For the love of alpacas
Published: Saturday, February 11th, 2006
She was an authentic animal lover. Dee grew up on a western cattle ranch. After she moved away, her suburban neighborhood prevented her from raising cows. “They are so bulky,” she said. But her need to “shepherd” was not satisfied by dogs, cats or even a gerbil. One day she discovered alpacas. They are the Porsche of camelids compared to the Ford Explorer llama or the Humvee dromedary. Any good stockman can affirm it is possible to develop an affection for a bum lamb or a good and faithful cow. So when I say she loved her alpacas, we livestock people understand that particular bond. But, I admit I did not entirely grasp the depth of her animal husbandryness. “Is that an alpaca wound?” I asked, pointing at the scratch on her hand. “No,” she said, as if what she was about to impart was as commonplace a response as “I fell” or “The rosebush got me." “No,” she said, “I got it bathing a chicken.” “I raise hens,” she said nonchalantly, as if I could name three people in my entire circle of acquaintances who actually keep layers in their back yard. “Do they get a bath every weekend, or just on special occasions?” I asked, beginning to question her true relationship with the animal kingdom. “No, don’t be silly. Etta, she’s named after my aunt, was being picked on by the other hens and she’d quit laying. She was quite poopy.” I didn’t ask for a definition of poopy. After all, I am a veterinarian. “I tried brushing her, then I tried a nearly disastrous attempt with the steel nozzle of my vacuum cleaner. Finally I filled a bucket with warm water and stood her in it up to her neck.” “After some initial wing flapping she sort of relaxed, kicked back and had a good soak. I washed her affected areas with soap.” “You mean behind her wattles and under her wing pits?!” I asked, joking. She laughed. “No, I toweled her off, dried her with the hair dryer, poofed her up and guess what? She laid an egg the next day!” Dee looked at me and smiled sweetly. She had a tender heart. “Out of appreciation for your loving care, I bet.” I said, and I meant it.
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