I got these from our neighbors Marla and Tiffany; Marla managed to capture more of the llama rescue on her cell phone camera. Thanks Marla!
In the first photo, Dan had managed to guide the llama to a place where she could stand up, even though she was still in the water. But, at this point, she was not budging, and Dan was trying to manage the canoe, too. So three guys, including Kirk, rushed down to help in knee-deep cold water.
Once they discovered the llama was not going to walk on her own, and was acting pretty submissive, they decided to flip her into the canoe and see if they could tow her towards the road. She acquiesced pretty well, you can see here she’s mostly lying on her back in the canoe with her legs sticking in the air. By this photo, they had her close to the road and to the edge of the water. One guy, I think it’s Lee, is kneeling over, his back was killing him from all the lifting, and I imagine he was very cold!
Next they flipped her back out of the boat by rolling it over on its side. She was shivering, and pretty mentally checked-out by this point, so could not be convinced to stand up and walk on her own. You can see seven people helping in this photo, and there were several dozen more people on the road, many offering assistance and equipment. Ah, all our neighbors are obviously farmers and animal lovers-nobody could stand to see an animal in need!
Lastly, here is a photo of one woman pulling on her leadrope while four guys lifted and carried her to the road. I helped lift her from behind part of the way too, until I went to get the van. Uff Dah, she was much heavier than I thought she would be! Once at the road, we were able to lift her into the side door of my cargo van so that she could sit kushed comfortably in the back and warm up.
Friday night update: Dolly Llama is doing fine so far. My mom reports she’s gotten her “attitude” back, and is quick to flatten her ears in annoyance when anybody comes into her stall! She’s eating hay and grain and seems to be alright. I imagine she’s bruised and sore, but she seems to be walking fine, so amazingly, nothing is broken!
Today was a pretty challenging day! The flood gauges were getting high, and we tried to move the sheep last night, but they didn’t want to go out of the field in the dark. We waited til this morning, and I was able to move them smoothly and with little fanfare to their pen up by the house. Phew.
But, the llama was a different story. She has been getting more wilyas the weeks go on. We’ve caught her a couple of times, just handled her a little, and then let her go. But, each time, she remembers what we did last time and she won’t let us do that again. Today, she was not to be convinced to leave the pasture, let alone caught. I opened up all the gates and tried to push her through with Maggie. No go. Later, our neighbor Dan and both my parents came over– the four of us tried to make her go through a gate- any gate-no way. I brought sheep #33 down and tried to lure her up. She called to the sheep, but still refused to budge. If anyone would get within 100 feet of her, she’d just bolt past and run to the other end of the pasture. Running in front of her waving hands, etc did not work, she’d obviously run over someone if she had to, to get where she was going. She is one stubborn animal!
I went to work briefly this morning, but came home around 11 because flooding looked imminent. Sure enough, the dikes were just over-topping. The best I could hope for was that the llama’s wily instincts would kick in when the water stared flowing into the pasture, and she’d fiind an open gate, and head for higher ground and her sheep. The flood waters were proceeding really slowly across the valley for a couple of hours.
But then things turned for the worse, water started coming fast, and surrounded her in the pasture. She stayed put at a high spot until the water was up to her back, and then she started to swim. Our neighbor Dan brought out his canoe and went out to try to help her. By this time, water started rushing over the road and making a focal point of current, with a several-foot waterfall on the other side with rough-looking rapids.
The llama got caught up on the fence by the road for a few minutes, and as Dan tried to help her, she got free and was pulled by the current over the road. She almost gained her footing there in the shallower water, but the current got the best of her, and she went tumbling through the rapids, her skinny little legs kicking in the air upside-down. Ugh! It was hard to watch. There was a large crowd by this time, and we all gasped.
But she came right back up and started swimming on the other side. Dan re-launched his canoe on the other side of the road, reached her, and managed to to guide her near to the edge of the water where she could stand up. Kirk and several guys ran down to help. Dan had a leadrope on her halter. But that’s when she started to get stubborn again, or hypothermic and shock-ey, it’s hard to know which. She kept “kushing” or lying down, refusing to move. She was getting floppy, so the guys finally flipped her into the canoe upside-down and towed her to dry land! Keep in mind that they were all standing knee deep, and deeper, in very cold water! Kirk and Dan had hip-waders on, but some of the other guys were in tennis shoes and blue jeans! I was worried, but people seemed to be willing to risk their own lives to save this llama!
When they got her to the edge, a whole bunch of people helped carry her up to the road. Some people brought blankets and a horse blanket to warm her. We pushed and pulled and prodded, and she was not helping the whole way, she just wanted to lie down. I racked my brain to think of the quickest way we could warm her, and realized that my van was the answer– I could drive it right down to her, and crank up the heat, and we could warm her much quicker than any building. So, that’s what we did, with one last big heave-ho.
I put hot water bottles in her armpits and near her thighs. I put a heating pad under her chest, and Kirk ran a blow dryer on her head. There was a bale of hay in the van, and she started snacking within a few minutes, and then getting annoyed with us a few minutes after that, throwing her head around and laying her ears back. So some part of me thinks she was faking her hypothermia and she was actually fine, just tired and traumatized, and probably afraid of all those people. We left her in there for a few hours to continue to warm up and rest, until her skin was toasty-warm to the touch.
