In Cowley, Wyoming, a small town with a population of around 600 people, a miniature Australian shepherd named Oakley has come to the rescue of “bum” lambs.
Keela Hopkin’s girls have been raising bum lambs, or orphaned lambs, on their family farm for many years.
“They are either pulled from their mothers when they don’t have enough milk (often the case with triplets and quads), mothers reject them (again, often the case with triplets and quads; ewes know their capabilities), or if the mother has died,” Hopkin tells This Dog’s Life about how these lambs come to their farm.
Recently one of their orphan lambs took a turn for the worse – and needed some lifesaving help from the family’s dog, Oakley, a miniature Australian shepherd.
When it came to eating, the lamb refused. Hopkin tried bottle feeding, using a syringe, and inserting a tube, but the baby wasn’t having it. Hopkin thought the lamb may not make it. That is when her dog stepped.
“Oakley walked up to the lamb and hiked her leg over it. It took her a few tries, but eventually the lamb figured out that there was a milk bar under there,” she says.
When Oakley “adopted” the lamb, she also had one of her own, an 8-week-old puppy, running around. “His new owner hadn’t made it over the mountain to pick him up yet,” says Hopkin. “The puppy was rambunctious and spent the majority of his time running with the big dogs, so Oakley just wasn’t done mothering yet.”
The dog went on to nurse a couple of other bum lambs and kids in addition.
Oakley’s mothering nature is non-discriminatory. The dog has even attempted to steal kittens. “She is really just a kidnapper,” says Hopkin.
Oakley has plenty of opportunity to spread her love around. Hopkin’s daughters, Cadence and Macie, raise rabbits, sheep, goats, and pigs for 4H. “They used to let all the rabbits out to run around, but Oakley didn’t approve,” says Hopkin. “She would work them all back into their cages. Seriously, she would herd them back into the right cages. If they hopped into the wrong one, she would bark until we pulled the rabbit back out. Oakley has an idea about how things should be, and God help us all if we deviate from that plan.”
The Australian shepherd even refuses to let the chickens be free range birds, says Hopkin. “She will spend all day putting them away. She likes the sheep and goats to stay together, and if they start wandering, she gathers them up.”
Of course, Oakley is dedicated to her humans, too. “I am also a nurse and work part time,” says Hopkin. “Oakley hides my shoes (always under Cadence’s bed), so I can’t leave for work.”
When Hopkin gets back home, Oakley can hear her car “a ways down the country road.” She will race to meet Hopkin at their cattle guard, which is a half mile from the house. “I’m sure she hears me when I hit the gravel county road because when I make it to our driveway, she is always there and out of breath. She doesn’t do that when other vehicles come down the road.”
Oakley is an exceptional mother to her own pups and has produced several show stoppers. “We put a crazy amount of time into our animals,” says Hopkin. “Our dogs have full roam of the farm and our house, spend nights curled up in our beds, lazy days on my sofa, and busy days working sheep. I’m proud to say that Oakley’s babies are as loved as she is.”