Rusty was the first cria born to a pair of
brand-new llama owners. They handled him somewhat more than they
were advised to, but he was a pretty nice guy nonetheless.
Then his hormones kicked in, and Rusty only
wanted to be near the females -- and he also knocked down first
one, and then a second human to achieve his goal. Overnight,
the joy of the really colorful youngster became fear. Castration
didn't help, and the people were advised repeatedly to euthanize
Rusty. But, remembering how they had loved him when he was well-mannered,
Rusty's people weren't interested in taking an easy out. They
were eventually steered to us, and we agreed to assume ownership
Rusty's only real deficit -- besides a sinfully
neglected coat -- was a complete lack of understanding about
the concept of personal space. He didn't have any . . . why should
anyone else? After diagnosis, Rusty's deficit was quickly corrected.
To test his rehab, we put Rusty in with our female herd. Not
once did he even think of making a move on us. As with many llamas
who are handled young, Rusty was a quick fix.
But Rusty still wasn't happy. He now knew
he wasn't supposed to be king of the pasture, but he didn't integrate.
In fact, Bandit -- a gelding who lives with our female herd --
suddenly became unusually protective and went out of his way
to keep Rusty away. What we didn't know then was that Rusty wanted
to protect the female herd, and his intentions made Bandit very
One day, when we realized that our 140 pound
half-Newfie was uncharacteristically petrified to go into the
female pasture, it occured to us that Rusty was the cause. He
was a "dog-stomper" (in our terminology), and it was
this high level of protective and guarding instincts that had
both allowed Rusty's original problem to manifest itself and
was accounting for his misery now.
Although we had previously (and closed-mindedly)
asserted that we would never consider selling a llama to guard
sheep, here under our noses was a llama tailor-made for the job.
After discussing what guarantees a buyer would want, and what
clauses we would insert in a contract for Rusty's safety, we
took out an ad in an agricultural publication and found him a
home the next day. And, indeed, Rusty is finally in his element.
He gathers his sheep when danger seems imminent, adores his lambs,
and has successfully defended the small acreage and flock against
dog and coyote attack.
And does Rusty behave himself? Like most llama
guardians, Rusty needs to be separated from the sheep when they
are worked -- although you can hardly blame a llama for assuming
a crying sheep or lamb is being harmed. His behavior toward humans
is otherwise exemplary. Rusty is a living example of that early
handling does not mean incurable problems, and also that some
llamas do achieve self-actualization as guardians of sheep.
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