| Farewell to Nick Boing, Wales's very own superstar sheep|
|He loved roses, telly and walking to the shops, and his charismatic personality was as big as his 22-stone frame. So it was hardly surprising that scores of people attended a tree-planting memorial service for Nick Boing last week. What is surprising is that Nick was a sheep.|
The gargantuan beast became an international superstar after he was rescued as a lamb by David Palmer and Caroline Clements when their son Nathan, then 10, heard bleating in the long grass of a nature reserve. Raising him in their home in Rhiwbina garden village, Cardiff, Nick Boing (named after his bouncy personality) became a local celebrity when he accompanied them on walks around the neighbourhood. Film crews from Japan and Boston filmed Nick, who also loitered in the background when an episode of Doctor Who was shot in the suburb. A Facebook page inevitably followed.
Fed a diet of swede, carrots and parsnips, Nick grew to 22 stone (not overweight, just down to the breed, says Palmer), and believed he was more man than sheep: he would ride in the family car during the day and join them for evenings watching television before retiring to his specially built bungalow in the garden at 11pm.
"Occasionally we'd take him out to where there were other sheep and he wouldn't want to know. He was like another human – everyone took to him," says Palmer. "We think sheep are as thick as can be, but Nick was well-educated."
Nick forged a strong bond with his owners – and the local community. He was the celebrity guest at civic events and brought Rhiwbina together, according to local councillor Eleanor Sanders, one of three councillors who attended his memorial service. Every year, he would be shorn at the village hall: last year, more than 100 people gathered to watch.
"He was just so easy-going and gentle," says Palmer. "If we were going for a ride in the car, he would sense it and jump in the back. He'd come by his name – when he wanted to. He used to get jealous. If me and you were walking down the street, he'd headbutt you to get you out of the way."
Despite the occasional jealous rage and love of snacking on neighbours' roses, Nick never caused any trouble in Rhiwbina.
A stroll to the local shops would normally take Palmer 30 minutes, but with Nick it took three hours as the sheep was besieged by well-wishers. But Nick, a lifelong bachelor, developed tumours on his lungs and died, aged eight, in January.
A tree – donated by Cardiff city council – planted in Nick's memory will, along with a plaque and memorial 2014 calendar, ensure the sheep is not forgotten, but grieving Palmer says he will never be replaced. "It's terrible. I'd never felt like it before when he died," he says. "Lots of people ask if we will get another sheep but there's no chance. Definitely not. He found us, if you like."