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Mary’s Little Lamb Spills the Beans
By Nancy John Philipp

I’ve always said, if the Humane Society of the United States had been involved from the get-go, none of this would ever have happened.

It boils down to one simple question: Did Mary, sweet child though she is, “create a humane and sustainable world for me, promoting respect and compassion”? You be the judge.

For starters, let’s go directly to the bleaching of my fleece to make it white as snow. Bet you didn’t know that happened, did you? Here are my thoughts: What was wrong with dirty blonde in the first place, and why did hair color have to be an issue? Knowing that Mary came dangerously close to conducting an animal experiment gives one reason to pause and consider if this was not “at the expense of animal welfare.” And why, if she was going to all the trouble of bleaching my hair, didn’t she add highlights and lowlights? Perhaps that’s too much to expect from a child. I only hope I don’t become an object of scorn when my roots grow out. You know herd mentality: be in style or be in the deli aisle.

Now let’s turn to travel. Going everywhere that Mary went meant, of course, a trip in the family’s sport utility vehicle. Girl scouts, 4H Club, dance class, piano lessons, soccer practice, birthday parties, and sleepovers. Even though Mary’s mom bought a ramp for the Ford Expedition, it still meant up and down and in and out, on and off all day. My hooves were killing me. “Tedium” is the only word I can offer for this part of the story because every where that Mary went, I was sure to go. Now if I could have stuck my head out the window with Boomer the dog, that would have made it all worthwhile. But I digress.

It’s true I followed Mary to school one day. It was a short walk and I was glad I could escort her because I didn’t want to see Mary’s picture on the side of a milk carton. Speaking of cows, who knew that bringing farm animals to school was against the rules? I can only surmise that the children had never seen a lamb before, at least not in the flesh. What ever happened to picture books? There is no excuse for lack of lamb recognition in this day and age. To see a lamb at school, though, made the children laugh and play.

So we get to Franklin Elementary and I make it through the metal detectors free and clear, and still the teacher turned me out, turned me out, turned me out. Yes, it took three tries for me to be convinced that I wasn’t good enough, even for show and tell. The persuasive influence of the security guard helped convince me. And so I lingered near. That especially irritated Mary’s teacher, Mrs. Swenson, because I stood outside Mary’s classroom bunting the window during reading, writing, and arithmetic. Then I waited patiently about till Mary did appear.

After recess, I tried to re-enter the building but, you guessed it, I was turned out, turned out, turned out. That’s a lot of rejection for one little lamb to handle. My sense of lamb-esteem was dashed. Did I mope? Did I curse? Not once. I did manage to grab the attention of the children though, despite Mrs. Swenson’s efforts to the contrary, because suddenly the children became eager and began to cry, “Why does the lamb love Mary so?”

Good question. I’ve examined my motives a hundred times and to be honest, I’m conflicted. If I didn’t love Mary, who else would take care of me? I’d end up in a petting zoo. Granted Mary is 4H-Club certified – my only hope for health care benefits – but in the quiet moments, I wonder if what we have isn’t codependency. The last thing I want is a dysfunctional relationship on my hooves.

I did grow up in a single-parent herd, so I arrived at Mary’s with my share of lambular baggage. My father, the stud, wasn’t there for me and didn’t give much attention to his little lambs. He was a workaholic, lived in a separate pen, and only came home for slop. In my formative months, I was a weepy little lamb. When the farmer said a friend’s daughter (a.k.a. Mary) wanted a lamb of her own, and he came and picked me, what choice did I have? Sheepishly, I went home with Mary. But there I go again, wandering away from the yarn, or with the yarn, or from the barn . . . . oh, you know what I mean.

I love Mary in my little lamb way. Who would have thought then that it would be Mrs. Swenson who would finally reveal how Mary felt about me? It happened like this. After school, when Mrs. Swenson led the children to the front of the building, there I was standing on the sidewalk by the front doors. Mary came running to me, hugged my neck, and caressed my hair. Mrs. Swenson’s demeanor softened, her eyes widened as she watched. “Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know; loves the lamb, you know; loves the lamb, you know. Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know,” the teacher did reply, sounding like a mynah bird.

None of which mattered to the Animal Control Officer, who gave Mary and me a citation for animal trespassing on school grounds. Fortunately, I got away with only a ticket rather than a trip to the pound.

When all is said and done, I’d still rather be Mary’s little lamb, doing chores around the house (since my wings have been clipped, so to speak) than bouncing off the other lambs like bumper cars back at the farm.

And now that we know we love each other, maybe once Mary will let me stick my head out the window with Boomer when we’re driving down the highway in the SUV.

Nancy John Philipp (1956 - ) grew up in the Chicago suburbs and attended University of Illinois College of Nursing where she earned a bachelor of science degree. After working at the Dartmouth Medical Center as a pediatric nurse, she returned to graduate school to study journalism at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. Combining her clinical medical knowledge and writing skills, Nancy has worked for nearly 25 years as a medical writer, editor, and consultant in the development of continuing medical education programs for physicians. She made the courageous leap into fiction writing in the Fall of 2004, studying fiction writing at Pima College. She lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her three dogs.
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