The north Okanagan community of Salmon Arm is home to a distinctive woolly duo.
With fuzzy faces, the brothers have a slightly teddy bear-like look and their names – the stuff of sunny Saturdays on the deck – are Gin and Tonic.
More than a year ago, Ken and Karleen Kantymir purchased two Old English Southdown Baby Doll sheep (‘Baby Doll’ for short).
The woolly boys mow the lawn – usually in patches – provide non-stop fertilizer, are curious about every job or project their humans do, and have been known to climb right on in to the family ATV.
The Kantymirs’ son Nate was in the house last summer when he heard Ken’s little side-by-side ATV start up. Outside, he found both sheep in the vehicle with the engine running. Ken had forgotten the keys in the ignition.
“They had climbed in and nibbled on the key enough to turn it and they’d started it, and they were just standing there, both of them inside the ATV.”
Although the Kantymirs were well aware sheep are herd animals and should be kept in pairs at a minimum, they have been surprised just how social they are.
The sheep like to be taken on walks over to the river, especially when there’s grass to munch on, but if Ken and Karleen go for a walk anywhere without them, the couple hears about it.
The sheep come running, baa-ing and baa-ing, Ken said.
“Don’t leave us,” quipped Karleen. “All the way down the road, they’re still yelling, ‘Heyyyyy!’”
The family decided to get the sheep when they moved out of town after their kids left home. Karleen had always wanted sheep and when Ken was growing up, his family always had 20 to 30.
“We always get a lot of comments. When I go to buy feed for them, or hay, they ask, how many sheep you got, and I say, I got two, and they all laugh at me.
“They say, what? Two sheep? Nobody has two sheep.”
You either have a herd of sheep or no sheep, laughs Ken.
“They’re just for fun,” added Karleen, pointing out they’re very gentle and low key. “Basically they’re just a grown-up 4H project for no reason.”
Ken said they are “definitely professional inspectors.”
“Anything you’re doing – like if I’m working in my shop, and they can get in there, they’ll get in there. They’re very social.”
Karleen told of the day when their daughter Sienna was cleaning her car and left the door open.
“She comes back outside and both sheep are in her back seat.”
The family has photos of the sheep “doing all their dumb things,” smiled Karleen.
She explained that Tonic is a little more skittish than his brother and is more alert to possible danger. While Gin, the bumbling brother, is like, “Whoa, whatever.”
The couple is impressed with the sheep’s wool and how warm their skin remains in cold weather. Ken noted that’s why they’re such an old breed; they’re hardy.
Another of the sheep’s quirks involves food. Taco chips, to be specific.
When the Kantymirs are sitting out in the yard in the summer, the sheep will crawl right up on their laps to get taco chips.
“They’re definitely motivated by food,” emphasized Ken.
Karleen said the sheep have taught her a lot about living in the moment.
“Because they only have this moment. They don’t think behind or ahead, it’s just right now. They’re really calming actually.”
Would she recommend them?
“If you’re into docile dudes who like to hang out with you, yes.”