1 – Chaz lived on our front deck for the first few days
2 – Chaz at the Country Park Market, Matakana
3 – Chaz and Jacky at the Country Park Market
4 – Chaz and woolly friend at Matakana School Pet Day
5 – Chaz and WWOOFER at Matakana School Pet Day
ne day, in July 2005, Lisa T telephoned, asking if we had orphaned lambs available for her daughter to take to Pet Day at the local Matakana School. “No”, I said. “We never have that problem – thank goodness”.
A day or two later I was driving home from Matakana village and I saw Lily standing by the roadside fence. I don’t know why I stopped – perhaps we have some special form of communication! I called, “Lily, what’s wrong?” She stared straight at me, but it was a strange sort of stare – she didn’t move or baa like she usually does. I went up to the fence and saw Kerri, one of the Arapawa ewes, down the hill, below Lily. She was kneeling on her two front legs and when she saw me, she tried to stand, but found it very difficult. When she finally managed it, her legs looked as though they were made of rubber – they were all wobbly and unsteady. I talked gently to her – trying to decide what the problem was. All the time Lily stayed nearby, watching me.
After discussing the possible problems with Great Uncle Norman and Kerri’s previous owner, we gave her some special sheep medicine. We knew Kerri was in lamb, but thought it would not happen for a little while yet. The next day, Kerri was walking around and we were very relieved.
At midnight, a couple of nights later, Great Uncle Norman was leaving for Auckland on family business and I was standing by the front door, saying goodbye and chatting about a few things we had to organise. Next minute we heard Lily baaing with great gusto! I said “That’s Lily! There must be something wrong. That’s her ‘Come here, right now!!!’ baa”. Great Uncle Norman said, “She is probably calling the sheep over at Ivan’s”. I replied, “She has never done that before, so why would she do it now? Anyway, I know her baas, and that is definitely the one she uses when there’s trouble”.
Next moment we heard a tiny little “baaaa” and I said, “Oh! Sounds like a lamb!” Off we went, torch in hand. Lily kept calling to let us know exactly where the problem was. Kerri stood alongside Lily, next to the fence separating the paddock from some bush, very anxiously baa-crying. Great Uncle Norman hopped over the fence. “Be careful”, I said. “I’m sure I can hear a second lamb, much further away”. Great Uncle Norman found the first little lamb, which he handed to me, then carefully scrambled to where I was pointing. Sure enough, there was a second lamb, making the quietest little “baa” imaginable. Obviously, the lambs had enjoyed their first few drinks of milk after Kerri cleaned them, but when they started to totter, they had both fallen, rolled down the hill, under the fence, and into the bush. “We can’t leave them here, overnight”, I said. “We must move them, or they will get into difficulties again. We might not be able to move the whole flock …. but it will be okay if several of them follow us”.
I carried the two little ram lambs while Great Uncle Norman managed to move Lily (the pet Romney), Kerri and Peach (one of our friendliest Arapawa ewes) into the next paddock. Shortly after midnight, Great Uncle Norman left for Auckland and I went to sleep, glad to know Kerri was in good health and there were new lambs to enjoy.
Next morning, I went to check the sheep, confident in the knowledge that Lily would have let me know if there had been problems during the night. I stopped and gave her a thank-you cuddle and told her just what a very special sheep she is. She tilted her head and gave me a very supercilious look as though to say, “It’s about time you recognised my unique position in this flock!” I’m not joking – that sheep is almost human! Oh, no, one of the new lambs was missing and it must have just happened, as Lily had not called me!
At that moment, Adrian S arrived to mend some fences, so I asked if he would help find the little lamb. We searched and searched, to no avail. I noticed the gate at the bottom of the paddock was open and suggested Adrian continue checking the next block of bush, closer to the house. I could hear him crashing through the broken, dead branches and scrunchy leaves. I was becoming concerned, so I asked Kerri, who stood in one place the whole time, “Kerri, where IS your little lamb?” She looked at me, then flicked her head around towards the bush. I called, “Adrian, I think he must be somewhere back in this direction! Kerri hasn’t moved from this one spot and she keeps staring into the bush!” Next moment Adrian said, “I’ve found him! I saw the top of his head poking up out of a ditch”. The lamb didn’t seem at all concerned – he wasn’t even baaing! Arapawa lambs are black and white and are almost invisible in the bush’s filtered sunlight and shadows – never mind being in a ditch, amongst leaves and branches. I was very, very thankful to Adrian. We placed the lamb with Kerri and his twin, then moved the whole flock to the next paddock for safety.
I checked on him twice more that day and on both occasions he was hiding somewhere dark, away from his Mum. I picked him up and put him next to Kerri, who seemed pleased to have him back.
