For four or so weeks, we observed Stormy nurse his mom and gain weight. Sometimes, he could hold his head up and walk like a normal alpaca. Other times, he looked like he suffered from “heavy head syndrome”, which is not a real malady, but it gives a good visual for how he comported himself most of the time. We kept our eye on him, hoping that he would turn a corner, get strong, run, pronk, and not stumble so much. He was doing OK, but he laid down a lot. We wanted to see more improvement for his sake.
Then, last Tuesday, Stormy looked especially weak. He walked up to Bob and put his head between Bob’s knees almost like he was looking for a drink. That day, the vet happened to be visiting the farm for a different reason. Bob asked the vet to check Stormy’s mother’s milk. Don’t you know, she was dry. Holy smokes… for how long… and now what… If it weren’t for Bob’s acuity, the little guy would have starved to death!
Back to bottle feeding. Three bottles day. For the next few months, this little guy needs almost the same amount of attention as a newborn baby human. But we live 24 miles away….
Bob started going to the farm everyday, again. We accepted the generosity of Lisa and Mr. Lee who fed Stormy some meals. But, Stormy wasn’t drinking very well for them. Now, we had to look at some hard facts. It had already cost us more to keep him alive than we might ever “get out of him”. And now we were looking at even more expense. Could we afford it? Some folks were gently, and as kindly as one can, suggesting euthanasia. A hard question, but one that farmers sometimes have to face. Stormy is, after all, livestock; as sweet as he is, he is not a family member. I’ll tell you what: after all that loving care so many of us gave to Stormy, he sure feels like more than mere livestock.
Bob and I looked at the whole picture: Stormy still showed signs of interest in life. His activity was lethargy mixed with good energy and alpaca-herd-like behavior. He showed an interest in eating. He drank good bottles for Bob. Unfortunately, he requires daily care and, at this time in our remote-ownership situation, we could not provide that. We sought an adoptive home for him. We found an excellent prospect in Jennifer Downey, a full-time farmer and the owner of Night Sky Farm, a goat farm and grade A dairy. All references confirmed what I sensed in our telephone interview: this woman is Stormy’s new “mom”. She is very experienced with small ruminants and has plenty of goats milk to feed Stormy. He would still be a member of a herd – goats – nevertheless, a herd. Stormy might work out to serve as a guard animal for the goats. He would certainly provide Jennifer with beautiful fleece. Jennifer has the passion and the time for nursing Stormy to full health. She is his best chance.
Bob and Jennifer and I arranged to meet Saturday evening after the farmers markets we worked that day were closed. There, we transferred Stormy from our loving care to that of Jennifer. The sweetest thing happened when we arrived and lifted Stormy out of the car: as I held him, Jennifer came over and other female farmers flocked around and greeted Stormy, petting him and loving him with open hearts and cooing voices. It reminded me of how female alpacas gather round to smell and nuzzle and greet the new baby. Tim, the market manager, added his warm greeting as well.
As Bob and Jennifer exchanged all the pertinent technical health information and history, we took a few pictures, said farewell, and agreed to come to Night Sky Farm for a visit.
We have a new friend.
And Stormy has a new name. Jennifer’s daughter thought, “he doesn’t look like a ‘Stormy’; he looks like a ‘Maximilian’”. Jennifer said to me, “After all, he IS one in a million!”
It is clear, Stormy – I mean Maximilian- has a wonderful new home. Thank you, Jennifer.
Godspeed you on your way to full health, Max. See you soon.