Country living should come with a handbook. Not for the useful or practical things but for stupid things like- Chickens sunbathe on their sides so don’t freak out and think you have a Jonestown incident the first time you witness it.
“An Idiots Guide to Things that Every Country Person Knows Innately but City People Are Clueless About” could have been useful in our encounter with llamas. Starting with our first, Buckbeak… or as our extremely creative neighbors called him, Brownie.
I will address the idiocy of Buckbeak/ Brownie momentarily. First, allow me to digress, these imaginative neighbors live in this house:
It has inspired me to want to write a blog entitled: “Crap in People’s Yards”. I am toying with the idea, after all, I have this picture to post with it:
So, after seeing the picture of where Buckbeak used to live, I assume you are grateful that you don’t live there as well. One would think a llama would feel similarly. Such is not the case.
My belief is that all farm animals should serve double duty; besides being just a pet (with the exception of Lola who is worthless). For instance, the goats make manure that is wonderful for our gardens and they clear out the thorny weeds that I despise. A llama has a communal spot for defecating. That would mean that collection of manure for our compost would be considerably easier. On top of that they are excellent goat protectors. Several months earlier a foster dog, of ours, managed to escape and maul one of our goats. Protection from dogs and coyotes seemed extremely logical and necessary.
I quickly found an ad selling a llama. The fact the owner lived in the same town as us was a major plus; when we learned that they actually lived less than a mile from our house it seemed most fortuitous.
Until a month later when Buckbeak jumped the fence and went back home. Of course, we only learned of his decision of geographical modification after hours of frantic searching and my wreaking the car in the effort to find him. Apparently, it is not that our house isn’t conducive to llama contentment but the previous owner failed to mention that she still had his girlfriend at her property. If we had a copy of, “An Idiots Guide to Things that Every Country Person Knows Innately but City People Are Clueless About”, perhaps there could have been a quick quip about llama relocation and it would have saved my car a huge dent.
Not to be dissuaded, we found another person selling llamas in a different town. These particular people earn their living by buying large quantities of livestock and exotics, at auction, and then piecing them out. When we approached their property we saw 50 female llamas, some with babies. From those we chose Dalai. We were told, at the time, that she was 6 months old. In our eyes, this was ideal. She was young enough to bring up with the goats and therefore, would make the best goat protector.
(I would like to forewarn you that the story I am about to tell you does not have a happy ending. Do not get attached to any of the characters involved…)
After much reading, we learned that a llama responds best to goats when their human interaction is minimized. That, and the fact that she hated us, made our decision to leave her wild easy. The routine of ours was extremely predictable. Month after month I would let her out in the morning and then go out at night and herd her back up in to the enclosure with the goats. Day in, day out, I would walk out to her and chase her back in to the enclosure. Rain or shine, I would walk all the way in the field, begging her to please move so that I could get on with my life.
Until one day that changed. This time when I approached her she was lying down. “Stupid llama”, I muttered, “Come on, it’s time to go up”. To this, she leaped up and started walking. Yet, something was different. She hesitated, she resisted, she turned to look at me, almost defiantly. Not to be intimidated by a llama I stepped forward to push her on. She jolted forward and I then spotted an oozy liquid coming from her back end. “Oh, you are in heat, are you, Dalai?” and onward we walked. Again she hesitated and stopped. Frustrated, I called her a few choice words when suddenly, something happened. As I was staring at the oozy liquid coming out of her, from beneath her tail a head poked out.
I am a planner. Life is like a chess game, you simply must have a plan for every single one of your pieces if you intend to succeed. I do not subscribe to the belief that you can fly through life by the seat of your pants, letting things sweep you in any direction it would like. I did not authorize the pregnancy of this llama. I had not planned and obsessed over the pregnancy. Therefore, I felt that denial should be a viable option and so I stood there, mouth agape, trying to comprehend what was happening.
Finally words found me and I yelled out, “Nick, the llama is having a baby!” Now, I would have expected confusion on his part. Our immaculate conception should need to be weighed and compartmentalized by he as well. However, Nick, my level headed husband, yanked out his phone, without hesitation, and called the vet as he ran out to where I stood, mouth still ajar.
Mind you, Dalai is not a pet. She is a 300lb bodyguard for our goats, nothing more. So as Nick scooted behind her to evaluate the life presenting itself, Dalai paced back and forth irritated by our presence.
“Do you see the feet,” the vet questioned. No, the feet were not visible. Just a nose that peeked out occasionally and then would disappear.
“The feet have to come out first,” she instructed. Nick followed the llama to and fro as she continued to pace. Watching carefully as the baby would emerge and then vanish again.
“If you don’t see the feet, you are going to have to reach inside her and pull them out.”
From my vantage point, I could then hear Nick try and reason with the doctor. “You understand this llama doesn’t like me, right? Corner her? Okay…. and do what?” Had we only had a copy of an “An Idiots Guide to Things that Every Country Person Knows Innately but City People Are Clueless About”, we could have turned to the chapter titled: Reaching Your Hands Into a Llama’s Vagina, and we would have been fine.
I was becoming giddy with the anticipation of watching Nick capture Dalai and confine her well enough for her to allow him to “examine” her, however, about the time the vet officially launched in to a speech condemning us for breeding a llama and never socializing it, Dalai lay down and the baby popped out.
Hugs, kisses, high fives, and tears of joy followed.
By the next morning we could see that something was wrong with the baby. He was standing on his front ankles, like a gorilla stands on it’s knuckles and he wasn’t nursing.
We drove the baby to the doctor immediately. All of the problems he was suffering from were symptomatic of being born prematurely. We shot him full of vitamins and medicines to help with his legs, and received bags of goat colostrum to supplement his nutrition (until Dalai’s milk came in). Sadly, after less than a week of life, the baby died.
All of the family was saddened by this experience. Something completely unplanned for and honestly, unwelcome, had felt like a blessing. Then in the blink of an eye it was taken from us all.
We dealt with all of that, and ironically, Dalai is the worst goat protector ever. She is the Ferdinand the Bull of goat protecting, completely undermining my “double duty” policy and necessitating the acquisition of a new, better goat protector. Enter-Clarence Worley III. (I am not responsible for the name. I was not allowed to contribute to the name. I do not like the name).
Clarence is a sweet, older donkey that “kicks butt and asks questions later”. We picked up Clarence from the SPCA. Out here, they auction off livestock. When the animal isn’t purchased they are just given away. He had sat at the shelter for months without anyone showing the slightest bit of interest in him. Their loss.
The last few years have offered many learning opportunities. I can’t tell you how many times it would have been nice to whip out a handy copy of “An Idiots Guide to…” in an effort to save ourselves (and the animals) from our inexperience. Perhaps, if nothing else my blog serves the purpose of letting others know they are not alone in being a clueless city person amongst a group of knowledgeable country folk. If you are out there… it isn’t as easy as it looked on Green Acres… there is a learning curve…. but we will get there.