Late afternoon, Adrian left to collect his two children from day care and I decided to have a final tour of the paddock. This time, it took me ages to find the lamb! He was happily hiding amongst some dead branches in a small stormwater channel. Had it rained, the poor little thing would have drowned! I knew Kerri the two lambs should be put into a pen where they would be warm and safe until the little lamb-wanderer bonded with her. However, our yards and loading race were unfinished and there wasn’t another suitable outdoor location.
I decided to take the lamb inside and made several telephone calls asking for advice. We didn’t have teats, colostrum or milk powder, nor did I know the quantities required. After speaking to Dianne R and Sally G, I put the lamb in a wine carton and scooted into Warkworth to the vet. The lamb wasn’t happy in the carton, so I lifted him into the space between the front and back seats of the car, onto the black carpet. It was dark and snug; I realised it was exactly the sort of place he liked!
Had anyone told me, 15 years ago, that I would drive into Warkworth in my gumboots, wooly hat, track pants and old sweater with a lamb in a box, I would have fallen about in my PA’s outfit of suit, stockings, high-heels and makeup, laughing uproariously!
I arrived at the vets’, grabbed the lamb, almost colliding with two students from the local college. “Oh look! A lamb!” exclaimed one of the girls. “Can I pet him?” “By all means”, I said. “In fact, you can hold him while I go into the vets’ if you like”. When I came outside again, there were about eight students, all cuddling, snuggling and having turns holding him. “Oh dear”, I thought, “there’s probably no chance Kerri will acept him now – but I’ll do my best and if I cannot succeed, I’ll have to do raise him myself, for as long as it takes”. Once humans handle a lamb, the mother does not recognise their smell and rejects them. Secretly, and being honest with myself, I have always wanted to bottle-feed a lamb! But I promise, I did try to do all the right things! Really!
I then drove to Sally’s and she showed me how to mix the colostrum to bottle-feed the lamb. He peed and pooped on her floor, and she didn’t mind a bit. When I was leaving, the lamb was snuggled in my arms, with his head on my chest when Sally’s husband arrived. He said, in his big, gruff, farming-type voice, “I don’t think THAT lamb will last very long!” I’m sure he was teasing me, but I grinned at him and said, “I’m going to prove you wrong, Peter G!”
What a wonderful few days I had! We didn’t mind feeding him in the middle of the night, the puddles on the kitchen floor (and sometimes on the carpet) and the pee and poop on the deck. We decided to keep him on the warm deck during the day and in a computer monitor box inside at night. We lined the bottom with newspaper, then added an old sheepskin car-seat cover and towel for him to cuddle up to.
One day, Donna F was helping in the garden and told me the lamb would follow me everywhere, because I had become his Mum. Donna and I discussed names and I decided “my” lamb would be called Chaz (after your Gramps, Charles) and his twin ram-lamb brother would be named Chester.
Every day I took Chaz into the paddock to see if Kerri would accept him, but it didn’t make any difference. In fact, Kerri would nudge him out of the way and try to keep him separate from Chester. Chaz’s little head would whip around, looking for me, so I would call, “Come on, Chaz! Come on, sweetie. She doesn’t want you, so I’ll be your Mum. I definitely want you!” He would baa loudly (at long last) and run straight up to me. And that’s the absolute truth!
I telephoned Lisa and told her I now had an orphaned lamb if her daughter would like him as we could not keep him for breeding. Lisa brought her three children to meet Chaz and they thought he was just gorgeous! So, Chaz had a new home, but only after I kept him for another week or two – I was enjoying him so much!
Then the Matakana Country Park Market asked if I would take him there one Saturday morning for people to see an Arapawa sheep, because they are so rare and unusual-looking. What a hit Chaz was. A journalist called Michaela offered to take some photos – some of which are included here. To everyone’s delight, Chaz followed me around the market like a pet dog. He was cuddled, photographed and enjoyed by dozens of adults and children – many from overseas. He was very inquisitive, but when he went out of sight, I’d simply call, “Chaz! Sweetie! Come back” and he would run straight to me. Oh yes, you are right, these two townies have become slightly dotty!
The last few days we had him, Chaz would run and jump and be very lamb-like. He and I would go onto the flat area near the house and play and go for long walks around the farm. He even learned to run up and down the steps. During the night he never called to be fed, but when he heard one of us moving around, making up his bottle, he would give the funniest little “baa”, as though to say, “Thanks, and about time”.
So Great Uncle Norman and I, in our 60s, have had the first experience of middle of the night feeds, washing bottles and teats, cleaning up puddles and poop, washing numerous towels and loving every moment.
Chaz went to Lisa’s when he was a few weeks old and I am pleased to say that Lisa telephoned me with a “lamb report” a couple of days later. Guess what Chaz was doing? He was inside their house, chasing their two small dogs, running, jumping, springing and trying to get onto the couch.
Guess who is now besotted with Chaz??? I wasn’t over the top at all, was I, Lisa???