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Dan Dan's Story

Dan Dan

The little boy that took with him to rainbow bridge a huge part of my heart and left me feeling so lost.

I woke one morning and he was gone. I could no longer look out of my window and see his happy little wonky head looking for me. Tears roll down my face as I write this.

Running a sanctuary comes with many happy times but also so much pain when you lose a special being that was like your son. The pain, emptiness and loneliness haunts your every waking hour, and even when you sleep you find no peace as to why.

You wake and hope that it was just a dream but then the pain all starts again when you look out of your window and his little wonky face is not there looking back at you.

I was so looking forward to guests staying in the Dan Dan pod this year, to connect with him, to see the beauty of such a special little boy.

His story touched so many people's hearts and everyone truly fell in love with him.

Instead I write this heartfelt story, so that his little life will live on forever in other people's memory.

I received a call to ask if I would take a lamb in with a broken jaw. My heart sank as I had no idea what to expect or how I would cope, but I knew that if I did not take him then he was destined for death.

He arrived in a small bucket and as I lifted him out I could smell poison. His little face was a mess with his jaw hanging down and a very badly infected eye.

I was scared to be honest as he was so small and I knew how difficult it can be to raise a lamb without his natural mother, let alone in this state. I asked how this had happened and was told it was a difficult birth and a vet had used something called a snare to get him out, which had caused damage to his jaw.

I called my vet to look at him and ask if there was any hope. He told me that the jaw could heal but he would probably lose his eye. It gave me a little bit of hope.

We immediately started him on a course of treatment and pain relief, he lived in my home and he had his own bedroom. A good friend came and stayed over to help with his care and she slept by his side which was so nice as it gave us a bit of a break, as I worry a lot when a poorly lamb comes in.

Feeding him every few hours was no easy task as his jaw hung down and a lot of his milk dribbled out of his mouth, but we learnt a way to support his jaw to help him suckle. His eye was bathed daily and drops added and after time the smell of infection started to fade.

He then moved into the kitchen next to the fire and every day was a pleasure to see his happy little face. He loved, and I mean really loved, his bottle and his little tail would wag frantically and he suckled.

He grew to love me and would follow me everywhere. After a month or so we were ready to put him outside, very close to the house, in a shed I had made for special needs sheep and lambs. I had it positioned right opposite my kitchen window so that I could always see my poorly sheep as they recovered.

He now had lamb friends, but to be honest he was a loner, he loved us and would much rather spend time with his human family than his own kind.

His jaw started to heal and his eye infection cleared but he did lose vision in one eye. His little head was lopsided, one ear hung down and the other up, due to nerve damage, but that all added to his beauty.

As the lambs grew we would take them all into the front field to eat grass everyday. They would all frolic in excitement, but not Dan Dan, he would go straight to my back door and into my kitchen for extra bobos (bottle).

He had no fear of my dog and Max began to understand that Dan Dan was his friend. Max would often try to share his bottle but instead he settled for catching the dribbles of milk that would drop from his wonky jawline.

As his jaw healed I had a fear that there would not be the correct movement in it to chew the cud and in my heart I already knew that he could not survive like the rest of the lambs.

When it came time for weaning the babies, Dan Dan dropped weight fast and we knew that his bottle had to continue longer. This was not a problem for him as his bottle was the thing he loved most in life. I would call “Dan Dan” and his little head would lift immediately and he would run to the gate with his funny little run.

He mastered how to get through the other lambs into his secret place to enjoy his bottle in peace.

Gradually over time we started to supplement his diet with extra feed to maintain his body weight as he could not chew hay or grass like the others.

In my heart I knew that Dan Dan would not be with us for years but I tried to focus on the times he had with me and enjoy. Even though he was over 1 years old he was so small and it was obvious that his growth had been stunted.

One day I couldn’t find him and I panicked, I shouted for him and then he appeared from the pod we let out. He loved home comforts and had seen an open door and helped himself to a bit of luxury.

He would come into our house while we cooked and nosey through the cupboards looking for his porridge.

As he got older his teeth were sharp and he would take the teat off the bottle which was pretty scary. So I started to give him his milk in a bowl of porridge at bedtime which he loved and you could hear the little groans of excitement as he licked his bowl clean, then he would retire to his shed with his friends to sleep happily with a full tummy.

He lost a lot of his fleece in the summertime which is often usual if a lamb or sheep have been ill, but a small part around his neck remained making him look like a lion. This all added to his cuteness.

Dan Dan found a mineral bucket and he truly was in his element, we had to remove the bucket at times as he would literally spend all day in it. When he had finished he looked like a coal man and I would often have to wash him and clean his ears to remove the sticky brown molasses.

He was a little vagabond with a heart of gold that loved every minute of his life, he loved to be tickled on his chest and he would step closer each time you stopped telling you he wanted more. I would hold his little face in my hands and kiss his head telling him I loved him and his tail would wag, he would look at me with such love

Then I woke one morning, I called his name and he never came, my heart sank. I ran to his shed calling his name but I just knew. He had gone, so sudden. I didn’t get to say goodbye.

Why? I searched my heart for the answer, why take my little boy.

I tried to find a positive from the loss and I could only come up with one. 

Life is too short and can be very painful, but enjoy the time you have and learn from each experience.

Grieve when you need to grieve but rejoice in the memories you create and in time the hurt will heal.

I will be forever grateful that I got to spend time with an amazing little man.

Lambs and sheep are such wonderful animals, treat them with love and kindness just the same as your cat or dog and they will love you back.

I hope that Dan Dan’s life will touch hearts and make a difference ~ I will love you forever “Dan Dan”


End note

I spent the day in tears like I had lost not just a friend but a soul mate. I asked Dan Dan to send me a positive sign. I felt so ill and I said “I can no longer do this”.

Randomly late one night I got a text; “there are two ill lambs that need you”.

I reached over to get my glass for a drink of water and the words “lost” were written on the glass which I had not seen, but that’s exactly the word I had been saying to myself.

Sheep are my life, they changed my world, at a time when I was lost they gave me a purpose, a reason and a why.

There is no time to stand still, do what you love, do what brings you happiness no matter how long or short that is, grief is part of life, tears show you care and for every tear that falls they are worthwhile.