Well, I am truly transitioning to the mountains from the city. I am up there most of the time now, with only the occasional break coming back into Seattle. Right now, I’m back at the city apartment handling some of those administrative type items and looking at the sunny Lake Union view. I very happy we’ve got sunshine for the construction site! On Sunday it rained a bit and before we left I was sure to sweep as much water off the wood subfloors that were collecting it. Roof coming soon!!!
The llama boys all are settling in just fine. Glenn and I actually took them, two at a time, on their first walkabout. The best thing you can do to ever get a llama to become comfortable and buildup trust with you is to simply take them for a walk. Of course, there are caveats to this! If leading up to your walk was a race to round them up, followed by a wrestling match to put on a halter, you probably are dishing out more fear then comfort and your walk will be one on the llama managing to stay as completely at the end of the lead and out of reach of those human arms as possible.
Luckily, with our boys this was not the case. A good deal of this I credit to respectful handling. I am really glad I invested the time to learn this properly. There are many techniques out there for handling animals, and I am not the one who subscribes to anything that includes the theme of “breaking an animal” into doing something. I am just not going to tie a llama up to a post and let them fight their attached rope until they submit. Nothing being learned there, sorry. So, in lieu of doing something like this, I learned how to read the signals from a llama so as to enter into a sort of “conversation” with them. Using this approach, I rounded them up from the pasture and into the catch pen. Then in the catch pen, I assured them of their “flight zone” and then brought them to a stand. Using my wand with the clip at the end, I brought the catch rope around their neck. The wand allows me to maintain the “out of arms reach” and keeps them quite calm. After the catch rope makes contact, I am able to start getting closer and preparing the llama for a halter by doing specific touches on the head and nose.
Glenn and I decided that our first walk with half the boys would simply introduce them to the driveway, the turnout down near the road, and a couple of intentionally selected obstacles along the way. As we walked the first pair, Knight and Mucho, they quickly fell into stride. They handled passing cars on the road just fine and when we took to the “trail” part of the walk, requiring ducking under evergreen boughs and walking through tall ferns and bramble, they did great. Their previous 4-H training took hold and you could tell they enjoyed the walk. Stellar and Yago were the second walk, and they acted very much in sync with how the first two performed.
The biggest challenge: crossing a ditch. There is a portion of the construction site that has a trench still open that is about one foot wide and 2-3 feet deep. You can simply step across it. However, I knew that this obstacle would be the one that put trust to the test. We kept it for near the end of the walk. The idea is to get the llamas to cross it following us. All four of them definitely had to stop and think about it. I could see their wheels spinning: “What are these two humans trying to make me do! That looks like a bottomless pit!” However, they all went across and we didn’t have to pull or yank them over. This taught me a lot about each of their personalities and temperament. For example, while I thought that Stellar was the dominant one of the herd, I am beginning to think it is really Knight. This exercise got me and Glenn to thinking about how we would eventually lead the llamas in a line along the trail; who should be first and who should be last. I was pleasantly surprised when Glenn commented on a particular order and really had some observed rationale to back up his suggestion. He really is getting it, and this without the formal training that I had! I can’t wait until he and Tim have the opportunity to attend the handling class that I did. It really changed my entire outlook with these animals and allowed me to start down the right road. (Thanks Marty McGee!)
We ended up the weekend cleaning up the construction site for the crew. Our focus on wet days like this one is primarily trash vs. wood. Wood cuttings can survive a little rain, but trash just gets ugly. So, we picked up trash and wool gathered at the different window openings to see the views the offer. We can’t wait to be up here!