Monday, March 13, 2017

Llama needs hope to remain faithful

By David Horst

Today I was pretty convinced that Hope is just a city in Arkansas -- a sucker bet for people who can't see the reality in front of their noses.

I had seized onto hope on Friday, when our llama Constellatione had shown signs of improvement after 14 hours of not having the strength to stand up on his own. And the last place he had gone down was out in the pasture, in the wind.

Cobbling together a hay manger, a few hay bales, my compact tractor and a pontoon boat-sized tarp, I erected a quick wind break around him, but he had to walk on his own.

Our llama vet -- actually our llama vet's daughter -- discovered an infection caused by an abscess tooth. She was instructing her intern about how llamas can develop abscesses, "Like this one," she said, as she felt along the llama's jaw. She gave him a shot of antibiotic that she said could turn his situation around in 24 hours.

Our actual vet also works on dairy herds and, while doing a herd check, was a tad slower than a cow's hind leg, The kick left him with the knee of a receiver who plays on cheap Astroturf.

With his daughter serving as a capable fill-in, we were able to help Constallatione to his feet and -- with a runner rug slung under his belly -- walk him into the barn. When we went out to round up the rest of the herd to get them into the barn, Consty came walking out on his own. Hope springing eternal.

Unfortunately, that was the only time we would see him walk through the weekend.

He remained down. The 24-hour antibiotic kick-in period passed without effect.

We recruited a fellow camelid owner friend to help us get him to his feet again on Sunday. We lifted, strapped, leveraged and were about to pulley him to his feet when it all seemed to be too much.

He went down on his side, his breath went shallow and his eyes dulled. Hope down to less than a trickle. We were down to planning when to have the vet administer his final injection to take away his pain.

I cursed myself for falling for hope's temptation again.

Constellatione had other ideas. While we sat with him, he would kick his legs every so often, seemingly trying to get himself upright again. Or maybe it was just contracting muscles or waves of pain. A llama can't tell you.

We tried to get him upright, but his rear legs were too rigid to get them under his body. After a call from the daughter vet, we tipped him upright, regardless of where his rear legs wanted to go. Almost immediately, his shallow breathing improved. Before long, he was eating hay and drinking water.

A visit from the on-call weekend vet -- the worst things always seem to happen to animals on Sundays -- got him shots of antibiotic and steroids, and help lifting the 250-pound animal to get his legs where they belong.

We embraced hope again, instantly forgiving all of its past acts of abandonment.

The end of this story has not yet been written. We've had to tip Consty up a few more times. He still has to stand to survive. We need hope to remain faithful this time.


  1. Never give up while the animal is still trying. He will tell you when the end of the story is being written. Or he will tell you another chapter is starting.

  2. Nobody knows and feels that decision more than you.