management and resources
Fiber from llamas
Our llama family
Just for fun
- If you don't rescue ...
- DON'T BREED!
Teddy began his life as a typical male baby
llama -- unhandled. He was sold as a weanling to a couple of
established llama owners, who hoped to use him as a stud. The
woman really liked him; the man may or may not have. In any case,
on the occasion of Teddy's first breeding, he ended up in a brawl.
First, he felt threatened by the man's proximity and reacted
as he would have were the man another stud -- he spat. The man
swatted Teddy with his ball cap (never a smart move with a llama).
Teddy got up and flattened the guy. This transgression soon led
to Teddy's castration at the age of 30 months.
Teddy continued to act aggressively toward
the man, and was impossible to keep with other males or geldings.
The following spring, Teddy smelled that his favorite female
was now open. Teddy's late castration meant that he still felt
like a stud, and would to some extent for the rest of his life.
He couldn't get to the female and, in apparent frustration, he
attacked the woman, who in turn was saved from a potentially
serious pummeling by her horses. At this point, no one wanted
Teddy anymore. We agreed to assume ownership and rehab him if
Teddy had no respect for humans, although
he fortunately did have a concept of personal space. It wasn't
that he respected our space, but rather that he didn't care for
us in his. Rehabbing aggressives is an ugly business, but there
is no substitute for instilling respect. Avoiding triggers, using
distractions, and teaching other desired behaviors are recommended
by others (and certainly sound kinder), but these do not result
in an animal that can be considered safe for any human to handle
-- in fact, this very philosophy is often responsible for the
problems and disrespect that lead llamas to require rehabilitation
(as was true in Teddy's case). It would also be ideal if aggressives
weren't created through bad handling and bad breeding choices
(Teddy's aggression had a definite genetic component), but this
isn't a perfect world, and we had to clean up someone else's
mess. Suffice it to say that Teddy emerged undamaged from our
30-day boot camp with a firm grasp on the essentials and a new
respect for humans.
Turning Teddy out to pasture was a difficult
step for both of us. Neither of us wanted to be attacked, and
there was no guarantee that Teddy had not merely decided we were
to be respected in the confines of his double-size training stall.
Nonetheless, we took the plunge. Teddy charged each of us once.
His demeanor was playful, indicating that he had also been led
to believe that humans would play llama games. Both of us were
able to stop him cold in his tracks by using some of the "respect
me" cues that Teddy had learned. Throughout the following
years, Teddy still liked to challenge any vehicles driven into
the pasture, but he allowed other people, such as our farm sitter,
to walk around unchallenged despite their lack of involvement
in his rehab. The basic goal was achieved.
Teddy was such a good-looking llama that Gwen
tried her hand at showing him. He proved difficult to work over
obstacles. Those he knew, he would do at least once. But for
those he did not know, he spat and fought like a banshee. It
took some time to establish acceptable public refusal behavior!
Teddy did do outstandingly at halter the next year, and was entered
in a high-stakes gelding halter class when he absolutely blew.
We later surmised that a bee we'd seen in the area must have
stung Teddy just as he was leaving the stall. Teddy, being the
accusatory type, blamed Gwen. It took her about 20 minutes to
get him under control and back in the stall -- so much for the
halter class. What did not help was that as Gwen tried to maintain
control and edge Teddy back to the stall without bringing bystanders
into the fray, a prominent woolly llama breeder viciously attacked
her (claiming she'd deliberately abused Teddy and caused his
behavior), thus endangering several people in the vicinity. Needless
to say, this was Teddy's last show.
As our reputation grew (in part due to Teddy's
success), Teddy's further training then took a back seat to more
urgent rehabs and rescues. One of our goals was to finish Teddy's
basic pack training -- a discipline we were confident he would
excel in -- and then begin stringent interviews for his possible
placement. However, after receiving his basic pack training and
experience, he flunked out at a short-term lease to a friend.
We were at a loss to understand his bizarre behavior: He essentially
vomited like a sewer pipe under a minor stress. Once again, we
turned him out to pasture until we had time to evaluate him better
ourselves. It was nearly a year later of intermittant work, puzzling,
and research that we realized what his problem was -- a gradually-progressing
case of thoracic megaesophagus. The condition has no definitive
cause, but it makes normal weight maintenance increasingly difficult.
Teddy had already gotten a bit thin, and his condition was giving
him increasing difficulties swallowing and also controlling any
cud he brought up in preparation for self-defense. Sadly, we
realized that Teddy's possible packing days were over for good
and retired him to pasture.
Teddy liked to interact with people, but not
too much. Teddy also had an unusual ability to seek out those
in need of comfort. On most days, he was a real charmer. On rare
occasions, something would trigger a negative reaction, and instead
of merely readying a wad of cud and later swallowing it, his
lack of esophageal control meant that he involuntarily spewed
his stomach contents straight forward in a green, slimey mess.
But he did not physically threaten humans, nor did he spit at
On August 3, 2000, it became painfully clear
that Teddy's time was up. We euthanized him and confirmed at
necropsy that his megaesophagus has progressed to the point that
he simply could not survive any longer. Although Teddy was never
able to fill any conventional use roles for us at length, we
learned a tremendous amount from him, and he from us. And we
do gain comfort from the fact that Teddy spent the final nine
years of his short twelve-year life happily roaming our pastures
instead of being euthanized as a sound young animal whose behavior
had become dangerous through no fault of his own.
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