It happens every once in a blue moon. One of our farm animals develops a quirky personality so unique, so strange that all this farmer can do is scratch her head. We have such an animal right now. We have a lamb that thinks he is a dog.
This strange tale begins innocently enough. Don’t most strange tales begin that way? It all started on an average, ordinary day in January when one of our older sheep had twins. It was a normal winter day. It wasn’t particularly cold; in fact, it was perfectly pleasant. After an uncomplicated and unassisted labor, the older ewe carefully tended to only one of her twins, distancing herself from the other. This elder sheep was wise—wise beyond her farmers’ simple grasp of animal husbandry. She knew something was odd about the OTHER one!
But in strolls the farmer, flummoxed and annoyed that the elder sheep has abandoned one of her newborns. After trying all the tricks up both her sleeves to get the mother to accept her baby, the farmer admits defeat and bottle feeds the abandoned lamb. Little did she know this lamb would prove to be a handful!
Newborn lambs are one of the cutest things in the known universe, and this one was no exception. He was as white as the snow. His pink nose and black-button eyes were framed by fluffy white cheeks and perfect-pink little ears. His wool was as soft as a feather. You’d swear he almost purred a little when getting his morning bottle, so I named him “Kitten.”
Kitten liked to be cuddled, and most of all, to be held. He was clearly sad when I would leave him alone with the other lambs, panicking just a little as his adoptive “mother” walked away. As he grew, the cuddling sessions and bottle feeding ended, but he never tired of getting “scritches”—on his cheeks, back, chest, and ears. He adored and craved attention.
Kitten soon learned he could escape his pen in the barn. This made sense at first. He could hear me coming with his bottle, and the sooner he got to me, the sooner he could eat!
But Kitten quickly learned that escaping had many more perks that suited him just fine. By escaping his pen (and the company of the other sheep), he could find any of us—my husband, my two daughters, or me—to get the attention he so craved. And best of all, he could join our guardian dogs sleeping in the front of the barn.
Things went rather quickly downhill after that. Having found his true friends in our guardian dogs, Kitten became one of the “pack.” He follows them down to the neighbors, to bark at the neighbor’s dogs. He follows them across the road and down the valley, to bark at the coyotes. He follows them into the garage, to sleep on their bed, and to eat their kibble. He even follows along when my youngest daughter goes on a hike, taking the dogs with her for hours-on-end, through the woods and fields surrounding our farm. My two guardian dogs—both all-white Great Pyrenees—and the white lamb even look like a pack. One day, the mailman pulled into the driveway to report that he thought he saw a sheep with our white dogs all the way up the road, looking like they were heading for the hills. But, he must have been seeing things…right?
Kitten has become such a fixture with our dogs that I think he has forgotten he is a sheep. He spends all day and all night with them. I’ve even caught him patrolling our fields with the dogs well after dark…when the rest of the herd is happily bed down in the barn for the night. He does everything the dogs do, including walking to the mailbox with me every afternoon and following me while I do chores. I am grateful that my dogs don’t chase cars!
Kitten knows no boundaries. He jumped into the car when I was loading one of my dogs for a trip to the veterinarian. With my arms full of groceries, he has (on more than one occasion) followed me right into the house. When we’re inside the house, he will paw at the door with his front right hoof—making a knocking sound. And if we ignore him, he finds a window through which he can watch us, steaming up the glass with his hot lamb breath!
As Kitten continues to grow in stature and heft, we will have an “interesting” problem on our hands. You see, Kitten will someday be close to 200 pounds and 80+ pounds larger than my dogs. Will he become the Alpha of the pack? How will visitors to the farm react when they see a full-grown ram lounging on our porch or greeting them in the driveway? Because whether he thinks he’s a dog, a person, or a sheep, he still looks very much like a sheep!