When Phoenix Came to Stay

 

“So…There’s this horse…”

I was lying on my bed in the middle of the afternoon-a weekend in early May of 2016-feeling extraordinarily lazy, and watching my ceiling fan spin circles above me.  I held my phone to my ear and listened as Jeremiah began to explain the plight of a unfortunate four-year-old desert bred Arabian gelding who had been injured in a pasture accident.  The injury was deemed “career ending” for the young gelding, once an exceptionally promising and talented performance prospect, and the decision was made to put him down.  He was three-legged lame, currently residing in a stall awaiting his appointment for euthanasia after x-rays revealed that he had torn much of the connective tissue in his lower right front leg.  He only had a few days before the vet would be back out.

Through an unlikely chain of events (involving the horse’s previous owner, an unexpected shoeing appointment, and a brief conversation with the consulting vet), the gelding, named Phoenix, had made his way onto Jeremiah’s radar.  Jeremiah had known Phoenix’s mother and was the farrier for Phoenix’s previous owner.  He was just connected enough to the horse to be interested, and he started making phone calls to get to the bottom of the situation.

His conversation with the vet led to his conversation with me.  He explained that Phoenix had an excellent shot to recover to pasture sound (pain free but unridable), a decent chance of recovering to trail sound (noncompetitively ridable), and a very, very slim chance of recovering to performance sound, but that, in any case, he would require a lot of time and a lot of money.  His owners weren’t willing to make that sort of investment in an almost definitely noncompetitive horse with such an uncertain future.

“What do you think?” Jeremiah asked.  “Should we bring him home?”

If you’ve been following this blog for any time at all, you will know quite well that sad creatures are my kryptonite.  I have barely bought myself a new pair of jeans in the past four years, but my creatures are well-stocked with their own comforts.  However, the fact is, as much as I would like to try, I cannot save them all.  My resources are finite, and every animal requires hay and time and space.  All of those things have their limits, even out here on 100 acres.   I try to be very aware of those limits because at my core, the space in my heart drastically outdistances the space in my pastures or leeway in my pocketbook.  That could get me in trouble really quickly.  Not to mention, as you might guess given my last post on my divorce, Jeremiah and I weren’t on terribly solid footing ourselves just then…

I paused before responding. “It’s probably a terrible idea…and we might just be bringing the poor thing up here to euthanize in a few months if things don’t heal…”

“I know.”  Jeremiah sounded resigned, another horse, especially an injured one, would be a huge responsibility to add to already chaotic and complicated lives.

“It’s good that we’re in agreement on that…” I inhaled deeply. “But I think we should do it anyway.”

I cannot save them all, but, as I’ve said before, sometimes you have to choose between logic and compassion. When pressed, choose compassion.  Also, I believe in fate, and it seemed like this particular sad creature was supposed to cross our path.  I steeled myself for a potential loss–I already knew there was a good chance we wouldn’t be able to save him–and started clearing a space in my barn for another sad animal.

Jeremiah spent the next week getting Phoenix set to travel while I got the barn ready to accommodate a seriously injured horse.  Jeremiah shod his uninjured front hoof in a fancy set of composite shoes for extra support.  We had a vet in Southern Illinois cast his injured leg, and we had radiographs and records sent to our vet up here.  By the time he loaded onto our trailer to travel three hours North, he had already required a significant investment in vet bills and hoof work.

I had been sent a few photos of him, but when I agreed to take him in, it was sight unseen, so when he stepped off the trailer, I was surprised by a few things.  First, Phoenix was stunningly beautiful, and TALL, much taller than I had expected given his Arabian Heritage.  Second, with his lower limb in a cast, he was fairly ambulatory, not nearly as lame as I expected.  (I had been under the impression that we were bringing home a half-dead horse with a slim chance of survival, but he was in far better shape than I had imagined.)  Third, he was taking his trailer ride and new surroundings mostly in stride.  He seemed nervous, but obliging.  All of that was encouraging.

