Wowzer! We have our llamas on our land and what an adventure it was. First off, my business partner, Tim’s parents drove out from North Dakota for a visit. What perfect timing! Being the good ol’ boy who grew up on a ranch himself, Tim’s Dad had a 4-door Chevy extended cab pickup that we were able to use and they joined us for the outing to Shaw Island to get our fellas. This was a perfect introductory trip for them to get a bird’s eye view of our project and to see some animals too. I’ve created a photo album of the pictures from the trip, you can view them in the photo album section titled “Llamas come home 10-03-06”.
This trip was a long one starting really the previous Monday evening. We left early enough to go up to borrow a larger horse trailer than the one we have since we have 4 llamas to transport. The alpaca ranch we’ve done some mentoring with, Country Time Alpacas, have been just wonderful. Brad and Lesa have quickly become good friends. We took a look into their ranch store, I even bought a pair of alpaca socks since it is starting to cool down. The parents got to see the baby crias pronking around the pasture with their moms. We then managed to drive to Anacortes where we’d be catching the ferry the next day to Shaw Island for our visit to Our Lady of the Rock Monastery and Mother Hildegard.
The trip on the ferry boat to the San Juan Islands is something everyone should try to do when visiting the Pacific Northwest. It is the most scenic ferry boat trip to take. After several island stops, and a few hands of Pinochle, we made our landing at Shaw Island.
Mother Hildegard already had our boys rounded up into a catch pen with the exception of Mucho who was being fickle and stayed in the pasture. So I got out my herding line and wands and rounded him up quickly enough and went to work on all 4 boys. First, it was some initial hellos. Just got in the pen and walked them around it a couple of times before working my catch rope on to each of them. After catching each one up, I’d halter them and attach a lead. It went very smoothly. Mother Hildegard stood by and handed over the oral dewormer so that I could give them a dose in their mouth (like trying to convince a child to take castor oil!) I used all of my TTOUCH techniques I learned from the Camelid Dynamics training as was simply amazed that this approach works so well. I like the idea of entering into a “conversation” with the animals, rather than wrestling and manhandling them.
Loading the trailer was a bit touchy. The dominant llama of the four, Stellar, was the one who’d remain fairly stubborn about doing things and would stick in place or end up trying to play tug-o-war with the lead and you. But, we took it slow enough to allow him to think and process what was happening and he came to terms with it. I have to keep this in mind when working with him in particular: he needs processing time when being asked to do something.
Mother Hildegard is just the best! The Our Lady of the Rock Monastery is a beautiful place. However, they are short on funding and certainly could use any help or charitable contributions. Their roof needs replacing and I think that is an unexpected event for them. They do so much for the community, especially Mother Hildegard who personally attends to all the llamas and alpacas and 4-H groups she leads. While watching me work with the boys in the catch pen, I received the comment that just made my day. She has seen many people come through 4-H and can tell those who are just naturals with these animals. She told me I was one of those people. She even was mildly surprised that the dominant llama took right to me and showed some affection. Hmmm, I think I was some sort of Inca in my past life… We toured the Monastery and Mother had even prepared a homemade meal for lunch from foods they grew and tended to themselves. What an inspiring woman! I was truly touched and so glad I’ve come to know her over this past year.
Now I remembered one thing from my training classes when it comes to toenail clipping: containment is a good thing, and the more you have in stuffed in there the better it is too work with them. So, while still in the trailer, I made myself pony up to do some toenail clipping. I’ve done this before with the alpacas and felt quite comfortable with the task. I did cut to the quick on one of the boys hind toenails, boy does that bleed! But, all told, no big deal. Out of 32 toenails on 16 feet of 4 llamas, to cut one too close like that, I think I did purty darn good! (patting myself on the back now…pat pat pat)
There was a little hesitation again with Stellar getting him to walk from the trailer to the pasture, again, he just needed to get his bearing and think about his surroundings and not be rushed. You’ll notice I’ve chosen to focus on him. Mother told me he was the dominant one of the herd. It would have been a piece of cake getting the other three to the pasture. However, I specifically chose to get Stellar there first and let the other three trail behind with Tim and his dad leading them. It took a bit of coaxing, but all in all the llamas were acting very typically llama-esque. Once we released them into the pasture though, they had a blast!
The next morning I got out my herding line and wands again to see if I could coax them into the paddock area to work with them on some simple touching exercises to get them used to me. What a dream! They herded in, I caught each of them up in turn, touched them on their head, nose and mouth (to their enjoyment once they realized what I was doing), then released them.
Yup, I think we’ll be just fine here. It will be fun to start them on their “official” hiking and packing training soon. We’ll start off with halters and leads and some walks. Llamas love to take walks and I think I’ll walk them each individually at first to get a better gauge on their personalities and temperaments so I can adjust my handling to their needs.
Be sure to check out the pictures in the photo album section titled “Llamas come home 10-03-06”.