By Tara Oresick
On January 21, two lambs began their very first day at our Northern California Shelter — and they began it very early. Twins Elizabeth and Zuri were born at about 4:30 a.m. (read about the rescue of their mother, Dolly). Each entered the world in very different ways, and so life itself is unfolding differently for them. But for both, each morning promises a busy day of learning and growing.
Getting to Know You: Zuri
Zuri had a rough start. On the morning of her birth, she was rushed to the hospital after caregivers found her clinging to life, lying still and wet on the floor of the barn with the birth sack still encasing her head and aspirated fluid in her lungs. Dolly, already inseparable from firstborn Elizabeth, seemed unaware of her second lamb. It was caregivers who cleaned, dried, and warmed Zuri in her first moments.
Like many other prey animals, sheep are keenly aware of their own and their babies’ vulnerability. Determined to keep their young alive, ewes are sometimes compelled to make a wrenching decision to devote their energy to a stronger lamb at the expense of one with a slim chance of survival, lest both die. We think this was the case with Dolly, who is one of the most fearful sheep we have ever rescued. She used the strength she had to protect Elizabeth, perhaps not even realizing that Zuri was alive. When Zuri returned from the hospital, Dolly did not appear to recognize her as her daughter and was reluctant to nurse her.
Zuri quickly took to the bottle, though, and she currently lives in our shelter hospital, where she has no less than five human moms and dads (her caregivers). Confident and carefree, she adores us and follows us everywhere like a tiny assistant.
At the first sound of the doorknob turning in the morning, Zuri is up and bleating. And she’ll let you know if you’re running late! Along with her breakfast, Zuri receives a morning health check and gets her temperature taken. Over the course of the day, she’ll be weighed, her umbilicus (where her umbilical cord was attached) will be cleaned to prevent infection, and she’ll have a few more meals, too. Zuri gets sleepy as the day wears on, but she’s reluctant to take naps because she always wants to be part of the action.
After breakfast, it’s time to play and explore.
Zuri loves to run outside…
she checks in with the neighbors…
and, most of all, she loves to scramble to the top of anything she can — and then leap off! Straw bales are pretty much her favorite things.
Getting to Know You: Elizabeth
Elizabeth gets her meals from her mom instead of a bottle. Unlike her gregarious sister, Elizabeth is shy — she’d rather hang out with Dolly than socialize with visitors. But she, too, loves leaping off straw bales. Both Zuri and Elizabeth are super happy lambs who just want to run around and kick up their heels.
Elizabeth and Dolly love each other more than anything. The two live together in a private stall and yard — their own little studio apartment — and they stick to each other like glue!
Wherever Elizabeth goes, Dolly is right behind, “baa-ing” for her to be careful. When we perform health checks on Elizabeth, her mom is with her the entire time, uttering a series of guttural sounds — a special language that exists only between ewes and their lambs.
The relationship between Dolly and Elizabeth epitomizes the incredibly tight bonds that form between mother and baby sheep. Ewes are on alert for anything that might be a threat to their babies. Lambs, in turn, take their cues from mom’s behavior, learning from her what’s safe and what’s not.
The protection, comfort, and communication forged through the ewe–lamb bond are also expressed on a larger scale among the close-knit members of a sheep flock, something our two new lambs will experience when they get bigger.
And they are getting bigger! Elizabeth and Zuri are growing by leaps and bounds.
Now that Zuri and Elizabeth have grown some and mom is beginning to feel more at ease with us, the twins have daily play dates. Elizabeth is coming out of her shell and will now run up to caregivers in order to be with her beloved sister. Even though Elizabeth and Zuri started out apart, they will definitely be growing up together. They spend hours waging jumping contests and resting their heads on each other.
When night has fallen, it’s time for lambs to go to sleep, but they’ll be up in a few hours for their late-night snack. Bedtime is just a short break in the midst of their excitement. A day in the life of a lamb doesn’t really end; it just flows into a new day of wonders and fresh bales of straw.
Tara – you are a very talented writer. I imagine you know that, but in case you are at all doubtful – this is such an excellent piece in the way you take us from zero to now; the clear explanation of why such different paths; understanding Dolly’s immense love and understandable fears; prey animals, jumping animals, lambs that seem happiest when climbing and flying; turtleneck on a lamb omg, the photos have been so wonderful. “leaps and bounds” – how could you resist, right? Even a look forward to their flock attachments as adults. It flows beautifully. They are so cute you needed to add not a jot of cuteness and simply let us bask in it ourselves. You were an English major, right? You know how we love Susie from her writing and smokey voice on videos? You too seem like a really fine person from your writing. Please keep delighting us with your skills.