Phoenix early on
If you look closely, you can see his cast peeking up on his front right leg.
I got him settled in to an empty stall on the far edge of the barn and began a routine that we hoped would make him better.  The vet came out regularly to administer Ozone Therapy.   We found someone locally who could administer pulsed magnetic wave therapy.  We tried to limit his movement, control his pain, and give him any sort of edge we could find to give him.  He was underweight when he came, so in addition to hay, he was also fed grain twice daily.

I was basically already running the farm by myself at that point, with Jeremiah away for weeks at a time, so Phoenix and I spent a lot of time together, especially early on.  I cleaned his stall; I fed him; I held him for his treatments; I kept him clean, and fed, and as happy as possible.  I planned to remain somewhat distant with him, not wanting to get overly attached if we were to have to put him down, but he had one of those difficult to resist personalities.  My sister-in-law took to calling him a “puppy horse” due to his tendency to follow us, demand attention, and cuddle.  It wasn’t long before he wiggled his giant self right into my heart.

For several months, things went very well. Better than expected, in fact.  The combination of treatments seemed to be working splendidly.  Phoenix moved into his second cast without a hiccup, continuing his treatments each step of the way.

 

I started planning for his future with us.

Despite offers from a few of Jeremiah’s clients to take him once he was sound, I decided he would stay.  As far as I was concerned, he would always be something of a time bomb for the wrong owner: High spirited and athletic but with potential for a re-injury.  He was built like a jumper, and I was afraid that would be his undoing in the wrong hands.  Also, if I’m being terribly honest, it bugged me a little that plenty of people wanted him sound, but no one else was willing to take the chance on him or spend the required money on him when his fate was uncertain.

And somewhere along the line, between my initial resolution to keep emotional distance from him and the day Jeremiah came home to remove his second cast twelve weeks later, I had unconsciously decided that he would get better.  He had gone from being a anonymous horse we were going to try to save, but would likely have to euthanize, to a member of my herd with a future, his own personality, and a place in my heart.

He stood patiently as Jeremiah removed his cast.  The leg underneath was atrophied from under-use, but we expected that.  Jeremiah asked me to lead him away, and Phoenix followed me obligingly…completely unable to bear weight on his injured leg.  I had so thoroughly convinced myself that Phoenix would be sound out of the cast that those first few steps shocked me to my core.

Jeremiah watched him walk and shook his head, lips pursed, brow furrowed.  I had seen that look so many times, usually as he tried to decide how to tell a client that things didn’t look so good for their horse.

“Did we expect this?” I asked, hoping he knew something I didn’t.

“No,” he said simply.  “But, maybe it will take him a few days to get used to it.”

I put Phoenix back in his stall.  He settled in, refusing to put weight on his hoof but otherwise paying it no mind.  I fed him, just as I had done every day since Jeremiah brought him home, and Jeremiah and I walked back down to the house.

Both of us were despondent, but I think I felt more defeated.  The uncertainty, defeat, fear of loss–those emotions, that vulnerability–are the true cost of what I do out here.  The sacrifice of time or of money is easy by comparison.

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Phoenix waiting in his stall.
The next few days showed little improvement.  Phoenix seemed happy enough, but seldom put any weight at all on his injured leg, hobbling around pathetically on three legs instead.

The vet needed to come out again; this time to x-ray the affected leg and determine where Phoenix was at.  Had the leg been reinjured?  Had the tears healed?  Was he developing rapid early arthritis (a concern from the beginning)?  I needed to know whether or not he was getting better and whether or not I could offer him a good quality of life.

I needed to know whether my baby boy–you know, the one I wouldn’t let myself get attached to–would make it.

The vet wasn’t able to come out for two more weeks.  Jeremiah went off on another month long trip and I stayed, feeding Phoenix twice a day (along with everyone else), cleaning his stall, and studying his every movement, looking for improvement…hope…

When our vet’s farm truck rolled up two weeks later, my stomach was in knots.  It had already been decided that we would only keep going with treatment if it was fair to the horse, and his state at that moment, still not walking on the injured leg with three months of rehab behind him, made me desperately afraid that I would have to schedule his euthanasia before Doc drove away that afternoon.

