|A Lamb Called Titch
Author: The Green Dogs PM
Based on a true story, this is the tale of a lamb who grows up on a modern farm with his human friend Lauren and his sheepish friend Suckie.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Chapters: 2 - Words: 5,633 - Favs: 1 - Updated: 05-01-12 - Published: 04-27-12 - id: 3017285
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
1. A Wobbly Start
At first the world was dark and warm. It was comfortable and in all honesty I wouldn't have minded staying where I was. But then I fell with flailing limbs. I began to kick. I didn't understand what was going on; the world was suddenly cold, I felt for the first time that I was wet. I blinked, but my eyes had not adjusted to the change in lighting conditions so I couldn't see. Sounds were muffled. I shook my head, my wet ears slapping against the sides of my face. A mixture of confusion and instinct made me call out.
A reply came, a sound heavier than my own bleat with age and size. I instantly turned my head towards the sound. And then I was being cleaned. My mother talked to me the entire time, only turning her head away from me when my brother called for her and required her attention. I could hear the slap of her tongue against her velvet lips as she cleaned behind my sibling's ears.
My brother, much to my annoyance, was already on his feet. He was standing on long, wobbly legs. His face was dark brown, his ears hung low not out of illness but because they were abnormally large, and his legs were the same shade of brown as his face, thick and strong. His body was mottled with brown spots of various sizes. My vision had adjusted enough to see him as he negotiated the straw on the ground and made his way over to our mother. His tail was waving in the air as he fed and our mother nudged him gently with her nose, murmuring to him all the while.
She then turned her attention back to me, cleaning my black back legs. She hardly paused for a breath as she worked. I found her tongue comforting and it was warming me up, at least. I was talking to my mother but my eyes were fixed on my brother. I felt a pang of jealousy, as he was on his feet and I was not.
I stopped talking to Mother and let her voice wash over me. I wasn't really listening. Instead I concentrated on bringing one hind leg underneath me and then the other. My hooves were still soft but were rapidly hardening. My mother bleated her encouragement and licked one of my lower hind legs. Sometimes she cleaned me too enthusiastically and would nudge my legs from under me.
With two hind hooves on solid (or as solid as straw can be) ground, I moved on to the front legs. They were more difficult for me to control and they did not do as I told them. My back end was wiggling in the air. Mother was licking at my neck now and I could not help thinking that she was in my way. But I tried my best and after much trial and error I had all four hooves on the straw bed. I was standing but wobbling dangerously.
My exertion had made me hungry. My brother, who I now realised was taller than me, was standing at our mother's woolly side. I took a step towards him but I tripped on the uneven straw and fell again. Mother's nose was buried in my neck almost immediately as she tried to comfort me and make sure that I was okay.
I tried to stand again and this time it didn't take me so long. Mother used her muzzle to guide me in the right direction, towards her udder. My brother moved away as I approached which I was grateful for. I could see the teat and since I was watching it, I wasn't concentrating on putting one hoof in front of the other, and so I fell again. I bleated harshly in frustration and once again Mother was there to nuzzle and comfort me.
I was tired now, so I decided to take a short break in my efforts to walk and let Mother's welcome fussing revive me again. She talked to me and licked my face and neck.
It was then that I realised we were not alone. We were in a huge pen indoors, wind making the tin roof rattle and shake. Along one side of the pen, running the length of it was a red railing. Underneath the railing there were troughs and an elevated concrete area. There were other ewes too, either watching us or sleeping or eating. My brother made his way over to one who was standing and watching us. Her ears were pricked in interest. He reached her and she sniffed him for a few moments, then much to my surprise she knocked him over. Used to his legs now, he was back on his feet quickly. The ewe hit him again and he stumbled in our direction. He cried out and our mother left me to wander over to him. The other ewe lost interest and moved to the other end of the shed.
My brother took a drink and I was reminded of my own hunger. I was about to attempt to get up and onto my feet again when I heard a bang. All of the ewes, even Mother, looked up. I heard voices in the distance.
"...I was watchin' that film about lions again, Dad," someone said. There was another bang and the scraping of rusted metal against rusted metal. I was confused and called for my mother. She didn't move from where she was with my brother and instead called me over to her.
"Ah, right," said a deeper voice just as far away, sounding disinterested. "You put the kettle on there and I'll check the ewes here."
"Yep," replied the first voice, and I heard the sound of purposeful footsteps.
There were heavier footsteps coming closer and I called to my mother again. "Oh – I hear a lamb in here, Lauren," said Dad. I heard a click then and suddenly the world was much brighter. The light stung my eyes for a few seconds and I blinked furiously. There was a smile in the man's voice when he said, "I see a lamb."
And then Dad came closer. He was on the elevated walkway, his hand running along the rail as he walked. He was of average height and build, with short silver hair on his head. He was wearing green Wellington boots and they made much noise as he walked. The ewes shifted, uncomfortable with his presence.
"Ooh, can I see?" asked Lauren. She ran over to stick her head over the door, not waiting for the answer. She grinned at the sight of me. She had a young, round face and long brown hair which was mostly hidden underneath a bright blue bobble hat. "Aww," she said.
