Buddy – Everybody Needs One

Written on 12/29/2020

I think it was our second round of lambing when we were left with Buddy, a wee little orphan lamb. Still here as part of my "lawn mower" crew, Buddy is an exceptional fella. From the start, he was not likely to live, severely hyperthermic and just a bag of bones barely covered in black fleece. But, we brought him in after his mother had already rejected her other two lambs, popped him into a box and placed him in front of the Aga stove. The wonderful, radient heat surrounded him and we hoped for the best as we turned in for the night.

I set an alarm for 1:00 am, and quietly slipped downstairs to check on him. Thankfully, Cedar, our 13-year-old German pointer, was stone deaf, so there was no commotion as I left the bedroom. When I arrived at the kitchen door, I was pleasantly suprised to see the little guy with his head held high, looking around with great interest – possibly for a bite to eat.

I mixed up a warm bit of the colostrum I had milked off his mother, and attempted to feed him with one of our farm bottles. He didn't hesitate. He was quite hungry and slurped down all that I had made up for him. I was SO relieved. This meant his body temperature had recovered – and I confirmed as such with my handy rectal thermometer. He was a cute little guy – his ears stuck straight out like a helicopter – and, while he was very small, vulnerable to pnemonia and other nutrition-deprived illnesses, he seems determined to make it. 

The next morning, early, he managed another bottle of colostrum, and I was able to get him to stand and hop around the kitchen on the wood floor. Cedar was quite intrigued by what seemed to her to be a very odd "puppy", and she took an instant liking to him. She left him alone, mostly, sleeping happily beside his box, and only really took an interest in him when he boldly attempted to join her on the wool dog bed parked by the stove. 

At feeding time, a few squirts of Buddy's bottle of milk replacer in Cedar's dog bowl helped to encourage her enthusiasm for her new lamb friend. Before long, our dog managed to teach Buddy to go outside to relieve himself – he never went on the floor in the house – and to drink water from the dog's bowl. They played with each other and happily slept together on the wool dog bed in the kitchen. As Buddy became more domesticated, he joined us in the sitting room, where we all watched the latest episode of Downton Abbey on Netflix. Dog AND lamb both lying on their own woolly beds – made by The Sheepish Dog, of course.

Because Buddy was so young at his time of rescue, I think I must have imprinted on him. He followed me everywhere. Down to the barn, over to the pastures, into the pastures, and back again. In and out of the house, he just tagged along wherever I went. He became my shadow. If I went down to see what Alice (one of our wool processors) was up to in the scouring shed, Buddy tagged along. He knew she was always good for a big hug and more than a few scratches behind his very fuzzy ears. 

He only really got into trouble when he was tall enough to reach the many piles of papers and "people" stuff stored on the window ledges in the kitchen. He also managed to chew on a few cords and cables tethered to laptops. It was only then that we decided it was time to integrate Buddy back in with the other lambs born that year.

He was amazing. He played with everybody, running over and around the wonderfully hilly terrain that the lambs LOVED to climb. He bounced around on all fours, just like all the rest. He was indeed in his element. At night, with no mama to sit with, I still brought him in to the kitchen. He was happy to do it – and Cedar always welcomed him  because she knew it meant there was a bit of milk replacer in it for her.

Over time, Buddy befriended another ewe lamb whose mother had died of meningitis and was now also an orphan. At night, the two of them sat cuddled together like siblings would under the root ball of a fallen spruce tree. They waited there every morning for me to arrive with their 500ml bottles. One of the highlights of their day.

As the summer moved on into early fall, all the lambs were weaned – Buddy and his friend included. Buddy was also neutered to become a wether, so that we could keep him on the farm.

He was a gentle ram, not aggressive like some can get, probably due to being a wether, and he still followed me everywhere I went. I suspect the small bit of grain I provided as a treat to him was part of the attraction. When all of the ram lambs were sent off to the factory, Buddy had no problem remaining with the ewe lambs that I held on to as flock replacements. He was a little smaller than most of them – typical of an orphan – but they were nice to him, and he blended in exceptionally well. He was quite the character, always answering when I called for him. 

The following spring was our grand opening for the dog bed business, and Buddy was advertised as our visiting sheep for the kids to pat and feed at the event. The ladies in the studio sewed up a tweed bow tie for him, and Conor and I cleaned up his fleece and combed his top side to be quite fluffy. Yes, I know. A bit ridiculous. But as we traveled down main street to the tent where we had a pen set up for him, the kids at the park all came running shouting "BUDDY! BUDDY!"

He was an instant hit. He ate and ate handfuls of grain and smiled relentlessly for the local news photographer. I was worried when we returned home he might be sick from all the grain he managed to eat, but instead he boasted to all the others in the flock about his day and ALL the yummy grain that he got for good behavior.

Call me crazy, but he was quite pleased with himself and his big day. The others, jealous and delighted for him at the same time.

Today, Buddy still follows me. He still answers me when I say hello to him in the field. And, he still manages to greet anyone who visits with enthusiasm, surprising them with his eager attitude. He runs with the oldest ewes now, a bit older and wiser. They tolerate him even though he is from a different generation – which is a funny side note about the sheep. They don't seem to like to mingle age group to age group. I can keep two groups in one paddock and each group will separate from each other.

Buddy is four now, and I suspect he will remain on the farm as long as the grain is plenty and the grass is green. We love the little fella and truth be told - he loves us back! Farm life with orphan lambs – a time consuming, but also wonderful part of lambing.