I brought Phoenix out of his stall, and he stood calmly as the vet went about his business.  He was used to being poked and prodded by then. 

The vet was able to pull the x-rays up on his laptop within minutes.  He viewed them side-by-side with the x-rays of the initial injury.

“Oh, ok.  These look good.  See here?  This is much better.”

That knot in my stomach melted, and tried to pay attention as Doc explained all the intricacies of the x-rays we were looking at, but all I could focus on was that Phoenix was better.  Things would be ok.  I could hardly believe that things would be ok.

I watched him drive away with a sense of relief.  He wouldn’t be coming back to help me give a unrecoverable horse a kind end.  Instead, Doc told me that the muscles had atrophied in the cast, that Phoenix needed time and space.  Those things, I could give him.

I opened up his stall to a small run that day.  I moved him into his own small pasture within about a month.  Then, this Spring, I walked him down the lane and introduced him to the other horses, moving him into the big field where he could run and play to his heart’s content.


I watched the horses munching their hay tonight as the sun set behind us.  Phoenix stood in the field with everyone else, sound and a true-blue member of the herd, and I breathed a sigh of relief, remembering again just how miraculous that was.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Trouble with Turkeys

Do you guys remember my three little turkey peeps from last year?  The ones we rescued from the feed store when it became clear that they were quickly destined to be dinner?

We lost one little peep (my favorite) to his birth defect.  We lost another to a predator.

But one of the little peeps survived.

And he isn’t so little anymore.

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Arthur

Meet Arthur of Camelot.

(You know, because llamas are camelids, and he lives with them…Aren’t we clever?)

He is a year old, nearly fifty pound, broad-breasted Tom.

Being a broad breasted turkey, Arthur is basically a mutant, but he’s our mutant, so we love him.  He spends his days wandering around, looking pretty, gobbling about how impressive he is, and also following Jeremiah and I around while we do chores, requesting clover flowers and chest scratches.

After he lost both his friends, I sort of panicked that he would be lonely, so I searched online for a couple of pet turkeys.  (I’m realizing that that sentence says more about who I am than almost anything I’ve ever written on here…)

I found these two. In keeping with our Camelot theme, I named them Guinevere and Morgana.

Unlike Arthur, they are a heritage breed (Blue Slate), so I don’t have to worry about them outgrowing their own skeletal system, which, frankly, is a relief.

Of course, Arthur never really bonded with them and, instead, thinks he’s an alpaca who happens to gobble a lot.

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Arthur in the stall with his old men llamas.

And the Blue Slates never really bonded with him either.  In fact, they don’t seem to know they aren’t chickens.

So, I guess my mission to find friends for Arthur kind of failed.

I ended up with three completely useless, but kinda cute, birds that I never really planned on.  I nicknamed them “the three most useless creatures on the farm,” and just accepted their gobble-y little selves for what they were…

But, it turns out, I had it all wrong.  They aren’t so useless at all.

A few weeks ago, Jeremiah and I were standing in front of the llama barn talking while the poultry free-ranged.  They were scattered about the pastures when I glanced up and noticed a sandhill crane flying over the farm.  It wasn’t a hawk or an eagle, both of which will gladly prey upon my flock, but Arthur didn’t know that.

I watched him look up and start gobbling (apparently a different than normal gobble).  As soon as his warning went out, all of my hens and the two other turkeys ducked and ran as fast as their little feathery legs could carry them out of the open pasture and into the barn!

That was when we realized that our ridiculous, fifty pound, pet turkey had appointed himself as guardian of our flock (like any good turkey who thinks he’s an alpaca would), doing a better job of watching out for the girls than any rooster we’ve ever had.    (Guys, it was maybe the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.  I swear, he practically counted them once they were in to make sure everyone made it.)

Of course, that’s just one with a purpose out of three…

Until about two weeks ago.

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Farm fresh eggs – with a blue slate turkey egg on top!

See that fancy pants, speckled egg on top?  That was our first ever turkey egg!

The turkey hens just started laying.  So far, they’ve almost kept pace with the chickens, laying these big speckled eggs in the same nesting boxes.