Dad swung his leg over the rail and landed surprisingly softly on the straw. All of the ewes apart from my mother ran into a huddle at one end of the house. "Two lambs," he said, coming over to me. I felt very small and if I were able to I would have run, but as it was I stayed put and hoped my mother would rescue me. The man's hands were soft as he ran them down the damp wool on my back in a motion mimicking what my mother would have done, and it relaxed me a little. He looked up at Lauren. "Do you want to help me here?" he asked her.
She seemed to think about it for a moment before she shook her head. "No. You're okay. It's all slimy and eugh," she replied, making a face.
"Do doorman, then."
"Woman, doorwoman," Lauren corrected automatically as if it were something she said a lot.
"Whatever you like." Dad turned his attention back to me. He grasped me around my front legs in a firm but gentle grip and lifted me up so that I was dangling. By now my mother was calling to me but I found I was unable to go to her. I kicked out with my back legs but to no avail. He slowly approached my mother who sniffed my legs once we were close enough. Dad picked up my brother in the same way as he did me. "It's alright," he said to our mother. "You're alright." He started walking slowly backwards. "Are you going to follow me?" he asked in a voice deliberately softer. Mother looked torn for a split second before she began to follow us. When Mother fell too far behind he would stop and rest my brother and I's bums on the ground and our mother would sniff us. Then we would be lifted again. My brother was bigger and stronger than me and he would kick out much more than I – sometimes he would hit our mother on the nose if she was close enough.
The door to the pen was open as we approached. I could see a pair of green Wellington boots poorly concealed underneath the door. My mother didn't notice, however, and continued to follow us. Once our mother was clear of the door, it swung shut to reveal a grinning Lauren. Mother put her ears back, uncertain, but I talked to her in reassurance and she bleated back. We were taken around a corner to another section of the shed. This one had small square pens with metal bars running along either side and each pen was bedded with yellow straw.
Dad walked backwards into one of these pens which had its gate open. He set my brother and me down. The straw was shorter here and I was sure that I would find walking in it easier. Mother came into the pen with us, talking and fussing over us both. The gate was closed behind her but she paid it no heed.
Dad climbed back into the little pen a few moments later with a white thing on a tube in his hand. Lauren was holding a white bottle and the two appeared to be connected. Dad reached down and lifted my mother's head up – which she protested to, for it meant she couldn't fuss over us – and stuck the metal part of the white thing into her mouth and squeezed the trigger. Mother's head was released and she licked her lips, spitting out a small amount of some pink liquid.
Then, one-by-one, my brother and I were also given medicine. Ours was a honey colour and tasted fowl to say the least. It came in a smaller bottle than Mother's medicine. I was careful to put my tongue in the way so that some of the medicine dribbled down the side of my mouth. And both of us had spray put onto what was left of our umbilical cords. The iodine stung for a few minutes and I saw my brother kick at Lauren more than once as she applied it.
"Not too much of that now, Lauren," her dad said. "You don't want the lamb's smell to be disguised."
Lauren rolled her eyes. "I know." Finished with the iodine, she placed the bottle into a bucket with the medicine and set it down beside a toolbox. She came back over to us just as my brother was being set down again. "Does the mum have much milk?" she asked.
"Um..." Dad mumbled. He reached down to check and watched the jet of sweet milk as he squeezed the teat. "Piles of it. Good family, that," he said as he climbed out of our pen again. "The ewe's old but she should manage."
"Is that why one lamb's bigger than the other?" Lauren asked, watching us all carefully.
"I don't know; it's hard to tell with these things. Maybe that wee one there was just an afterthought." He pointed at me with a weather-beaten finger.
"Yeah, maybe," said Lauren. "I'll get 'er some silage."
"I'll get water."
They both went off in separate directions. Lauren was back first with an armful of what looked like straw, only brown and moist. She set it down in one corner of the pen. Dad came back then with a bright yellow bucket and he set that down in another corner.
I was still hungry and I bleated at my mother to tell her so.
"Do y'think he's hungry, Dad?" asked Lauren, picking up on my tone of voice either through instinct or experience, or perhaps a mixture of both. "Should we tube him? He is a little weak lookin' after all."
Dad watched me closely for a few moments before he said, "It wouldn't do him any harm. Get 'is strength up." The pair walked off and out of sight.
With much effort I got to my feet and toddled over to my mother. She was nibbling at the brown stuff absently. When I approached she greeted me with a low bleat. I finally got that drink I was looking for. The milk was thick like honey and sweet too. It flowed down my throat and warmed my stomach. When I'd had my fill, I was warm and content inside and out. My brother was lying down in an empty corner and I joined him, resting my chin on his back.
The two humans came back with two steaming jugs, a syringe and a stomach tube. "He's quiet now," observed Dad. "I don't think he'll need this." His voice was quiet, almost a whisper.
"Are y' sure?" asked Lauren.
"Aye," said Dad, "his belly's round as a barrel. He'll do. The dogs can have this, sure." He gestured with his hand at the milk in one of the jugs.
I don't remember when they left us in peace, for I had already fallen fast asleep.