Why are the Three Wise Guys Growing so fast?

grandmaL’il King, Sunny and Aurora are growing like weeds. They are hail, hardy and healthy. L’il King had his cast removed on December 28 and is learning to walk all over again. After all, he has been wearing a cast for 2/3rds of his life. So why the fast growth? Take a close look at this photo of little Aurora nursing from … a LLAMA! Yep, Granada, our chief llama lady has spontaneously produced milk and is nursing all three crias. Yes, this is VERY unusual, but the name of our ranch is “Kindred Spirits Ranch.”

Herd Welcomes New Cria

Sangrita_1_webKindred Spirits Sangrita was born on October 6, 2009, the daughter of our Margarita and MacGwire. She was given a very warm welcome by all her herdmates, and proved that she is athletic and graceful, not more than 20 minutes after birth. We are absolutely thrilled with this strong, healthy, little girl. The arrival of Sangrita (call name: Sandy) completes our 2009 birthing season. We are grateful and humbled by the gift of our three beautiful boys and this exquisite little girl, truly gifts from God.

Now, for the Rest of the Story

trioIt was just a week ago that I returned from being trapped in Oklahoma City following the worst ice storm of the century. In fact, even today, over 70,000 homes are without electric power. Anyway, I got home on Monday and by Tuesday, realized that much work needed to be done in the paddocks. I also realized that the crias had not been weighed for almost 5 days. I was particularly concerned about little Aurora, our little girl who was only two weeks old and dealing with freezing temperatures. Also of concern was the amount of milk her mother, Aliza, was delivering, as I had never seen the “got milk?” look on Aurora’s beautiful face. I, therefore, made the decision to go through the weighing drill Tuesday morning. In that Sue was home and trapped in the house due to back pain, I decided to remove the cria coats and have Sue give them a quick cleaning and run in the dryer.

This all sounds like a good idea, but the temperatures were near freezing and the paddocks were covered in ice. That which was not under ice was freezing mud. Sue argued that weighing was not needed, as the crias looked active and healthy, Aurora had visibly grown (or her cria coat had shrunk by about 25%) and I would probably kill myself on the ice. Sue’s reasoning was flawless, but my engineering mind insisted that all obvious goodness be quantified with numbers. It also appears, in retrospect, that my “common sense switch” was in the OFF position. So, out into the winter went the overconfident engineer. After all, I am a homosapien with a very large brain and opposing thumb. How could anything go wrong?

What I did not understand is the nature of a herd (pack) of crias. Two crias are cute; three revert to pack behavior, resembling the famed alpacacriasaurus of pre-history. The alpacacriasaurus was a cute, fuzzy, little critter that traveled in packs, hunting down early bipedal hominids. These packs of alpacacriasauruses would frustrate the bipedal hominids to the point of self destruction, a clever and sinister strategy. Of course, like all predators, the alpacacriasaurus would seek out the old, weak and feeble which, regrettably, describes me. It did not help that the purpose of my visit to the paddocks was made clearly evident in that I arrived with a bathroom scale and bag full of paper work in my hands. I also had a piece of plywood to place on the ground, as the scale would have disappeared in the mud. I should have noticed that I was in trouble when the three crias suddenly grouped together for a meeting. The mommies stepped into the shelter, shoulder to shoulder, for a good view of the action to follow. I think they were laying down bets. Furthermore, I was dressed in a full body “poopy suit” heavy coat, Elmer Fudd hat and gloves, rendering me with less than half of the mobility left to me by old age. Let the games begin!

I did not need to weigh L’il King, as he had just been to the hospital for a second cast fitting and he weighed well over 30 lbs. Just grab him, massage his umbilical opening (now resolving well) and take off his coat. L’il King gives a great imitation of Tiny Tim, the lovable little crippled kid in the Dickens “Christmas Carol.” L’il King looks pathetic in his full leg cast (needed due to a broken toe obtained while proving that he is “all boy”), limping along, looking for someone to club with his cast. As I snuck up behind him, he waited until the last second and them spun around, using his cast as a pivot point, and sprinted (clump, clump, and clump) away at the handicap version of warp 9. After a ten minute chase, I cleverly blocked his path behind a shelter wall with a wheel barrow (that is my big brain kicking in) and I had him. Now, with the skill of a desperado fleeing on horseback, shooting back at the pursuing posse, L’il King spun his head around to fire a well placed spit. I, of course, was mouth breathing, by this time, and yep, I got a full load right in the choppers. YUK!!!! This is the second time he has done this to me (note how fast we engineers learn) so I dropped the shooter and headed for a water bucket for a badly needed gargle. Our Great Pyrs share the water buckets, so bucket water always has a neat coating of dog slobber. While all of this may sound pretty disgusting, I am here to tell you that dog slobber is VERY much tastier than alpaca spit. I bet that is a bit of epicurean information you will not hear on the Food Channel. The “slip and slide” chase started anew, and he was finally mine. He cleverly clubbed me in the shins with his cast as I tended to his navel. One down, two to go.