The turkey eggs have higher fat and cholesterol than the chicken eggs, which makes them less ideal as a stand alone food, but perfect for baking!  (I started using them last week, making a dish of brownies for my mom, and then another for my brother-in-law’s birthday.)

Guys, you have not lived until you have eaten brownies made with turkey eggs!  They are so rich that it’s almost like fudge.  I’m excited to experiment with cakes and breads!

Turns out, my turkeys had purpose all along.  I just didn’t know it yet.

 

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Jeremiah and Guinevere…or maybe Morgana (even I can’t tell them apart most of the time)

Oh Honey.

We pulled down the lane to sprawling pastures, rustic buildings.  There was a pen full of horses to our right.  The horses were screaming and running around like lunatics as two young handlers seemed to be working to catch them, or maybe just calm them down.

“That doesn’t look encouraging.”

Jeremiah shook his head no, exasperation apparent.

“Part of me just wants to turn around and leave now.”

We had just pulled into the drive at a local summer camp.  A new client of Jeremiah’s, they had called for trims earlier in the week.  He scheduled with them–seventeen local trims in an afternoon is nothing to sneeze at–but he was vaguely nervous about the whole experience.  He last experience with summer camps had led him to a corral full of ill-behaved horses with completely green handlers.  (And by that I mean that they literally had never worked with horses before.  Ever.)  He was concerned that this one would be the same, an accident just waiting to happen.

I came along just in case.  If no one there knew how to hold a horse for trimming, I was there to pick up the slack and try to keep Jeremiah safe.  I would be able to manage vaguely naughty animals, but if they were truly dangerous, we would leave.

They were screaming and carrying on as we pulled up next to the horse barn and parked alongside a beater truck that probably belonged to the camp.  As we climbed out, we were introduced to the director of the equine program at camp.  She was on the shorter side with long, dark hair.  Only twenty years old, a fact that she kept apologizing for, she was the one in charge of the seventeen horses in the corral and soon to be in charge of all the children who would ride them.  As we made introductions, I watch another girl, her helper, climb out of the horse pasture carrying a fawn.

The director glanced over.

“I’m so sorry about the horses.  They were spooked by the fawn just a few minutes ago and took off running.”

I think Jeremiah may have breathed an audible sigh of relief at that.  When spooked, even good horses sometimes behave badly.

I watched the helper carry the fawn to the shade.

“How’s Bambi?” I asked.

The director shook her head.  “Bambi got trampled by the horses, and I think she has a broken leg.  I don’t think she’ll make it.”
Continue reading “Oh Honey.”

Because God Put Him in my Way…

My husband is prone to mayhem.  I’m not sure why (though I do have a theory that’s loosely based on the Percy Jackson novels) but weird things happen to him, or around him, almost daily.  (Want an example?  He’s been dead three times…)  Nothing surprises me anymore.

So, Monday morning, as we drove out towards the highway on our way to Wildlife Prairie State Park with an injured Turkey Vulture in the backseat, I found myself in a state of disbelief that this felt so completely normal.  And when the vulture sharted on my backseat cover, I just took another sip of my coffee.  We rolled the back windows down.  And we kept trucking.

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We called the Turkey Vulture Dante.  Jeremiah had nearly hit him with my Jetta the day before; the poor thing had been stumbling around a road, nearly blind and dazed by a brush with an automobile.  Jeremiah had watched him in the rearview mirror for a few moments before stopping the car and going back for him.

I found out about Dante when Jeremiah posted this on his Facebook business page:

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Dante the Turkey Vulture

“Well, sometimes God puts obstacles in your way that are rather hard to avoid. Like, you will take out the ditch trying to avoid them kind of obstacles. Everyone, I would like you to meet my obstacle of the day, the injured and blind turkey vulture that wandered out into the road. His name is Dante, and we will traveling together today.”

He gave Dante his lunch and they began the drive back to the ranch together.

