Belle entered our family within hours of her birth. Born at a friend's farm south of Bend on March 8, 2000, abandoned by her mother, still wet and forlorn, she arrived in a box with a towel under her. Lori had to go to work so asked if we would be able to take care of her. We had several sheep at this time but had never hand raised one. This was something new to learn so off we went to pick up a new lamb.
When Lori had called that morning my two daughters and I had just finished breakfast before starting morning chores and school. My youngest and I went to the medical center parking lot and met Lori and the new lamb. The little brown head was up and perky with long legs tucked under her. Lori handed off the box and lamb, I drove the lamb home to be watched by the older daughter then off again in search of food for a newborn.
Another friend raised goats so when she offered goat's milk we took a long drive to the north end of Redmond to pick up a gallon of fresh milk and another two gallons of frozen milk. A quick lesson on the initial needs of our new lamb and a phone call home to make sure the lamb was still with us and we are good to go.
The call I made was the old-fashioned type on a land line. When my daughter answer the phone on the kitchen wall is was about 20 feet from where she had placed the lamb on the kitchen floor, still in the box, with a heat lamp to keep her warm and dry her. While we were connected, I got a play-by-play of her first attempt at standing. The lamb was well on her way to our hearts and taking over the kitchen.
With the milk in hand we dashed home to start the feeding routine. The lamb was very willing to drink from a bottle and gulped it down in seconds. A nighttime feeding schedule was arranged with the youngest who was more than willing to adopt this new little brown lamb with the long legs.
The original box didn't last long so she graduated to the laundry basket. The next phone call was to my husband to bring home a larger box, about the size that a new furnace comes in. During and after feedings the lamb was out of the box and roamed the kitchen. One evening my son's friend came over to see the lamb walking around and he noticed the white marking on the top of her head. He commented about the shape being like an upside-down bell and the name stuck--Belle. Later it was only visible after shearing.
Exercise outside and introduction to the other sheep on our small farm became necessary. Belle was growing fast and needed to become a 'sheep' not another playmate for our dog. She ran and bounced around the lawn and followed my daughter everywhere, even through the pasture gate. The other sheep, Border Leicesters at that time, came to meet the stranger. Belle was a moorit Rambouillet-Romeldale and quite different because she thought she belonged in the house. When we left her in the pasture after the first few introductions she stood and cried.
Friends came over and wanted to visit with Belle so she became the welcoming committee. Children loved to pet her and she would stand for hours for anyone who would admire her and give her love. When shearing time came and she had to be caught up it was a different story. Belle was very independent of the other sheep and didn't not want to be treated like one. After all, she was not a 'sheep'-in her mind. To be flipped, sheared, feet trimmed, and let go again was more than she could bear. How undignified! She felt better after the coat was on again to keep her wool clean.
Spring was her favorite time of year when the dandelions were growing and blooming. They were her favorite food and she would nibble them from your hand if you found one on the lawn. Right up until the end and the grandchildren learned to pick them to feed to her, they were a special treat just for Belle. The Bluefaced Leicesters do not really care for them but Belle would come from the far end of the field just to enjoy one.
As the years went by, she won ribbons at local sheep shows, her raw fleece was sold to handspinners or became roving, she welcomed fourth grade children on a field trip to the farm, taught my future daughter-in-law that sheep were not scary, produced beautiful brown lambs that found homes from New York to Washington state, and enjoyed life in her pasture east of the Cascade Mountains in central Oregon.
It was truly a sad day when we lost her late last week. She had been slowing down coming in at feeding time and was a bit stiff when she would first stand up after a nap. A time or two I thought I noticed that she would get close to a tree before she realized there was something she needed to go around. Belle always knew my voice and came to me when called as my daughter had long ago left for college. The grandchildren had picked the first of the season's dandelions early in the week which she enjoyed from their hands. Belle was with us for eleven good years and brought joy to us all. She is missed.