Next came Tequila Sunrise (Sunny) who was about to live up to her name, that is a sweet drink with a kick. So far, I had only slipped and fallen once, and experience was kicking in. This time, I did have to get a weight, so the plywood and scale were set up. What fun, I now had to weigh myself (just what I wanted to face up to) and then hold Sunny while I got a second weight. Sounds simple, eh? This time I blocked off one of the entrances to the shelter with the wheel barrow so I could trap Sunny and not play the slip and slide chase game. Sunny had saddled up to mommy for a snack and the time was right. I grabbed her by the cria coat (a much better grip than raw alpaca) and threw a leg lock to hold her while the cria coat was removed. So far, so good. Now, came the lift. Uffda, she was heavy! I cradled her breast and rear in my arms with her legs and feet hanging down to below my waist. Sunny immediately starts to kick, actually sort of run-in-place, hard. Thud, thud, thud, direct hits on a very personal part of my body. I could not let go and had to endure the painful indignity, with my voice slowly rising to a level that would qualify me as lead singer in the Vienna Boys Choir. I struggled to the scales and climbed aboard, waiting for the scale to figure out what the total came to. A number came up that did not make sense. I felt a bump against my leg (Sunny was still kicking) and looked down to see Nicki, our female Great Pyr, standing on the scale! I started screaming (rather high pitched, I might add) “no Nicki, no Nicki!” which only excited Sunny to more kicking. I now had to get off the scale, wait for it to reset, and then get back on. Finally, I got a weight and let go of the chain saw cria, rolled to the ground and recaptured my engineering like composer. One more to go and this was a little one. What could go wrong?

Aurora, who is small and sweet, was in the shelter, next to her mommy. Piece of cake! I snatched her by the cria coat, and the scampering began. I managed to peel off the coat, but it flicked into the air, just as she scooted out of reach. Suddenly, like an NFL football champ, Nicki sprang to life and grabbed the cria coat before it could hit the ground. Now, one needs to know that Nicki, as a puppy, once ate an entire fabric shelter in one night. She was bored. I am not making this up. Nicki is capable of boundless destruction if she sets her mind to it. I MUST save the cria coat. Nicki had ducked through one of the three dog doors in the fences and had joined the boys for a chase and a romp, cria coat in tow. I charged after her, slipping and sliding on the ice. The chase went on for about 10 minutes before I finally blocked her last escape and pleaded with Nicki to give up her prize. Sensing that I was near death, Nicki simply trotted up and dropped the coat into my hands. It was, after all, just a fun game. I staggered back and re-cornered Aurora in the shelter. This little one is quick, and before I knew what had happened, she had run towards the blocking wheel barrow at full speed and then, like a hall of fame baseball player on steroids (is that redundant?), she slid UNDER the wheel barrow for the escape. Another chase followed with her finally in my arms for the weigh in. Yep, her body weight had increased by almost 25%, right in keeping with the size of her cria coat that seemed to have shrunk by 25%. Actually, Sue had estimated her weight gain within a few ounces, but now I had that all important evidence. I had only fallen two more times. Did I mention that the mommies were still lined up, laughing and pointing? They can do that, you know.

Putting the cria coats back on later also offered a fun filled, slip and slide adventure, but they seemed to have proved their point and cooperated. The cria pack controlled their world and I would be allowed to participate in their lives only so long as I provided a good laugh.

By the way, Aurora now has the “got milk” look. In fact, she had so much milk rolling down her face and neck that I had to tidy her up. I wondered what had changed, so the next time she was nursing I got into the head down, butt up position to see what was going on. Actually, I think there is a law against that in Oklahoma. It turns out that she was trying to nurse with hay in her mouth. I guess this is the cria version of “cookies and milk.” She is getting quite good at it now.

So there you are. You asked!


