Yesterday my friend found a new born lamb on the wrong side of the fence from its mother, almost dead, very thin and cold, too weak to stand, too weak to suckle. The mother, though distressed, eventually went off with her other lamb, twin to the adventurer who had crawled through the fence but not made it back again. So the adventurous lamb came to stay a little while with me.
"Do you have a teat in the house," my friend asked. But of course I don't happen to have a teat in the houseLuckily he used to be a shepherd and knew what to do. Instead we had to drip feed her milk with a finger in her mouth while stroking her throat to make her swallow. Then we tucked her into a cardboard box with towels and two hot water bottles and a wooly sock for a bonnet. We crooned blessings onto her and told her life was worth living, promising a lush overgrown lawn to munch on, bunting games to play, the adoration of all visitors. We lit the fire and candles and rubbed her like a ewe's tongue would. I named her Clara.
Before long, Clara was baa-ing for more milk, and this time could swallow on her own. After a little rest she hauled herself up on her long wobbly legs and tippy tapped on her little black hooves into the kitchen to piddle on the lino. Good lamb. We were so happy and proud at her recovery. But she was still skinny and weak and easily chilled. We put her back in her warm box but soon she climbed out again and settled down very close to the fire.
Through the evening she piddled some more and pooped myconium (sticky black poop from being in the womb). All good signs. We admired her one brown leg, her pretty grey lips, her lovely profile, her curly white eyelashes, her interested dark eyes. One last little feed, freshening the hot water bottles, tucking her into the box, good night. Just after midnight I heard her bleat, got up and saw her stretching and wriggling in the box, sat and chatted with her a while, put some wood on the fire and turned back to see that she had died.
Oh little lamb, I'm sorry that your mum couldn't look after you like she wanted to. I'm very sorry that we couldn't keep you alive, to grow big and strong and healthy. I'm not sorry that we got to enjoy your company, even for a few hours, even though now I feel very sad, and not just sad for you but sad for all the people I've lost and all the animals I haven't cared for well enough.