Five minutes after we got the call from the States that CJ’s dad had died, Jenny showed up at the door with a baby ewe lamb. The little white fluff ball needed care – bottle feeding every 3 hours – and CJ needed something to make him happy. It was, some would say, a match made in heaven.
CJ had been wanting a ewe lamb ever since our neighbors told him that Jack, the ram lamb he cared for last year, would grow to be a pest and had to go to the works. It broke CJ’s heart to say goodbye to Jack.
Now, as he was dealing with the loss of his father from cancer, here was the ewe lamb he’d wanted for so long.
Lamb care 101
CJ named the lamb Freddie, after his father, and he began caring for her with a devotion that I find both moving and more than a little bit funny. The way he carries her around it’s amazing she can still walk.
He feeds her like clockwork, and has arranged for our neighbor John to give her the mid-day feed when we’re both at work. She sleeps in a large box in the laundry room with soft bedding.
Several times a day CJ swaddles up Freddie in an old towel and holds her on his lap in front of the fire. He pets her head, and she tips her chin back onto his arm. Her eyes take on a satisfied look of comfort and safety. So do CJ’s.
No animals inside
If you know me, you know that I am not a fan of having farm animals inside. I take great pride in the fact that so far I have managed to enforce my “No Pigs in the House” rule. (Okay, there was one brief exception, but that’s another story).
My “No Sheep in the House” rule, however, seems to carry as much power and authority around here as pile of limp spaghetti.
After we’d had Freddie for about a week and a half, I told CJ, “You can’t take on any more lambs.” I knew that Jenny and Tracey, who lease our paddocks, had other lambs in the olive grove that were failing to thrive. “Only one lamb in the house at a time,” I said.
“Of course,” CJ answered.
Shortly after that our friends Naya and Jeremy asked for help. They were caring for an orphaned ram lamb, but they were going away for the day and needed someone to look after it. That was how I came home from work one evening to find that we suddenly had two lambs in the house.
“We couldn’t say no to friends in need,” CJ said, holding a lamb in each arm and a wearing big smile on his face. He’d been home all day operating the lamb daycare.
I hadn’t been home ten minutes when Tracey came to the door. It was a wet, cold night, and tucked into the folds of her jacket she held – what else? – a third tiny lamb. This one was muddy, bedraggled and barely moving.
“I found it lying in a big puddle,” Tracey said. “Do you have a towel?”
I opened the door, ushered Tracey over to the fire, and quickly grabbed a dry towel.
CJ sat in the chair next to Tracey, his two lambs in his lap, while Tracey began frantically drying the sick lamb in her lap.
“We need to warm this wee one up,” Tracey said, an edge of panic in her voice. “Can you draw him a warm bath?”
It is one thing to allow lambs in the house. It is entirely another thing to allow them in your bathtub. But who am I to argue the finer points of civilized living when a poor little lamb is at risk of death? I went into the bathroom and turned on the bath.
Just then Jenny arrived. I nearly frisked her at the door to make sure she wasn’t trying to smuggle in another lamb.
“Is it okay?” she asked, rushing over to Tracey to check on the sick lamb.
“Jared’s drawing a bath for it now,” Tracey said.
“A bath?” Jenny looked horrified. She’s a lawyer but also a champion sheep shearer. (Anywhere else in the world this sort of urban-country combo skillset would surprise me. Not in New Zealand.) “You can’t get it wet,” she said. “You’ll kill it.”
“Fiona does it with her sheep,” Tracey said.
Jenny shook her head. “No bath. Absolutely not.”
The champion sheep shearer had spoken. I went into the bathroom and turned off the bathwater.
Then suddenly Naya was at the front door. She is a veterinarian, and I’m convinced she has a supernatural vet-sense that can detect a sick animal from miles away. She had appeared at exactly the right moment, like an animal-loving superhero. She was only missing the flowing cape and a big ‘V’ for ‘Vet’ across her chest. Behind her was her husband and side-kick Jeremy.
Naya took one look at Tracey’s sick lamb and announced, “You have to put it in the shower. Warm water will do him good.”
Tracey glared over at Jenny. “You hear that?”
“A shower?!” Jenny said, clearly shocked at such absurdity. “Really?”
“Oh, absolutely,” Naya answered. “It works a treat.”
Nobody, not even a champion sheep shearer with a law degree, argues with a superhero veterinarian. Jenny sighed. I went into the bathroom and turned on the shower.
It was amazing how quickly that little guy revived. I got yet another dry towel (we had quite a pile by that point) and Tracey dried him thoroughly.
Then, in a wild blur, Naya and Jeremy took home their lamb and Tracey and Jenny headed off with theirs. I breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that we would have only one lamb sleeping in the laundry room that night.
The next morning I received a picture on my phone from Tracey. There was her sick lamb, clean and dry now and looking healthy. He was happily lying in Tracey’s bed. Yes. In the bed.
“Of course not,” CJ said.
Two days later, as I was sitting up in bed and checking my emails, CJ got up and came back to bed.
When I looked over, there she was, little Freddie. She was happily wrapped up in her towel and lying on CJ’s stomach. Yes. In the bed.
Clearly I need to keep my lamb rules to myself from now on. They only give CJ ideas.
Do you let pets in the bed?