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Dante with Jeremiah’s lunch

On the ride home, Jeremiah learned some new vulture facts.  For example, when a vulture poops in your car, the only course of action is to evacuate the vehicle…and wait.  Also, vultures (or maybe just Dante) grow agitated when listening to Taylor Swift, but they chill out and jam to Johnny Cash.  (They listened to Johnny Cash all the way home after making this discovering, because no matter how much you enjoy listening to “Blank Space,” it isn’t worth an agitated vulture in the backseat.)

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Dante during the Jetta evacuation

Jeremiah planned to find a rehabilitator or rescue for Dante, but it was Sunday evening, so the search had to wait until the next day. In the meantime, Jeremiah laid down some straw in our feed room, hooked up a heat light, and gave Dante some food and water.  We left him there through the night, basking soundly in the glow of the heat lamp.

Dante basking under the heat lamp
Dante basking under the heat lamp

I know this may sound strange, but I’m a fan of vultures.  A few years ago, I attended a information session about birds of prey that featured some rehabilitated birds.  Though not nearly as striking as the eagles or the owls, the turkey vultures stole the show.  They were funny and interactive and seemed to really enjoy showing off for the people.  Vultures get a bad rap, but they serve a vital purpose in the ecosystem.  Rather than kill prey, these birds feed on what has already died.  Their digestive systems sanitize what they eat, preventing the spread of disease throughout a population.  They are nature’s clean up crew, and they really are very cool animals.

The next morning, Jeremiah began the search for a rehabilitator, planning to look locally first, then start to work through a list that my blogger friend over at Day by Day the Farm Girl Way sent me.  Fortunately, Wildlife Prairie Park (less than an hour away) agreed to take him, so we loaded him up in the backseat and drove out.

We pulled around at the front entrance where they were expecting us.  They had a small kennel set up for Dante, where he would wait until their bird keeper picked him up.  We made a small cash donation towards his care and left, feeling grateful that someone was willing to give him a shot.

Unfortunately, Dante had to be euthanized later that day.  He had more injuries than we knew, and he went into seizures.  I was saddened by the news, but glad that Jeremiah had picked him up off the road, that the old guy hadn’t died slowly on the side of the highway, scared and confused.  The night Dante spent in the barn, it had brutally stormed.  Trees came down; thunder crashed so loudly that I woke halfway through the night.  And I was glad that the old guy was tucked in safe and sound and warm.  Even though no one could have saved him, we helped make his last night far more comfortable, and that is something that all God’s creatures deserve.

I emailed my blogger friend when I found out that Dante was euthanized.  I knew I would post about it, and I wanted to tell her via email before she read about it on my blog.

I wrote, saying,
“I plan on posting about this whole experience, but I wanted to let you know first.  We got an update from wildlife that they humanely euthanized Dante yesterday.  He was apparently very old (the zoologist used the word ancient) for a vulture, and he had a head trauma.   By the time she saw him, he was having seizures.  There was nothing they could do beyond give him a peaceful end.

I wish it would have turned out better, but I’m glad he didn’t die alone, terrified, and confused by the side of the road.  There was a massive storm across the Midwest the night he stayed with us, and he got to spend it in a dry room with a heat lamp instead of dying in a ditch.

Thank you for your help.  Thank you mostly for your reassurance that we did the right thing.”

Her reply was sweet and thoughtful.  I asked her permission to share it with you.
“Cherity, I’m so sorry. I had a feeling he might have been old by the looks of his head. I’m also not surprised at his injury. Many large birds are hit while feasting on roadkill. Especially this time of year when parents are looking to feed their young. Forrest and I have transported many male owls and hawks to WildCare during the spring and summer months… hit by vehicles. I suspect since the males do most of the feeding of the young and the female (after the eggs hatch), they are very busy looking for meat to feed all of those mouths!

Dante was a magnificent bird… and you and Jeremiah are fortunate to have shared in the last of his life’s experience. You are the benefactors, and his life was not lived in vain (not that it would have been in vain at all – we are all here for the experience of knowing God/Universe). When you write about him, and your experience, you will have made his life all the more influential on humans. It was his gift to mankind to be a cleanser of the earth all of his life… and in the end, he was a gift for all of us, to understand showing kindness to those who need our help.

