A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

November 15, 2013

Farewell to a Faithful Guardian

A sad part of raising alpacas and llamas is that at some time in their life we have to let them go.   As some of our herd ages this is a situation we will no doubt be encountering more often.  It’s tough, but unavoidable.

This morning our guard llama Griffin passed away.  At 13 years old Griffin was middle aged in llama terms, some llamas live well into their twenties but in Griffin’s case that was not to be.

We acquired Griffin through Southwest Llama Rescue along with our other two llamas Maya and Inca.  Griffin’s registered name was Twilight’s Griffin Girl, her fleece was a beautiful rose grey.  Griffin was always more aloof than Maya and Inca, she was a strong and proud girl and took her job of guarding the herd seriously unless someone started putting out hay and then she was quite easily distracted!  Griffin loved to find a higher piece of ground to stand on so she could survey her “kingdom”.  She also loved a really good roll in the dirt, and a nice “shower” with the hose during the hot days of summer.  When we used to hose her legs Griffin would start a dance, spinning and twisting as she enjoyed the cool water on her skin.  You had to make sure to stay out of her way unless you wanted to be showered from mud flinging up from under Griffins feet!

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Griffin looking proud after shearing

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Griffin gets up close and personal

From her records we knew that Griffin had once had a cria, but sadly he did not live long.  When crias were born on our farm Griffin would often nuzzle them and follow them around, and it was on more than one occasion that Griffin joined in the evening cria pronk.  It was so funny to see the little alpaca crias pronking around accompanied by a pretty hefty llama!

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Griffin checks out one of our crias Kaneka

We had known something was not right with Griffin since July.  While I was away visiting family in England Ric called me to tell me Griffin was not eating.  I was due to return a couple of days later and by that time Ric had managed to get Griffin eating again but something was not right with our girl.  We consulted our vet and he felt that Griffin might have congestive heart failure and warned us that it would only be a matter of time before we had to say goodbye to her.

Amazingly Griffin perked up and seemed to be doing better, she was back to eating again and eagerly staking her claim on the morning and evening hay as she loved to do.  The alpacas all knew not to mess with Griffin at feeding time.  We were optimistic.  Perhaps the vet’s diagnosis was wrong.  Griffin seemed good and we were happy to see her looking like her usual self.  But then we noticed that once again Griffin was not right.  She seemed to be losing muscle in her rear end, she stood awkwardly and getting up and down seemed more difficult for her than normal.  We again consulted our vet.  When he examined her he said that her heart sounded good and that the symptoms she had displayed earlier in the summer were all gone, but he was a little baffled as to what was causing Griffin’s discomfort and muscle wasting.  Tests were done to see if perhaps there was a neurological problem or perhaps an issue with Griffin’s spine, blood tests were run to see if there was anything abnormal, but nothing showed up in any of the tests to give us a clue.

We tried various treatments from probiotics to antibiotics, we treated for parasites and ear ticks, we put Griffin on some arthritis medicine in case that was the problem.  I used my photonic red light on her and gave her gentle massages.  Griffin would respond for a while and start eating again and then stop eating and start to lose muscle again.  Neither our vet nor we could come up with any clues to help us figure out what on earth was plaguing Griffin.

Last week Griffin again went off her feed.  We managed to get her eating again, but within a couple of days she would not eat anything we offered to her.  Ric and I were both very concerned about Griffin and what we should do for her.

Last night when I did chores I walked Griffin over to the pen where she liked to eat.  As I walked behind her I noticed she was tripping over even the smallest of rocks in the pasture, she just didn’t look good.  I offered her food and stroked her neck.  I talked to her and told her that if she felt it was time to leave us then I understood.  I told her how much we loved her and what a great job she had done for us guarding the herd.  I told her we would miss her but that we would be okay.

This morning when I got up I looked for Griffin and found her standing by the fence in front of the house.  The nights have been cold recently and Griffin had been spending them in the big blue shelter at the other side of the pasture, staying in there until the hay was put out.  But this morning she had already made her way across the pasture.  I watched Griffin walk around a little and then cush down.

When our helper Leigh Ann arrived I asked her to keep an eye on Griffin and told her that I was very worried about her.  Not too long after Leigh Ann went out to feed the alpacas she came back in and told me that I needed to come to Griffin.  Leigh Ann had seen Griffin’s legs suddenly thrash and Griffin had gone onto her side.

