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Sheep start up ATV, sit in cars and go for walks in Salmon Arm

Until they bought two sheep, Ken and Karleen Kantymir didin’t realize just how social the animals are

They can mow the lawn, fertilize the garden, inspect any project, take the ATV for a spin and, quite possibly, win over a person’s heart.

More than a year ago, Ken and Karleen Kantymir purchased two Old English Southdown Baby Doll sheep (‘Baby Doll’ for short) in Vernon.

With fuzzy faces, the brothers have a slightly teddy bear-like look. Their names are Gin and Tonic.

The Kantymirs enjoy pair names; their orange cats are Mac and Cheese and, for the sheep, they considered names like Bert and Ernie and Starsky and Hutch, but the English beverage seemed just the right fit.

Although the woolly boys do mow the lawn – usually in patches, do provide non-stop fertilizer and are very interested in every job or project their humans do, driving the all-terrain vehicle is a slight exaggeration. Not completely though.

Ken recounted how their son Nate was in the house one day last summer when he heard Ken’s little side-by-side ATV start up. Thinking it strange that his father had come home from work in the middle of the day, Nate went outside. There 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.

“So that was a pretty good story, a lot of our friends thought that was pretty funny.”

The Kantymirs 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.

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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.”

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 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.

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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.”
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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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