I believe that animals/birds/all life forms, read or sense energy. Dante knew the kindness of humans. He felt your touch, and your energy. Wouldn’t that be the best way to have the ending of life here on planet Earth? To know the kindness and love of another? Gentle hands placed on you with soft words and a sense of being cared for? When Jeremiah removed Dante from the chaos and terror of the pavement, he had to have known or sensed that something greater was happening. He probably knew his end was near… and death was imminent, but because of the kindness of you and your husband, and the people at the wildlife rescue, he knew goodness and kindness.

I am so proud of both you and Jeremiah. Thank you for including me in this experience. I look forward to reading your blog post about Dante. It is a beautiful story that should be shared with others.”

My husband was asked why he bothered to pick up a wounded buzzard. Jeremiah simply replied, “Because God put him in my way.”   I think God puts opportunities to show kindness in our way, and I think Dante was one of those opportunities.  And no kindness is ever wasted, even if it is just shown to a wounded buzzard.

Lessons from the Llamas (or, First Class’s story)

The scrap of metal against cedar shingles and the crashing sound the shingles made as they hit the ground outside of my living room told me that Jeremiah was still hard at work on the roof.  He had been stripping that section for most of the day, an effort to get a watertight tarp over the leaking part before our near-week of rain began on Monday.

I didn’t want to bother him for evening chores, so I pulled a sweatshirt over my tank top and wandered out to the barn on my own to fill hay nets and otherwise attend to things. I walked into one of the stalls on the young side of the barn and untied a nearly empty net.  The barn was mostly vacant, but First Class, a younger, white gelding, stood alone in the next stall munching hay.

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First Class chillin’ in the barn.

First Class was born at the ranch.  He was a cute as a button as a cria. (Cria, by the way, is the appropriate name for a baby llama or alpaca.)  He used to be one of our most trustworthy, easy llamas.  When he was younger, he accompanied us to nursing homes and preschools.  He seemed to really enjoy that job, staying calm when other animals would have been thoroughly freaked.

He went to a new home when he was an adult.  A very nice lady with a couple of goats and sheep bought him as a herd guard.  She was new to llamas, but I worked with her myself for well over a month, teaching her to handle him properly.  They were getting along splendidly.

Then she left for vacation.

When she came home, he was like a completely different animal.  He ran away from everyone.  He kicked.  He spit.  Suddenly, this gelding, who had been so good, was acting like an abuse or neglect case.  It was as though he had been chased or threatened, and I wondered if teenagers (or someone) had spotted him from the road and slipped into his pen “to pet a llama” and that things had devolved from there.  (And yes, when you have livestock, these are the sort of scenarios that you have to worry about…)  All of that is really just supposition, but I was, and am, nearly certain that some kind of traumatic event occurred while she was gone.  We tried to fix it, but he was scared or angry and she was timid and afraid.  The combination made my efforts with them completely fruitless.

Eventually, once it became apparent that his behavior (fear, anger, whatever) was beyond his owner’s capabilities, L did what many breeders refuse to do and offered to take him back.  He’s gotten somewhat better since then, but he still hates to be handled.  I have my suspicions that with a lot of daily work he might be able to move past whatever hang up he has.  At this point, I don’t have that much time to spare, so he is largely living the life of a lawn ornament.  We really only mess with him when we have good reason.

Unfortunately, it was getting to be one of those times.

I’ve known for a while that his toenails desperately needed trimmed.  (What law of the universe is it that ensures that the animals who like being handled the least end up needing it most often?)  They were over long and starting to curl a bit.  Typically, we keep the llama toenails trimmed regularly, and they never look like that, but First Class has a talent for turning a simple chore that should be done in roughly three minutes into a three ring circus.

I’ll just say that has a way of making us a bit lax getting his toes done.

But I was there, and he was there, so I shut the stall door, haltered him, and grabbed my trimmers from the feed room.