My parents rigged up a stall in their barn with lots of straw and two brooder lamps, and we left her there in the evening with the horse blanket draped over her. They said she seemed fine at 9pm when they checked on her. So, now I suppose the biggest concern would be if she aspirated water and is at risk for pneumonia or something. But she seems to be out of the woods. Probably just tired and bruised up.
There were some funny moments. One lady kept trying to feed her a carrot- but a carrot was the last thing she wanted after nearly dying! It’s funny what people do under stress, when they want desperately to help, or make things OK. And, a mouse was riding on her head while she was swimming, and later, a dead mouse fell out of her wool! There were mice swimming everywhere out there, and we even saw a salmon swim by!
Lucky llama that there were so many people there to help. It really took a crew, and Dan’s canoe, to pull it off. I’m not sure what her future will be with us– if she is this recalcitrant, she may not have a place at our farm. We need our livestock to move agreeably when there is a flood. I never expected to have an animal be so difficult to move or even get through a huge gate into a big, open space. I’m almost afraid to let her back out there in the pasture again, knowing there is no way to catch her or get her to leave the pasture. Oh, boy, we’ll see. At least I have a week or so to think, while the waters recede.
Meanwhile, we have ocean-front property; our house is safe on the hill, but we now look out on a valley full of water! This has been a wild weather year for Washington!
Wow, we have a lot of snow– at least for us. I think it’s about a foot deep. Which, I’m sure, seems trivial to people in the Midwest or the East. But in the Northwest, that is a ton– I don’t have many memories of there being this much snow here in my lifetime. We’ve had snow falling for the last week, and more in the forecast for the whole next week- incredible! Usually it doesn’t stick around more than a day or two before melting into a muddy slop. Here is a panoramic photo from the pasture, in which Maggie appears twice– she got in the frame more than once!
The temperatures aren’t bad– a few days it’s gotten into the teens, but it’s mostly hovering right around freezing. We got our first official complaint to animal control about our animals- from a well-meaning citizen who felt concerned for them. An animal control officer came out to investigate, and chuckled to himself, “well, the DO have wool, after all!” A friend of mine teased me that we should get wool coats for them!
It’s true, the sheep only have a tiny shelter out there, it may not seem like enough to we non-furry humans. But, sheep are amazingly hardy. We are giving them hay, but they are choosing to go paw through the snow to graze, and only picking the hay. (And I swear it’s not moldy or poor– this is a $19 fresh bale from the feed store!) They really look like they’ve grown more wool in the last week or two, they are quite bundled up and puffy. The llama has so much wool insulating her that snow accumulates on her back and stays there– it doesn’t melt! Once a day I break the ice out of their trough with a pickaxe, though I suspect they are getting their water from eating snow and not going to the trough.
Our ducks seem equally unfased by the chilly weather. I put a heat lamp in their house, but they all slept as far away from it as they could get. Their ranging during the day is curtailed because it’s hard for them to walk, but they still get out in the morning, and still bathe when I give them fresh water! Ugh!
The dogs, of course, think the snow is fabulous. Here is a picture of Gene standing on ice in the ditches, barking like crazy. She seemed to know this was incongruous and was demanding our attention and skating all over like a silly, as if to say ” look at me! I’m walking on the water!” They so make us laugh with their cleverness and spunk. Poor Mr. Spanky is getting old, and walking through the snow and ice is harder for him, but he’s always game for it, he just takes it slow.
I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for a llama to use as a livestock guardian for the sheep. I found this one nearby, from a man who had her to keep his horse company, but his horse had passed away.
Her name is “Maggie” but since we already have a dog named Maggie, we think we’ll call her the Dolly Llama. The name isn’t so important, since I don’t expect we’ll interact with her enough that she’ll learn it. But I guess it’s convention to name the permanent residents of the farm, anyway.
She is around 13 years old. I was able to speak with her breeder, who offered to breed her in the future for me, so I can have a replacement for her (since she’s “getting up there” in age).
I think she’s a reasonable quality llama, she’s a little cow-hocked in the rear, and her teeth are a little crooked. But her fiber looks really nice. She is pretty well behaved, we were able to catch and lead her without much difficulty. I transported her in my cargo van, and she rode calmly.
Here is a photo of her meeting the sheep. They pondered each other from a distance for an hour or two. But she seemed anxious to be close to a herd, and kept tailing the sheep. By the end of the day, it looked like they had mostly joined up. Hopefully she’ll be well-bonded to them by spring, such that she is motivated to defend the lambs.
Another llama seller I corresponded with on craigslist told me an interesting tale- she had a llama injure some of her lambs. She learned, in retrospect, that it’s not good to introduce a few sheep to multiple llamas in the llamas’ pasture, as they may perceive the sheep as intruders and drive them out. Instead, it works better to leverage a single llama’s lonliness in a pasture that’s new to them– they’ll be more likely to behave in a solicitous manner to the sheep herd in hopes of joining up.