Monday, January 30, 2012

Llama Fail

Apologies to any actual horsey people reading this blog (hah, nobody) but today is yet another llama-based blog. Today was Llama D-Day. I'd agreed to meet Skyla at the dairy farm where the neglected llama was roaming. The original plan was to simply to scope out the situation, and perhaps see if the llama could be bribed with food. (Well, Skyla's plan was to "stare at the llama" and "make friends" with it.) However, when I called her in the morning to coordinate, Skyla seemed especially gung-ho to get the llama moved. Not wanting to waste her sudden change of heart about "traumatizing" the animal, I jumped on the phone and started to try to round up helpers.

Dad wasn't feeling too well (or perhaps contracted a diplomatic virus to excuse his non-involvement), but I borrowed his truck and got over to the farm, where my friend Becky was waiting to help. After that, the entire rest of the afternoon was an almost unmitigated disaster.

First, the pasture gate was frozen to the ground and had to be chipped out, so that when Mr. Llama arrived, he could be separated from the horses.

I actually took this picture after the day was over, and then promptly dropped my cell phone into the muddy slush puddle.

Next, hitching the trailer to the truck took about seven frustrating tries because I'm an idiot, and because when you're in a hurry is the worst time to hurry. Luckily, the trip to the dairy farm itself was uneventful, and along the way I was even able to kidnap another friend, Erin, to help. She and Becky are truly good friends; it's not everyone that will agree to try and go rescue a wild llama on the spur of the moment, on a weekday, in the snow. Unfortunately, when we got there I immediately got the truck and trailer stuck in the mud, manure and snow-melt of the sloppy farm yard. Of course it wasn't paved, and was full of narrow, steep, rutted hillocks. By asking nicely I got a couple of the farmers to pull the truck out of the mud and re-position it in a better place. No doubt they thought our whole crew were idiots, and they looked very busy-- nevertheless, they did their best to help us. I don't really blame them for the llama's neglect. They appear to be hired hands or younger sons, working at a hard, filthy job on what looks to be a secondary farm. It's not their llama, not their job, not their concern. They may be guilty of simple indifference, but so am I-- how many times have I driven past this llama and not done anything about it?

The llama was out in the middle of a hay field. The dilapidated cow pasture it might once have been contained in doesn't really have fences. It does have some standing snags of barbed wire that constantly threatened to trip and injure us and the llama as it evaded us. The sheer size of the llama's area is discouraging. There must be well over 100 acres of barren fields that the llama can run around on. That made trying to corral it nearly impossible. The farm didn't have any area at all to even begin to contain the furry critter. Nevertheless, we tried.

Oh how we tried. We tried surrounding it and walking slowly, herding it up towards the trailer. We tried the same thing with a rope to try to form a moving fence. We tried running around it like a wolf pack, scaring it towards the trailer. We tried tempting it with food (this worked) and then lassoing it (this failed miserably). Erin almost got knocked down, I got a nasty rope burn, and the llama didn't seem to tire. When we finally realized that there was just no way we were going to get the llama to the trailer, we tried to bring the trailer to the llama. This involved a plunge down an questionable field drive and a hair-raising trip across the snowy ground, fishtailing all the way. Once there, we realized the llama was even further afield, and half our volunteers were ready to be done.

Llama rescuers unite! Sort of.

Becky and Erin were great sports, getting their frozen feet soaked, jogging through the brush and helping uncomplainingly despite the numerous setbacks. The other three...Well, I've blogged about how weird "Skyla" is before. She showed up with 60 feet of clothesline "rope" and a red plastic tub (to serve the llama hay in). In this picture, she's the one dressed like an eccentric nun in a rainstorm. She spent her time hobbling after us, making odd suggestions and mildly disparaging remarks about our efforts. Her friend in the front-middle of this picture showed up quite late and chatted with Skyla most of the time. Ken, hiding in the back of the group, played the role of "manager," offering a constant stream of useless advice based on his "expert" knowledge of llamas, apparently gained by knowing someone who had one once. Despite the farmers' offers of assistance with their tractors, Ken insisted on being the one to get my truck out of the sticky field. In my first wise moment of the entire day, I gave him the keys and walked away. Sometimes, you just have to let a man do his "man thing" and pretend not to notice how stupid he's being. It saves arguments and overall, time. For Ken, this meant him putting hay under the rear wheels of the front-wheel drive truck to serve as traction. Though he did finally get the truck unstuck, he left me plenty of time to snap pictures. We left the trailer behind, open and full of hay, in the unlikely event that the llama might decide to go in on its own, or at least become used to its presence. At the very very least, there is finally some food available. Besides which, if I had demanded to bring it home, I'm sure Ken would have insisted on helping.

The worst part of the failed chase was knowing that although the llama was feisty enough to run away from us, it's clearly suffering. We found spatters and drops of blood in many places, and Erin mentioned the llama's deformed, injured-looking face without any influence on my part. Clearly, it's not just me that thinks his head is messed up.

We're not giving up. We are, however, looking at a possible solution that I had at first ridiculed: a tranquilizer gun. Yes, apparently vets do have these. The question is, how expensive is it going to be to hire a vet to traq a llama? Will that even work? Why do I have to be the kind of person that worries about a goddamn wild-ass llama in the first place? These questions and more may be resolved by next Monday.

Aside from "Skyla's" numerous unintentionally funny statements and the dedication of my friends, the only highlight of today was seeing the baby calves. Dairy cows are weird-headed, slobbering, stinky monsters. Dairy calves are probably the cutest things on the entire planet. *sigh* I really need to work pasture-fed organic meat and dairy into my budget.

No comments:

Post a Comment