My little daughters loved their orphaned lambs that I had picked up at a sheep camp. After I trained the lambs to nurse on bottles, my daughters would march outside, bottles in hand, to feed their lamb babies. As the lambs ate, their little tails wagged happily back and forth.
After my girls took over feeding, I didn’t do too much with the lambs. But one day, when I came home from work, my five-year-old daughter came to me. I could see she had been crying.
“Yoda won’t eat,” she said through her sniffles.
When I came into the house, my wife, Donna, met me with a worried look on her face. “Neither lamb is well.”
I immediately went to look at them and realized they had scours, a sickness that can be caused by many things, but it ultimately causes dehydration. There are pills to help overcome it, but the lambs can still be lost if they won’t eat while the medicine is doing its job.
I immediately went and purchased some small pills for the lambs. Getting them to take the pills was another matter. After a few nipped fingers, I finally had them doctored, but they still wouldn’t drink their milk.
A friend of mine worked at the sheep camp, so I went out there, hoping he would be on duty. He was, and as I stepped from my pickup, he waved.
“Hey, Howard, what brings you out here?”
“Just coming to see if you’re staying out of trouble.”
He laughed. “This time of year, I don’t have time to get into trouble. If I get four hours of sleep each night, I count myself lucky.”
“What I actually came for,” I said, “is some advice. My two girls’ little lambs have scours and aren’t doing too well. We’re struggling to get them to eat.”
“I’m not sure I have any suggestions,” he said.
“Is there anything the ewes do that encourages their lambs to nurse?”
He thought a minute and then smiled. “Well, they do lick their lambs’ backsides, and that seems to stimulate their appetites.” He laughed. “I suppose you could try that.”
“Very funny,” I said.
He didn’t have any other suggestions, so I headed home. When I arrived, my little girls hurried out to meet me. Through their tears they told me that their mother didn’t think the lambs were going to make it.
Donna was trying really hard to get the lambs to eat, but she wasn’t having any luck. I told her what my friend had said about the ewe licking their lambs’ backsides while they ate.
“You go ahead and try it, and we’ll see how it goes,” she said wryly.
She tried again to feed a lamb, and it not only refused to eat, but our new puppy pushed its way in to get petted. That made the bottle slip, and it sprayed milk across the back of the lamb. Immediately, our pup started to lick the milk off. When it did, the lamb perked up.
Donna looked up, and the glint in her eye told me she had an idea. She took the bottle and sprinkled milk around the lamb’s tail. Our puppy started to lick it, and Donna offered the lamb the bottle. As long as the dog licked it, the lamb ate. Donna was able to get both lambs to eat this way. At the next feeding, Donna fixed three bottles, two for the lambs and one to sprinkle on them for the dog to lick.
The lambs started to flourish, and within a day or two, they were bouncing around our yard. A few days later, I ran into my friend who worked at the sheep camp. I told him about how Donna got the pup to lick the lambs and how that encouraged them to eat.
“That’s great,” he said with a grin. “But I really had hoped to hear how it went with you being the one to lick them.”