These words were spoken by my neighbour as we watched Yoda sniffing and baaing at the cloud of starlings that surround him at feeding time. I felt despair at that assessment. He was not the first to point out how un-sheep like Yoda could be. Since getting Yoda I was repeatedly told that a caddy’s prolonged contact with humans in their early months mean they rarely fully adapt to life with other sheep. They are notorious for ignoring sheep, following their humans and interrupting the smooth running of herding activities, as they do not respond correctly to the dog.
Yoda would not be like that I vowed. I would teach him to be a sheep.
Yoda’s final home would be with the flock of sheep behind the house, so I decided to introduce him slowly to the field and flock by placing him in there for a couple of hours at a time. The sheep were very interested in this little lamb appearing in their midst but poor Yoda was terrified of their attentions. Within seconds of leaving him I would hear his terrified bleats getting louder and louder until he was suddenly right next to me. He was so small that despite my best efforts he could always find a hole big enough to escape through.
During this tiny sheep stage, Yoda spent his days in the garden and his nights in a little bed, complete with hot water bottle, in the garage. Determined that he have sheep contact, every day I would walk him through the sheep field. I had spent the winter feeding this flock so they all knew me quite well and I had given most of them nicknames based on their distinctive markings. Normally they would run to me but I found when I was there with the lamb, even the tamest sheep became wary of me. Two sheep, Four white feet and Fuzzy head, seemed particularly interested in him but to get them to approach Yoda I had to slowly back away from him. As I retreated, they would approach, noses outstretched to sniff and nuzzle him. As soon as they made contact he would look around, panic that I was gone and come tearing after me bleating pathetically.
As he got older and entered his butting phase things got more interesting. He would walk close at my heels until he noticed the sheep. Then a determined look would appear on his little face and he would walk over to them. As they sniffed he would put his little head down, make butting motions and bounce away. Several sheep, V face and Stripy sheep did not take this well and would chase him and butt him. It was heartbreaking to see my wee lamb getting beaten up. It must have been painful for him but over and over again he would chase them and continue butting at them.
He just didn’t understand sheep. When four white feet was kind to him he would try to butt or mount her. If the others told him to go away he wouldn’t understand and would keep trying to play. Always he was quick to run back to me. Once he was old enough to live in the field he would spend most of his time by the gate and only spoke to the sheep if they came over or if I led him to them. By the end of the summer he was making some progress. He was beginning to seek out the sheep by himself and could sometimes be found grazing next to Four white feet and nuzzling at her. I thought maybe he would become a sheep after all.
Then , disaster struck, it was time for many of the sheep to go to the ram, including Four white feet and the group he spent most of his time with. I began to panic. Weeks passed and he didn’t move far from the gate. Every time I got out of the car I was greeted by a familiar baa as he galloped to see me and nuzzled to see if I was hiding any sheep nuts. He only strayed from the gate to follow me on walks and paid no attention to the remaining sheep in the field who ignore him in turn.
He seemed fairly content, grazing all day and speaking to passersby. I worried about his lonely existence but didn’t really know what to do about it. I threw nuts to the remainder of the flock when I saw them to try to encourage them to come and spend a bit of time with Yoda. Mostly they would just steal food from his little bowl while he watched helplessly. There was very little Yoda-sheep contact. As soon as the nuts were gone they wandered off and Yoda stayed by the gate. Gradually one sheep, mustache sheep, would remain for longer and longer with him, I saw no sign of interest from Yoda until one day he followed her.
I am not sure why this change came about; had he realized he was a sheep? had he just got bored? Or maybe residual hormones were telling him it’s the time of year to find the girls? Whatever the reason, since that day he has spent all his time with that sheep gang. Over time he has become more sheep like in his mannerisms. Where before nothing would startle him now he stands alert, ears moving constantly and darts away at any sudden movement and or sound. He still bounds over for nuts but now with his flock in hot pursuit. One day I put nuts in his little bowl and when another sheep tried to steal them he butted them away baaing loudly. I will admit to missing seeing him every day and hearing his little baa when I get home but when I see him with his gang crossing the hill to eat seaweed from the beach I feel so proud of him. The little caddy lamb now thinks he is a sheep.