It 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!