||Eight years old|
||Williams Lake, British Columbia, Canada|
This is an exceptionally sad story.
Mancha is now an eight-year-old
llama. The father of Gato and Spud. There was a time when I never
would have believed that Mancha would live let alone be a father to
two sons. He was a birthday present from a boyfriend and was six
months old when I received him. My first llama, I wasn't too sure how
to care for him but I'd had new experiences with animals before - how
different could this be?
Some animals in
the story die.
However, because Mancha's owner
never gave up,
Mancha the llama does live.
I used to dog-sled with a fellow who raised and
trained malamutes. After one winter's trip I noticed a scraggly,
matted pup who was "too big and hairy" to make a good
sled-dog. I took him home with me, named him Nakoo (Eskimo for 'baby
bunting') and tried to get him to fit in with the rest of my odd
assortment. He started killing the ducks and geese almost
immediately. I decided to find good homes for the rest of the
poultry. In other respects, Nakoo was a dream. He slept with the
cats, he played with Eeyore and the goats, he was gentle with
visiting kids and avoided the horses. He was attentive and loyal.
Everything you'd ever want in a dog.
A few days before Christmas,1990 it snowed
heavily. My friend Cathy came over to help me wrap presents and feed
the animals. Mancha was kept alone in a separate pen but near enough
to the goats that he had company. All the dogs, as usual, accompanied
me on my rounds. It was cold!! I had only rubber boots on and my feet
were freezing. I went back into the house, leaving the wet and
excited dogs outside and in the few minutes it took to put on another
pair of socks and find my winter boots, the damage was done. Nakoo
had attacked Mancha. I screamed for Cathy and ran towards the pen.
Nakoo just stepped aside and laid down very submissively. Mancha lay
on the ground - he had been scalped and his neck ripped apart. I ran
to him and lifted his head - he was gurgling and going into
Cathy knew how much I loved my animals. She called
my two neighbors who were veterinarians, and called her husband and
told him to bring the truck. Within 15 minutes everyone was there. We
carried Mancha into the house; one of the vets did a tracheotomy.
Cathy's husband quietly took Nakoo into the truck and drove away.
About an hour later everyone decided that Mancha would have to get to
the nearest emergency clinic - there was nothing more they could do
for him at the house.
We had to take a ferry to get to the nearest
clinic. We bundled Mancha up in my Jeep. Cathy held his head up and
tried to control the bleeding and keep him breathing. He had been
scalped right to the bone. I had one ear and part of his scalp in my
It was two day's before I was set to leave for
Belize on a horseback vacation. All the plans had been made and I
couldn't easily back out. I arranged for Cathy and Ellen, a girl with
a lot of experience with animals to live in the house if/when Mancha
came home. I cleared out the kitchen and set up a small enclosure
from a tall wire dog pen. I brought in a hay net, got an account with
the local pharmacy, signed releases at the vets, gave everyone my
itinerary and went. I didn't have much fun - every day I could I
Before I left, however, I took Nakoo to the
groomers, outfitted him with a new collar and bright red bow. A young
couple with no kids, no llamas, no poultry, one other large dog, a
fenced yard and all the information about what Nakoo had done had
come forward to take him. I was tearful but relieved.
I called from Miami on my way home to discover
that Mancha had been sent home but the prognosis was poor. He had
developed an infection and as no one knew anything about llamas, they
didn't know what antibiotics would work or even how to administer
them. Cathy and Ellen were tending to him around the clock. He had a
shower three times a day to have his wounds washed out. The vet made
weekly home visits.
When I got home I was told that there was nothing
more that could be done for him and that I should put him down. I
insisted that they change his antibiotics and researched as much
llama medicine as I could find. We switched medications. The vets
told me that the injury to his head was so severe they doubted the
wound would ever close. His neck was healing alright but now the
major worry was septicemia.