Leigh Ann and I went out and I when I looked at Griffin I knew her time to leave us had come.  Griffin was still conscious.  I put a blanket and a towel under her head and sat with her, stroking her and talking to her until she took her last breath.  Leigh Ann stayed with Griffin and me too, giving us both comfort during a difficult time.

Maya, Inca and Griffin

Maya, Inca and Griffin, the three girls always worked as a team

Our Griffin will be buried in one of the grass pastures that the alpacas and llamas like to visit when we let them out for a day of grazing.  From that point you can see all three alpaca pastures and the hay barn so Griffin can continue to guard over us night and day.  I would like to think that she now has been reunited with her cria and is pronking around with him free of pain and full of joy.

To our faithful guardian Griffin, farewell dear one, you served us well and gave us many years of joy.  We will miss you.  May you now rest in peace.

Rosemary

November 17, 2008

So What Do You Get If ………..

 Some trips to the vet are for good reasons and such was the case when I took two of the visiting girls in for ultrasounds last week.   The ultrasounds showed that both girls were pregnant and the girls handled the procedure well.

 

What was unusual for my trip was that I was the only client at the vets that afternoon.  The vet did have some house calls to make later in the day, but for some reason that day was a little quiet – a welcome break for our usually busy vet.

 

The relaxed atmosphere at the vet clinic meant that we could get caught up on news and talk about various things we had been seeing or doing.  Our vet mentioned that recently he had been out in deepest rural New Mexico (the type of area where you don’t see anything anywhere close to you and are aware it has been a long time since you even drove past a house or a driveway) when he had come across two llamas standing proudly in a pasture.   The llamas made an unusual sight, standing there in the pasture with nothing else nearby not even a ranch cow (although I am betting those llamas were being used for guards for sheep or possible cows with calves).

 

Our conversation turned to the subject of llamas that pull carts, and we jokingly spoke as to how that might be a better option than cars in our current economy.

 

Then our vet asked me if I had ever heard of a llama being crossed with a camel.  I knew that at some time I had heard of such a creature but for the life of me I couldn’t remember what it was called.  I was pretty certain it did not inherit the camel’s hump though.

 

Our vet mentioned that one of his clients had recently brought a camel in to the clinic  and had allowed our vet to ride the camel.  Our vet had been surprised to see that the camel led off with it’s hind leg rather than the front leg, and that camels have a lateral gait (moving both hind and front leg from the same side at the same time) rather than a diagonal gait (moving opposite hind and front legs).  The camel our vet had ridden was a Bactrian camel (the two humped variety) and that led us to wonder if only Bactrian camels had the lateral gait or if Dromedary camels also have a lateral gait (they do).

 

The vet’s questions stuck in my mind when I returned home and I was still certain that I had at some stage heard of a camel crossed with a llama and so I did a little research to see what I could find.

 

It turns out that on January 14, 1998  Rama the Cama was born in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  Cama is the term being used for the offspring resulting from the crossing of a camel and a llama.  Some of the information I discovered mentioned Rama’s dam being a llama, but it seems as if Rama’s dam was actually a guanaco.  The confusion about Rama’s dam may come from the word lama (not only one “L”), which is the genus name  South American Camelids; a guanaco is a lama but not a llama.  You can see why people might get confused.

 

There is an interesting piece about Rama and how he came to be at

 

http://taylorllamas.com/Camel-LamaCross.html

 

Pictures of Rama can be seen at

http://taylorllamas.com/Camel-LamaCrossPhotos.html

 

Unfortunately Rama has not grown up with the nicest of dispositions, part of that might be that his dam had little milk and was not interested in Rama when he was born and so he was bottle fed.  The other contributing factor to Rana’s personality might just be the combination of the guanaco and camel personalities.   Rama also was not accepted by the camels and guanaco’s at the Camel Reproduction Center where he lives.

 

Since Rama’s birth other Camel-Lama crosses have been produced including Kamilah who does have a llama dam rather than a guanaco dam.

 

Rama is still alive and lives at the Camel Reproduction Center in Dubai; he likes to kick a soccer ball around for entertainment.  It still has not been determined if Rama is fertile or not.

 

If you have time to read a longer article check out

 

http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/99oct/9910camels.htm

 

The article is in three sections but is an interesting insight into camels and the work of Dr. Julian “Lulu” Skidmore at the Camel Reproduction Center.

 

Happy Reading!

 

Rosemary

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