Being a parent isn’t so much about biology as it is about love, and that’s certainly the case for Will Stapp and Andrea Akmenkalns’ golden retriever Tucker, who has taken over as mother of a lamb that was rejected at birth by its mom.
Stapp and Akmenkalns live in a co-housing community on Queens Lane in west Petaluma where they raise sheep for meat and wool. They currently have five ewes and a wether (castrated male). Nine lambs were born this spring.
“Early on when we got the sheep, there were five families involved,” said Akmenkalns. “Over the years, the other families have gotten away from it. Now it’s our family that really cares for the sheep.”
Two weeks ago, one of their ewes delivered two lambs. The first lamb bonded well with its mother, but the there were complications during the birth of the second lamb. Stapp said that the ewe would have died without intervention.
“The ewe had trouble with the second lamb and needed assistance,” said Stapp. “After it was born, the mother just rejected it. When you get a lamb like this, it’s called a bummer lamb.”
The couple’s daughter Zoe, 10, has happily taken on the job of bottle-feeding the lamb, which has no name right now other than “Sheep.”
“Zoe loves taking care of the lamb,” said Akmenkalns. “The bottle-feeding will continue for three more weeks.”
The lamb is now thriving and has gotten bigger than its twin sister thanks to a little extra milk.
“I tried to get it to re-bond with the sheep, but it didn’t work,” said Stapp. “It fell in love and decided that Tucker was a good substitute mother, so they’ve become fairly inseparable.”
Stapp said that the lamb enjoys snuggling up next to Tucker.
“It’s a thrill every day to see them walking all over the property and taking naps together,” said neighbor Dick Allen. “Personally, I have recommended ‘RU’ as the lamb’s name, but that hasn’t caught on even though every person here loves the ‘Are You My Mother’ book.”
Akmenkalns added, “The challenge will be separating her from Tucker and getting her to go back out in the pasture with the sheep.”