes would be the
big problem,” said Jennifer. “Ah yes, well, hot weather is for a season,” said Andrew, “but coyotes are forever.”
“Let’s just be grateful we don’t have the coyotes here that they have in Nova Scotia,” said Rose.
“No kidding,” agreed Jackie. “Those Nova Scotia coyotes would just as soon kill a shepherd as they would a sheep!”
“We seem to be OK for coyotes at the moment,” said Andrew. “But that’s not going to help us if it doesn’t cool off soon.”
“So why don’t we get a couple of big fans for the shelter?” Randy was serious now. “I read on the Internet that sheep farmers often do, and that on hot days the sheep will gather around the fans and stay cool in the wind. It makes a lot more sense than doing nothing and hoping Environment Canada changes the forecast.”
“Doing nothing is easier though,” said Andrew.
“You’re preaching to the choir Dad,” said Randy. “But sometimes doing nothing is very expensive.”
“I have taught you well my boy,” said Andrew. “Tomorrow we’ll head into the city and find us some fans.”
“And another air conditioner,” said Jennifer.