Donna Reynolds – near Albany, NY
Lovely story, thank you!
thanks for sharing the love of animals and for animals!! would love to be kept updated on thier sisterhood and maybe mom will welcome in the luckiest lamb ever! Jesus sees all and He is very pleased!!
Zuri is to freakin cute!!
i love your stories and photos of these lambs… and I love these lambs! So precious!
thanks for your powerful story! thanks also for helping me in my journey toward being a vegetarian…tonight veggie sausage instead of bacon! 🙂
A few tips – when a mother rejects both lambs, put some vanilla extract on their backs at the base of both lambs’ tails. The mother tells them apart by scent, so if they both smell the same, the mother can’t tell them apart and will let both nurse. It’s tough to get a lamb like Zuri to nurse at first, when she’s weak, but i’ve spent many nights out in the barn holding a lamb and milking the mother a little to get the colostrum into that lamb asap. And then you don’t have to keep bottle feeding! Better for all!
You can also put iodine on the umbilicus – just one dose is all it takes and you don’t have to clean it daily.
Just some tips from a former pet sheep guardian. <3
Thank you so much for taking time to blog for those of us out here living vicariously through you lucky caregivers! What a joy to see Zuri, Elizabeth, Dolly, and all the other animals blessed to be living at Farm Sanctuary as they grow and become more carefree and joyous every day. Thank you for your work for the animals!
This is just too cute. I can’t wait to go visit and volunteer some time! I hope all the people who are making these efforts well, and all the animals well.
What happens at Farm Sanctuary is a potent “balm” for the soul…
as all of us struggle with realities outside “sanctuary”…just knowing that there is a place where little lambs are loved…respected…cherished and free to be…is magic…
This is a post for vegetarians…
Thank you for sharing this heartwarming story, and capturing these adorable critters in gorgeous photos! I’ll be passing it along to others, so that they may know the wonderful work being done for the animals at Farm Sanctuary, and also learn a bit about the nature of these precious sheep.
Nice story Tara. I did not realize that Zuri was the one that almost died–for some reason I thought that it was Elizabeth. Will Molly ever accept Zuri as her daughter? They are so cute!
Zuri made everyone smile at work… HAD to share her photos! What a precious little creature!
Okay I give in. I’m sending you money.
God bless you all.
What a beautiful post! Someday I am going to be with a lamb. Your caretakers are so blessed– as are the lambs. I did a photoshoot of newborn lambs once and wanted to take their pictures and hug them at the same time. Got some awesome photos– they are so photogenic.
Wonderful story with fabulous pics. Thank you for being there for them and thank you for sharing! Zuri, Elizabeth and Dolly are three very lucky little lambs!
I loved the piece but no where did it mentioned explain the amazing outfits this Lamb is wearing. What’s up with the wardrobe? Stunning but unexplained.
Great story. I learned a few things I did not realize. Does Molly accept Zuri as hers yet…I was just wondering?
Such lovely babies!
I volunteered at the Watkins Glen shelter several years ago. My first visit was with a whole bunch of lambs. I entered their barn with a young woman who has worked at the farm for a while. The babies knew her and although she was there to give them their dinner, they barely paid any attention to her — all eyes were on me, a new face. They literally first just stood there, all looking at me, these cute, soft, kind critters. Then one by one they started to approach. It was simply amazing how they singled me out. It touching and humbling and I felt like me and them are equal living beings, and they were at that moment welcoming me in their home.
It was long ago, but this was one of the best experiences of my life and I’ll always cherish it. It was so warm, so sweet. That’s really what life is all about — love and friendship.
The horrors we inflict on “farm animals”… I can’t imagine what must be going through their minds. They are wired for peaceful co-existing, they simply can’t comprehend why would someone make them suffer…
You are just the most wonderful organization! I have supported you since the 1980s. I am so inspired by what you do for these precious lives. Tears well in my eyes as I look at photo after photo of blissfully, happy animals doing what they were born to do….be free to live out their lives in peace and harmony. Someday I want to visit your sanctuaries. I am sorry I never got to the Watkins Glen facililty…I am from Westchester county and moved down to Florida in 2002. One day I will make it up there! Keep on keepin’ on, Gene…you are my hero!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
So precious!! Thanks for sharing such a sweet story. You folks are amazing! LOVE YOU!!!
Animal Stories Are Great And This Was One Of Those Stories
I loved this story and photos! Thank you!
I loved this. Thank God there are people in the world like you to have love and compassion for these animals. God Bless!
This is such a heart-warming beautiful feel good story. Thank you for all you do. Someday I hope to have the opportunity to visit. Right now, it’s just a dream.
Love those babies,great storytelling.
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