Meet Snicklefritz & Staci

snickersWe have been blessed with the opportunity to help a young lady, Staci Forshee, who is in the bio-chemistry student at Oklahoma State University (OSU). She has been training and showing llama’s since she was twelve and teaches performance handling in the llama world. Snicklefritz was her first llama and she loves him very much. Snickles was attacked by dogs when he was a cria and injured. He is now crippled and has been having difficulty navigating the large pasture that has been made available to him by Staci’s grandparents. We offered to look after him, as our paddocks are space limited and he does not have to travel to get food. He is doing great and has fit right into the herd. A recent trip to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital confirmed that his disability has worsened, but with care and medication, Snickle has many happy years ahead of him. The three wise guys (L’il King, Sunny and Aurora) became immediate friends with Snickles and he is quite comfortable. We are taking him to OSU today (along with L’il King, who is getting his cast removed) to see if he can be made more comfortable. We are delighted to have him as a guest.

Pistol Pete & Rosita

RositaPeteThe arrival of Pistol Pete and Rosita demonstrated the need to be prepared and have a plan in place, in case something does not go right. Ed was in cria watch the day of their birth, and he had done a routine morning check (nothing going on) before retiring to the ranch office to take care of his consulting business. A mere two hours later, as he strolled out for another check, he was met with the unexpected view of two (not one, but two!) pregnant ladies in the process of delivering their crias! Ananda, a first-time mom, had just given birth to an unusually small (9.6 pounds) little girl who was lying in the hay. Our wonderful Great Pyrenees female, Nicki, was lying next to the cria, keeping her safe from the cool autumn day and cleaning off the afterbirth. Meanwhile, Hazel, with three prior crias to her credit, was in trouble. Her cria’s head was protruding from her hind end, but there were no legs to be seen. Another contraction. Still no legs. Ed checked her, as he had been taught, but found that the cria’s legs were under his body. He tried pushing the cria back in, to free his legs, but no dice. No matter what Ed tried, he could not free the crias legs, so that he could be born. Worried and out of ideas, Ed called Sue at work, where she works as a kitchen designer for Lowe’s. Hearing Ed’s voice, the first thing Sue said was, “Who is in labor?” Ed replied, “Both!” Both? Sue headed for home, turning a normal 40 minutes commute into a 20 minute dash for life. The trailer was ready to go by the time Sue got home, and when Sue was also unsuccessful in freeing the crias legs, we gently led Hazel to the trailer. Sue rode with Hazel, holding the crias’s head in her hands, the whole trip, to protect the head from being injured. Just how fast can a V8 equipped Dodge Dakota, towing a 16 foot stock trailer really go? Trust me, the Highway Patrol does not want to know! Meanwhile, back in the trailer, Sue held the cria’s head, watching him continue to try to be born, talking to him and encouraging him to keep fighting. Hazel knew she was in loving hands, and patiently waited for the trip to reach its destination.

pistolpeteOur arrival at Oklahoma State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Stillwater was met with a team of three doctors, two veterinary technicians, and, by best count, some 20 veterinary students. Like a scene straight out of the television hit, “ER,” one team administered an epidural to Hazel, so that the cria could be repositioned and delivered, and the second team waited with a gurney, to take the newborn cria immediately into the hospital, the moment he was born. The moment he was born, the “cria team” whisked him into the hospital, as planned, and Hazel’s team tended to her. She was very sore, very bruised, but otherwise just fine. Once her afterbirth was delivered and the doctors were satisfied that they had given her the care she needed, it was time for her to visit her new baby. Hazel saw her beautiful, white baby boy (14.7 pounds of strong will from our most petite female) and began to nuzzle him and talk to him. He had been on oxygen to help him along after the exhausting birth experience, but he responded to his mother and answered her. After two days in the hospital, for observation, mother and son returned home to the ranch, Pistol Petein excellent condition. Their welcome by the rest of the herd was exuberant. And Pistol Pete met his half-sister for the first time.

Our rush to the hospital did not leave Ananda’s beautiful, rose gray little girl unattended. With Nicki at her side, and our remarkable llama (yes, llama!), Granada, serving as the world’s best auntie, tiny Rosita was up and nursing by the time we had completed our emergency run to the hospital. And what about the name, “Pistol Pete?” In honor of Oklahoma State University’s role in saving both Hazel’s and her son’s lives, this little boy, healthy and full of mischief was named after the famed OSU Cowboys football mascot, the hail and hearty Pistol Pete, who is reputed to be the world’s first cowboy, born just down the road, in Perkins, Oklahoma.

