Photo: Ben walks his beloved pet, Amanda the lamb. Eva Nagel
This story is about Amanda. Amanda is a lamb. She was born in New Zealand, or Aotearoa in Maori, “land of the long white cloud”, and her birthday is in the middle of winter—on the first day of August, to be precise.
In August, the lambing season is in full swing. Paddocks all around the country are dotted with white, woolly blobs. Amanda is an orphan; her mother died shortly after giving birth to her and the tiny lamb is bottle-raised.
Ben, a 10-year-old boy, is her new parent. He is a caring and gentle boy who has raised orphaned lambs before. Diligently, he feeds the little lamb every four hours, day and night. He takes her for walks. He tells her about his day, and he sings to her. Best of all, Amanda loves the bedtime stories Ben reads to her. She regularly falls asleep on his lap.
Photo: Amanda loves Ben’s bedtime stories. Eva Nagel.
Once Amanda is old enough, she will join the flock of sheep living in the paddocks next to Ben’s house. These big, friendly sheep started off as tiny orphaned lambs. They have become much loved pets, who keep down the grass in the paddocks.
So, if you’d ask me: What are the most popular pets in New Zealand?
Faithful sheepdogs, such as Fly or Rex, who we got to know and love in Babe? Cats, who spend their days the Garfield way, mischievous and lazy?
Well, I have no doubt, it is pet sheep. These gentle woolly, creatures are easy-care, they don’t bite or scratch, and they make excellent lawnmowers. Not all of the roughly 30 million sheep presently inhabiting New Zealand’s green paddocks end up as lamb chops on the barbecue—a growing number live happily ever after as pets.
Photo: Amanda regularly falls asleep on Ben’s lap. Eva Nagel
Eva Nagel for Vox Orbis, 2015