A week ago the first lambs of the year greeted me when I checked on the flock down by the Connecticut River. This is always a great time for me, and this particular ewe is a really good one.
When I arrived, she was lying down, facing away from me, her two new lambs right by her nose. Her head was up, her eyes were closed, and she was chewing her cud. I could see that the lambs were also full and dozing contentedly. A happy and proud mother. I felt unmitigated joy at the scene.
When she became aware of my presence she did something that moved my joy to yet another level. She stood quickly, but without alarming her lambs, turned toward me, and took one step foward and dropped her head into a defensive posture -- think of an offensive lineman in American football. Her lambs were now under her belly, still dozing, but if anyone was going to take those lambs, they were going to have to take her first.
Competence is such a wonderful thing to observe. Those lambs will survive because their mother knows what to do. In 15 seconds, I knew all was well, and I knew that any ewe lambs from this ewe were keepers.
Better still, they were both ewe lambs. If they have inherited half of their mother's competence, they'll just keep on making my job easier and easier for years into the future.