How do you raise a sheep that acts like a dog?
By Catalina Barrios
Mary had a little lamb
Little lamb, little lamb
Mary had a little lamb
Its fleece was white as snow
Who can forget this classic nursery song? It has been sung to children for generations. What I am about to tell you is a similar tale, about a sheep named Marley who follows Jess and Ali everywhere they go. What is unusual about this sheep, however, is that he believes himself to be a dog.
Credit: People Pets
It all started when Ali Vaughan, and family, decided to adopt Marley, a Valais Blacknose Valley sheep. They saw Marley on a Facebook ad from a local farmer that was looking for a five-star home for an orphaned sheep. Ali thought this would be a great idea since the family loves animals and had a big yard in which Marley could roam in.
“We had a massive garden that was really overgrown so I thought a sheep would be ideal for keeping it sufficiently mowed. Little did I know it’d be a while before he chomped his first bit of grass,” said Ali.
Marley, who looks like a poodle, was very small when he first arrived in the Vaughan household (in the United Kingdom). He truly was a lamb back then, having to be bottle fed by Ali, her husband Adam, and the two kids, Ella and Max. Unfortunately, two weeks after adoption, Marley fell ill. It was a condition called “joint-ill,” that commonly causes lameness in sheep. He required constant care and thus slept inside on a dog bed. At the worst of it, he was very stiff and it took him 15 minutes to get on his feet. Poor Marley!
Because of his limited mobility, Ali bought Marley a dog bed and placed it in front of warm Aga (a heat storage stove and cooker) in the kitchen. Jess, the family dog, immediately took on the role of nurse to his new friend Marley; Jess would lie by Marley’s side all night. As a result, Jess and Marley became best friends and began to do everything together.
As part of Marley’s healing, the sheep would go with the family for walks and even enjoyed family trips. Although Marley loved going for walks, he also seemed to dislike being outdoors. More unusually, Marley picked up some canine behaviors from the Jess, dog!
The Vaughan Family are doing everything they can to help Marley discover his inner sheep. They even got another sheep, a role model if you will, a little brown Ryeland named Bear. Time will tell if Marley will adapt to life outside, with Bear, or continue to be a dog lounging in front of the hearth.
“I knew we needed to get Marley a sheep companion, we want him to know he’s a sheep and to be outdoors like a sheep – after all he’s not very well house-trained. We do have a barn where he should be staying where it is nice and cosy,” said Ali.
Within a week of observing Bear, Marley started doing sheep-like things, such as eating grass. But, he still clings to his canine beliefs.