April 14, 2012
When last we posted, we were coming to grips with the challenge of saving Lucky, the bottle baby born one week ago today. Her mother was not interested in her, and in fact ran away when we brought Lucky to her attention. (“Um, Mom, we thought you might be interested in this? No? You hussy!”) We actually called her some worse names, though not in front of her. Disappointed though we were, we knew better than to upset the karmic order of the pasture.
We were happy, truth be told, to assume the role of lamb nurturers. But we were not going to throw in the towel just yet. Perhaps we could still negotiate detente between Lucky and her mother. We fed Lucky a potent brew of colostrum-enriched milk that first 24 hours. We set her up in a cat carrier in our house because it just wasn’t wise to have a 12-hour-old lamb fend for herself in a run-in shed full of larger sheep, some of whom clearly believed that if Lucky’s Mom rejected her, there was probably a good reason for it. These sheep (who, as fully functioning mothers themselves, really should know better) greeted each of Lucky’s shy introductions with a swift butt of the head. “Scram!”
The next morning, we noticed that Lucky’s mom, Willow, was standing near the spot where she gave birth, sniffing and generally looking like she had misgivings. She gently nickered, as ewes do to call their lambs to them. We grabbed Lucky and carried her out to the spot, placing her gently on the ground. “M-a-a!” Lucky cried, willing to forgive and forget their rocky start. “Meh,” Willow muttered and raced off.
Later that morning, Willow was in the shed, with Tilly, her neurotic lady-in-waiting, and Zorro, the ram and friend to all ewes. (Zorro has been having quite the week, with nearly daily new arrivals cementing his reputation as the man of the pasture.) We snuck Lucky into the shed and closed the gate. Once again, on cue, Lucky bleated, “M-a-a!” Zorro wandered over and sniffed. It was as if a light bulb went on over his head. This was the missing lamb! He returned to Willow and nudged her in Lucky’s direction. Clearly, Zorro knew what was up and in his role as Henry Kissinger urged the two great nations of Willow and Lucky to come together as one. But once again Willow spurned the lamb.
One of the ironies of this situation is the fact that for reasons known only to her, Lucky has assigned to me the role of surrogate mother. My wife Frances, who is devoted to the care of the sheep, would have been a more gender-appropriate choice. Lucky spends a lot of time nuzzling the folds of my blue jeans looking for the nipple that she knows by instinct must be close by. When Blue Jeans stand up and walk, Lucky scoots along obediently. When Blue Jeans run, Lucky scampers. One day mid-week I ran out of jeans and wore khaki slacks, confusing Lucky and setting back the state of sheep-person relations by several decades.
With each passing day, we have been integrating Lucky into the flock. Her fellow newborn lambs have treated her as one of the gang, but their mothers see Lucky as an evil force best to be shunned. They call to their lambs when Lucky arrives, but more and more the lambs are ignoring these cautionary cries. She’s a week old today so we think she’s big enough to stay out with the flock overnight. But no rush. If she prefers to continue hanging with us, well that’s ok too. Perhaps we’ll wait one more day — or two — until after the forecasted Sunday storms pass through the area. She belongs with the flock but she’ll always carry a piece of our hearts with her.