Thursday, April 12, 2012

Alpaca Listener

It's been very flattering when someone describes me as an alpaca whisperer but in truth, I like to think of myself as more an alpaca "listener."  One of the very cool things about the alpaca industry is all the various backgrounds of folks that wind up in the alpaca business.  We come from all walks of life.  One of my walks was as a counselor.  I got my Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology.  From that training and education, the most important skill I developed and enhanced was my listening skills.  It takes more than just listening to a story a client has to tell.  You listen to their body language and other non-verbal communication to get the entire story and clues of what is going on.  The subtleties are important and one develops an ear for it.  I liked the term, "Listening with a Third Ear."

It really isn't that big of a leap then to being an alpaca listener with that sort of training and background.  I enjoy observing these beautiful animals.  Most of the time, I'm not even aware I'm doing it but I know I'm taking in a lot of information as I gaze out and take in my animals.  Most of the time I see relaxed normal alpaca behavior.  They are grazing, napping, or once in awhile having a spat with each other.  However, every now and then, one sees something that isn't normal.  It is usually pretty subtle.  Alpaca instinct is to hide a weakness.  They are prey animals so a predator will zone in quickly on a weak animal.   Therefore, noticing any subtle change or difference can be an important clue that an animal isn't feeling well.  If you wait until they really show you they are sick, it is often too late to help them or very costly with vet visits or a trip to the veterinarian hospital.

I had a female in labor awhile back.  This dam was one that I was sure she would find a hidden area and have her cria.  I was just going to come out and find her with a baby on her side.  I just knew it.  She was that kind of animal.  Sweet and easy to handle but just didn't want to be near any sort of fuss.  I looked out my window and sure enough, I saw a head sticking out of here rear end and she was about as far away as you can get on my farm.  I grabbed my binoculars and headed out.  I kept a nice distance away but wanted to be able to observe the proceedings yet be respectful of her desire for space.  She saw me though.  But, much to my surprise, instead of trying to move further away from me, she came running TO me.  Her eyes were big and I knew immediately that she was needing help.  I normally would give more time to see if things would progress on their own but I could tell she was asking for help.  I called my neighbor for assistance and grabbed my birthing kit gear.  We caught her in the open field which was another sign that she needed help that she let us catch her so easily.  I examined her and sure enough, not only did the baby have one leg back, he had both of his front legs pinned back.  I worked and untangled his legs and out he popped.  It seemed obvious to me that she was asking for help but others that were around asked how I knew.  Maybe it was that long ago former life as a lifeguard that told me.  You can tell when someone is in trouble by the look in their eyes.  Her eyes were sending a real clear message.  HELP!  That was a cool day.  Bringing a new life into the world was rewarding in itself but when you connect with an animal, especially one that is not normally inclined to connect with a human, it is a very special day.

Special Cria Delivery.  Just a Few Hours Old

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