One of my classmates and one former boyfriend were
now plastic surgeons and I turned to them for help. They were
willing, but obviously had never done any veterinary medicine. The
vets knew very little about llama medicine and didn't have the
special equipment necessary for reconstructive surgery. I put them in
touch with each other and amazing things happened. We also found a
board-certified surgical vet who agreed to work with them. The idea
was to graft a piece of the latissimus dorsi to Mancha's head. A vet
anesthetist was called; a Vancouver General Hospital O.R. nurse
offered his services, a drug company donated some of the supplies and
we got permission to use the V.G.H.'s O.R.'s micro-surgery equipment.
A friend of Ben's, a plastic surgeon from Colorado was up visiting
and offered his help.
The O.R. was crowded and the surgery took five
hours. As time went on everyone was filled with hope, but the moment
of failure occurred right at the end when the anesthetist couldn't
maintain Mancha's blood pressure and everyone quickly became
concerned. Mancha was taken to a large kennel to recover from his
anesthesia. The graft failed. Then he really did get septic. He was
brought home and again I was told to put him down. He wouldn't eat; I
put alfalfa cubes, molasses, vitamins and grain in a food processor
and fed him through a turkey baster. Cathy and Ellen looked after him
while I was at work and I spent my evenings, nights and mornings
looking after him as best I could.
The dogs and cats slept with him. I covered him
with a blanket. Three times a day he was forced to get into the
bathtub for his shower. His bloodwork was terrible. He developed an
abscess from the surgery and it drained constantly. I felt
responsible. I read vet journals, contacted libraries, and paid
thousands of dollars for his care.
One vet involved in his care had always told me
that she would tell me when that moment had come. I trusted her and
although everyone else told me to give up and put him down, she
didn't. One Monday she called me and said unless something changed
within the next 48 hours, she too was giving up hope. I had just read
an article on antibiotics in llamas and although there was little to
go on, I told her to switch him. She said she'd heard about this
particular combination in bovine medicine, didn't think it would work
in llamas but would be willing to try. Within 48 hours, Mancha lifted
his head, he ate and drank on his on and even managed to walk by
himself into the bathroom.
We were on our way to success!! Noone could
believe it - I know many people were beginning to think that I was in
denial and that Mancha could never get better. In the end, Mancha
lived in my kitchen for six months. The total cost for his care was
$20,000.00 - but, we made it!!!!
He was housetrained. He willingly walked into the
bathroom and stepped in the tub for his regular showers. He slept by
my bed at night. He laid in the livingroom at my feet whenever I had
company. By spring Mancha was able to take short walks in the
backyard. He gained weight and although that abscess continued to
drain for two years afterwards and did require periodic vet care, all
in all, he just kept getting better and better.
A year later I bought a female llama I named
Sabrina. The vets were still telling me that Mancha could die from
the abscess and I wanted at least one baby from him.
Eleven months later Sabrina had a baby - a male I
named Gato. When Sabrina got pregnant for the second time I didn't
worry. Sabrina gave birth on October 27th and I was thrilled. But
although the baby was healthy, Sabrina was in trouble. She was hurt
and was dying. I knew there wasn't anything I could do. The vets to
put her to sleep. Once again I was faced with a llama living in my
house for next six months.
November in this part of Canada is very cold and
inhospitable. Spud needed feedings every four hours and needed to be
kept warm. It was the same nightmare all over again but with the aid
of friends, we managed. When he was a bit older we'd take him out to
Mancha for the day and thankfully, they bonded. Come spring,
Spudettes was old enough to be out there all the time.
Today, I have Mancha, Gato and Spud out in my
pasture. Llamas have become commonplace in some areas, but here in
Williams Lake there are very few of them. People drive by and see
them - stop, get out of their vehicles and call them over. What they
don't understand is that llamas are very shy creatures and it's only
because Mancha and Spud lived in my house for six months that these
two come to them and hang all over them.
They're giving llamas a good name. (No, they don't
spit, nor did they ever).
And I pay the vets' mortgages.
As for Nakoo, I visited him every week for about a
year at which time I was convinced that he had found a food home with
people who loved him. Because they knew what he had done they kept
him under close watch. He's happy in his new home.
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