Back in May of this year, when we were just settling into the new world of COVID, my friend Brenda called me up. Her daughter Jenna was looking for a project—something to keep her occupied over a long summer of not seeing friends; of no softball or figure skating. Jenna had seen a video on YouTube of a bottle lamb being best friends with his humans and thought this would be the perfect thing to occupy her time! She could take care of it and bond with it, making the perfect summer-of-COVID-companion. Mother Brenda wasn’t so convinced…
In fact, when Brenda called, it wasn’t so much to ask if we had a lamb for Jenna to bottle raise, it was more along the lines of “can you please help me convince Jenna what a bad idea this is???” I agreed with Brenda right away. So much can go wrong! Baby lambs can be tricky…and heartbreaking. Even if everything goes well, and the lamb never overeats (this can kill them), never ingests some poisonous decorative plantings found in most people’s yards (another thing that can kill them), and is protected from neighborhood dogs or wild coyotes (so many things can kill a lamb!), they can get lonely if they don’t have a friend and can be quite destructive as they get bigger. Besides, I told Brenda I really don’t have a steady supply of bottle lambs. Lambs on our farm stay with their mothers unless something goes terribly awry. Jenna was disappointed, but understood. Both Brenda and I were relieved.
But a few days later, I spotted a little lamb not more than a couple days old, following the rest of our herd as best she could. She was dehydrated and weak. None of the mother ewes responded to her sad calls and I saw that she would not survive without immediate care. I gave her a warm bottle of milk, which she took gladly. I texted Brenda a picture of the little lamb and, “Guess what we have?”
After chatting about what she would need to feed the lamb, Brenda made plans to stop by after work the next day. They would take the lamb and Jenna’s project would become a reality.
The next morning, however, the littlest lamb would not take her bottle. She was not doing well. I texted Brenda a second time: “We should hold off on the lamb.” I tube-fed the littlest lamb with electrolytes several times that day. Although I hoped for the best, I was starting to think Brenda’s and my initial conversation was spot-on.
The next morning, the littlest lamb was full of energy and eagerly drank a bottle and half! I texted Brenda a third time: “Somebody’s doing much better today!” Jenna and her mom came that evening and took little “Lambo” home.
Jenna was an excellent caretaker for Lambo. She set a 5am alarm for the first feeding every day, mixed milk replacer and washed bottles on constant rotation. She even gave Lambo baths from time to time, meaning that little lamb was sparkling white in every picture her mother texted to me.
The two spent hours together every day, sometimes playing hide and seek in the tall grasses or just “hanging out” as Jenna read and Lambo munched in the lawn. Jenna’s parents were pleased that she was spending so much time outside. It was truly a win-win-win.
As Lambo grew, so did her love for Jenna. She followed her human everywhere. While Jenna practiced pitching softball from the mound in her backyard, the lamb would hop and skip after her in a near-perfect mimic. If Jenna took a break to sunbathe on the chaise lounge, Lambo would jump up and join her. If Jenna ran into the house for the least little thing, Lambo would blat at the bottom of the stairs until Jenna returned. As it turns out, Jenna was absolutely right about having a lamb for a summer companion and seemed to love every minute of it.
Of course, all good things must come to an end. When school started back up again for Jenna in September, her parents thought it best to return Lambo to our farm. Jenna and I walked Lambo out to the pasture where our sheep and goats were happily grazing. My hopes that Lambo would willingly join them were completely dashed when Jenna tried to quietly walk away. Lambo chased after her, not wanting to be far from her favorite human! Instead, we put Lambo in the barn where she would be reunited with the rest of our animals that evening.
I didn’t realize until the next day that Jenna was not ready to say goodbye to Lambo. After so much time spent together, she was sad to see her friend go.
Jenna and her parents have visited Lambo several times since, and Lambo continues to grow and act more like a sheep. After a very shaky start, that little lamb has a long life ahead of her thanks to a girl and her idea for a summer project. Thank you, Jenna!