Vicky Brown, owner of the Little Brown Farm, gently splashes water on her little lamb’s body, washing the dirt away from his soft white wool. She carefully pulls “Ollie” from the bathtub and set him on a blue blanket.
From his white coat and pointy ears, he looks like any other lamb. A closer look reveals that he is a bit different than his brothers and sisters. “Ollie,” which is short for Olympia, has a condition called dwarfism and is partially blind.
Dwarfism causes stunted growth, meaning Ollie’s body never developed like other lambs. “Ollie,” was born March 16 at a Freeland farm.
The Browns said they pondered Ollie’s survival and future. They came to the conclusion that a cart would be their only option.
The night Brown and her husband, Tom Brown, first saw their disabled lamb, she said she decided to leave Ollie with his mother and let nature take its course. In the morning, to Brown’s amazement, she discovered Ollie had survived the night. His mother, Lizzie, was still nursing him. This was another surprise, she said, because a mother will usually abandon offspring that are weak or deformed. Luckily for Ollie, his mother continued to care for him.
There was no way Ollie would be able to compete with his fully developed, healthy brother. That was when Brown decided to take him away from his mother and bottle-feed him, though Lizzie continues to acknowledge Ollie.
Brown researched carts for her lamb. The premier place to get an animal cart was K-9 Carts in Langley.
The main purpose of the cart is to help Ollie move and also to offer rehabilitation. Ollie still gets around with the use of wheels. When he’s out of the cart, Ollie uses his hind legs, waddling toward the sound of Brown’s voice.
K-9 Carts continues working with Ollie, adjusting his cart as he grows. The cart was a great improvement in his quality of life, she said.
None of this would have happened without the help of Renee Erickson, Brown said. When the Browns couldn’t afford the cart for Ollie, Erickson, who owns The Whale Wins and The Walrus and The Carpenter in Seattle, and her business partner stepped in and took care of the expense. K-9 Carts also offered the Browns substantial discounts and adjustments.
Dwarfism is an uncommon condition found in sheep. Brown has spoken with farmers with more than 30 years of shepherding experience that never saw a case like Ollie’s.
Other than rolling to get from pasture to pasture, Ollie behaves like a normal sheep. Brown said sheep are “food motivated” and Ollie isn’t any different.
With his reduced sight, Ollie has developed enhanced hearing. He listens a lot and will move toward voices. Even when the Browns are out in the field, Ollie finds them by following their voices.
“I think he might be part bat,” Brown said.
Ollie is the Little Brown Farm’s mascot. Brown said every farm she has visited has one animal that beat the odds. Every time, that farm animal is named “Lucky.” Ollie is their version of Lucky.
In Brown’s opinion, helping Ollie was the right thing to do.
“There’s no reason he didn’t deserve it [to live],” Brown said.
Since Ollie isn’t suffering and enjoys a decent quality of life, Brown said it is her responsibility to afford him the best help she can.
The goal for Ollie is to be able to maneuver his cart well enough to live in the pasture with the other sheep and goats. With time, the Browns said they hope he can.