Surviving the Storm

sheltersWe have survived the ice storm, but Sue was up two nights in a row beating the ice off the temporary tents we are using. I got stuck in Oklahoma City while conducting an FAA seminar and then the hotel I was in lost all power. One fellow got stuck in the elevator. We did not lose power, but something like 500,000 folks are still without power or heat.

All crias are doing great. Sue and I drove to Tulsa yesterday and it was like looking at the aftermath of Mount St. Helens. Thousands of trees, power lines and structures have been destroyed. We are very blessed that our trailer and tents stood up to the onslaught.


Exciting Weekend

AuroraWe have been playing catch-up following an exciting weekend. Aliza, a first time mommy delivered her first cria (a female) on Saturday, November 24. So in a week’s time, we had a little girl from Margarita (named Tequila Sunrise “Sunny”), a little boy with a broken toe and a new baby girl (named Aurora, in keeping with a “lights in the sky” theme this year for our girls). Little Aurora had to deal with freezing temps, snow and then rain. She finally lived up to her name and we have a bright sunny day today.

Two beautiful little girls and one little boy who insist on chasing the little girls around with a cast on his leg. What fun!


A Big Day on the Ranch

sunnyWell, no action on the 18th, but yesterday was a big day. Yep, we got another one. Margarita is our first alpaca (now 7 years old) and a big girl who has big, healthy crias. She was about three days late, but the birth went just fine, and fast. I had just checked her at 10:30 am and no action. Thirty minutes later I looked out the window and saw every alpaca and llama looking into the mommy’s paddock. By the time I got out of the house (30 seconds) the birth was in progress. I immediately went to our small service barn (40 ft away) to get the cria birth kit, and returned to find a 14 lb 3 oz little girl out and trying to get up. We have one more to go.

Margi is batting 1000 with four females in a row. We did have a bit of a medical issue. The umbilicus broke off flush with the belly and was open, but not bleeding. We decided to take her to OSU for a check up. The OSU doctors said surgery would not be needed, but that a wrap and tending too would be a good Idea. We have our little girl on a three week recovery program (same time frame as King) with a pressure bandage around her abdomen. As I mentioned to you in the last e-mail, our two week old little boy broke a toe a few days ago and needed medical care. His orange cast looks very sporty.

Having OSU so close is indeed a blessing. Our little girls work up, full examination, precautionary tetanus shot, bandaging and care supplies ended up costing less than $60. Kings full treatment, including a premium for after hours care, a doctor, intern and two students, plus full x-ray series ended up costing about $180. This included a full exam for King and his mother, Ananda. All of these charges include follow up visit cost. Sue and I are now having the wrist bracelets made that say “If found unconscious, take to OSU Vet Hospital.” We will just claim we are very ugly alpacas.

Gosh, when one looks at our crias, all bandaged up, it begins to look like the promotional poster for “Les Miserable’s!”

Temps are finally dropping (in the high 70’s today) to the 30’s and 40’s tomorrow. I will be working in the shelters today to make sure all is ready.


King of Hearts

kingIt is funny (funny, weird) how unexpected things can happen quickly. I when out to the paddocks to check things out and do the evening chores. I notice our little boy, King (short for Kindred Spirits King of Hearts), was limping. A quick call to the OSU medical center resulted in a fast trailer hook up (already positioned by the loading gate) and drive to the OSU vet hospital.

Two doctors, three students, and a series of x-rays later, we were headed home with a little boy in a soft cast from left front foot to the top of the leg. He broke a toe! His mommy (Ananda) went with him and did a fantastic job of taking care of her cria throughout the entire event. She even stayed with him (at the request of the doctor) in the x-ray room, complete with protective apron! The cast is in the OSU colors, bright orange, and the doctor drew a “smiley face” on it. King adapted immediately and is doing very well. We are being very careful to make sure the cast does not restrict blood flow to the leg, but the prognosis is for a full recovery within three weeks.

What surprised me was the level of technology available at OSU. I broke my leg (both lower bones) almost four years ago and remember dealing with fuzzy x-ray prints viewed on the old back-light system. OSU uses advance digital technology which allowed the brake to be viewed on a high definition screen in seconds, complete with the ability to zoom in and rotate to any view. They were able to re-set and accurately tape the brake in place before adding the cast. King was placed on pain controlling meds as soon as the problem was initially diagnosed and he never so much as flared a nostril. We are blessed to have such a good medical facility so close. I am thinking of wearing a wrist bracelet that says “If found unconscious, take to the OSU vet hospital.”

Margi (our most experience mommy) is still holding out, but today may be the day. The temps will be in the high seventies for the next few days, which would be perfect.