Therapy Lambs

Sally Bowen

Pickles the lamb, with Isla.

In springtime, new shoots push through recently barren earth, bare tree limbs burst with buds becoming flowers and foliage, and the first calls of newly born lambs carry on a warming breeze.

Topsy Farms chooses to birth our lambs on pasture, preferring the natural outdoor environment for the animals. We must keep a close eye on the flock, bringing home any baby that might not thrive. It might be the smallest of triplets or a hypothermic little lamb with a mom that can’t cope.

We came to understand that our own time spent feeding, nurturing, and cuddling the most vulnerable lambs, was peaceful, calming, and restorative time.

We could also see how much our lambs were helping others.

Sure, it is a joy for young families to introduce tots to a tiny foster animal, to help them learn about the natural world. Playful baby lambs brighten the sunniest spring days.

Not every spring day is sunny, and not every person has passed through the winter in their own minds, or hearts, or body.

It was a balm for a teacher under stress, feeling overwhelmed, to sit quietly with her “virtually” adopted lamb. Stroking, humming, and rocking gently, brought her overloaded mind and heart to a quieter level. Finding that quieter level, she found herself able to cope once again.

We had a family with a girl who had an unusual link with animals. The lambs flocked to her wonderful energies, clambering all over her. Her autistic sister responded well to the action as have many others on the autistic spectrum.

A woman came in a wheelchair, not yet at peace with her immobilized state. She poured out her frustration and grief quietly, cuddling the therapy lamb which fell sound asleep in her arms. Her body didn’t change, but her mind was less fraught, her ability to cope with her reality strengthened.

A woman amid chemo treatments for a very tough cancer spent over an hour in a meditative link with the wee woolly animal snuggling up to her neck. She wrote to us to describe the huge healing impact on her heart and soul. “[…] I relaxed so much and allowed myself just to be in the moment. I truly believe that animals give the best therapy…they don’t expect anything from you but to be loved. Cuddling and playing with them allowed me to forget everything else going on in my life…it gave me a positive purpose and I left your farm feeling so happy and relaxed.” And who knows—maybe it helped her body too?

A few Syrian families have come to visit, still struggling to adjust to their new world, to the absence of violence, to the low-key warm welcome in Canada and at Topsy Farms. Watching the lambs play, helping to nourish these babies, their strained faces relaxed into laughter and joy.

One child who visited has a rare illness that prevents her from playing with other children or groups of people. Her family carefully booked a time when she could be alone with the lambs. She had only recently been able to hear, thus speak, but after a few minutes, she was chattering away with the lambs, touching, and exploring. Her mother and caregiver were thrilled that she had a “normal” happy hour, playing and growing like any child, anywhere.

A family with an older child who was severely autistic now has a young daughter with the same challenges. The older boy was helped when two of our lambs moved to his farm. Frustration and anger melted away. Two new, sturdy, affectionate lambs moved there last year, and again the interaction is helping the young child socialize more freely. Again, healing happened for child and family.

We at Topsy thought people were rescuing lambs, but it turned out that the therapy lambs were rescuing us.

In springtime, the fallow, resting time of winter is complete, and summer and sunshine approach. The birth of the animals and the rebirth of the land is a time to rejoice.

Purl helping cushion Zoey Pelow. Photo by Angela Kargus.