Usually, my very talented farrier husband does the toenail trimming around here, but, unlike the horses’ hooves that I wouldn’t dare touch, I am capable of trimming the llamas and alpacas.  He quicker than me, and he tends to be able to trim shorter than I am able–I use hand shears; he uses nippers–but I’ve been doing that particular farm chore since well before he and I met.

Working as quickly as I could, I was able to trim three feet before First Class really started to get pissed.  But at that point, he was kicking at me and spitting a warning in the air.  That last foot wasn’t going to happen the way things were going.

I left him in the stall (to chill a bit) and wandered down to the back of the house where Jeremiah was working on the roof, asking him to give First Class a shot to calm him down a bit.  He obliged, and I waited.  In fact, I trimmed and wormed three other llamas (who wandered in to check on dinner) waiting for the shot to kick in.

Except it never did. Sometimes, with difficult llamas, their adrenaline and sheer force of will can trump lower level sedatives.  I should have known First Class would pull off that trick.

But he was still there, and we were still there, and the damn toenails were still there with the very real capability of making him lame if we waited too long to trim them.

So I held his head, and Jeremiah pulled out his nippers.  First Class spit.  He tried to kick Jeremiah in the head.  He laid down in the middle of the process, tucking his legs squarely underneath him.  Basically, this llama pulled out every trick in the book to prevent us from completely a very basic task.  When the llamas and alpacas stand as they should, it’s a task that literally takes two minutes.  He was going on closer to twenty or thirty.

Pissy Face
Pissy Face

By the time we finished trimming First Class, everyone involved was upset on some level.  Jeremiah was irritated.  First Class was still mad.  I was emotionally exhausted and smelled faintly of llama spit.  And it’s strange, because I was simultaneously upset with the adult gelding in front of me whose behavior was so antagonistic and sad for the cria I knew who had had such potential.  And I wished I understood more what had happened to turn the one into the other, and I wondered if the cause mattered when either way I was left to deal with the effect.

But honestly, somewhere along the line, his issue boils down to the same issue that so many rescues have: at some point, a human failed him.

I have a friend halfway across the country dealing with the same issue with a horse she used to own.  The mare had been sold young.  She met her again years later.  In the meantime, there had been trauma.  (In the case of this mare, likely repeated and intentional trauma.)   My friend bought the mare back, paying more than the animal was worth, to save her.  For quite some time, she deemed the mare so dangerous that she wouldn’t allow anyone else to even pet her for fear that she might hurt them.  (Of course, horses are capable of being far more dangerous than even the worst llama; my friend’s actions take far more bravery than mine, which mostly just require patience.)

In the days since the toenail incidents, something occurred to me: For all the drama that First Class still provides, a few years ago, it was worse.

Those first three toenails I managed on my own?  That never would have happened.  A few years ago, he had to be completely knocked out by the vet to be shorn and have his toenails trimmed.

And I guess I had hope.

Whatever happened to him, I think maybe it’s slowly working its way out of his system.  Granted, it won’t happen quickly, and I have no doubt he will spend several more years making things more difficult than necessary, but I’m beginning to think he’ll come back around again.

My friend’s mare is slowly coming around again as well.  We both occasionally see flashes of the animal we used to know, reminding us why we keep trucking along.  For both of us, for both of the critters, there’s a solid chance we’re looking at a long road, but, now that I think about it, sometimes long roads are the path to the very best of destinations.

First Class, who for all of his issues, is still basically adorable.
First Class, who for all of his issues, is still basically adorable.

Feline Alarm Clocks – Introducing Dobby.

When you have as many critters as I do, there is no need for an alarm clock.  They will usually wake you at around the same time everyday, regardless of what time you went to bed.

Meet my alarm clocks.

Dobby
Dobby
Sontar and Draco
Sontar and Draco

As much as I, or my husband, or the dogs, would like to believe otherwise, these three rule the roost.  Every morning, usually between 6:30 and 7:30, these three begin singing the songs of their people outside the bedroom door, reminding us that an unacceptable number of hours have passed since their food bowls have been refilled. Continue reading “Feline Alarm Clocks – Introducing Dobby.”