Country dilemma, number 268 (or is that number 200068?)
Yesterday morning, Mark and I were down at the pasture. A man was delivering my new 12 X10 wooden shed. This is going to serve as a tack room for the horse saddles, blankets and paraphernalia until the day comes when we can put up a real barn. I’m thrilled to have it, so much so that I was giddy as it came lumbering through our gate on a huge flatbed. While the deliveryman was setting it up, making sure it was level (this shed is on a wooden sled-rail base, so you can drag it with a tractor – a great convenience. When I actually can get a barn, I’ll be able to move it next to the garden and I’ll have an instant garden shed) I decided to see what would happen if I let the chickens out. Eventually, I want them to be free-range chickens so they’ll eat the ticks and whathaveyou around the pasture. They moseyed out of the pen, sticking close to home. Perfect! Our big dog, Teddy, came bounding up and I waited to see what mayhem would erupt. I told the dog to behave, not expecting much, but although he was mighty curious about the chickens, he trotted up and sat at my feet.
The man setting up the shed said, “Wow, that is one well behaved dog.”
“News to me.” I said, marveling at how well the dog was behaving. We have worked to train him, but it’s only now taking effect. Better late than never. I was delighted to think my chickens will be safe from at least the family dogs. It was going to be a good day.
I then spied our black bunny hopping around the chicken house. This is one of Neva’s bunny’s that had run a way a week ago. Apparently, he is alive and well and living under the chicken house. Since the chicken pen was open, he hopped in, visited a bit, then hopped out again. I put some food for him under the house, thinking there was no reason not to let him remain in his new digs. He must be mighty happy with the new combination of freedom and ongoing care. I knew Neva would be OK with leaving him be, considering her main concern is his wellbeing.
Yep – it was still a good day.
I went to go feed the horses while we waited for the new tack room to be finished. This is when the day went south.
I walk over and see my llama. He is foaming at the mouth! There is some kind of strange hay/dirt/ice thing hanging from his lips. It doesn’t look good. Mostly, I’m concerned with the foam. I stand there a minute wondering, “Is there such a thing as a mad llama?”
I rack my mind trying to remember everything I know about llamas (this takes about 30 seconds). I know they can get tooth problems, that they have digestive needs. I gave Dalai a wormer last month so it isn’t that. I do give my horses a tetanus shot every year, but I don’t think this is necessary for a llama. Does he have rabies?
I go back to where Mark is writing the check for the shed. I ask the man if he knows anything about llamas. He chuckles and says, “Nope.”
I figured that.
I turned to Mark and said, “So, do you want to know what the trauma de jour today is going to be?”
He sighed. “Hit me.”
“The llama is going mad. He is foaming at the mouth. I’m concerned.”
“Call the vet.”
“I will, but for now, will you come look at him?”
“I don’t know anything about llamas, he says calmly. Call the vet.”
Now, I know it is true that Mark knows even less about llamas than I (only because I read about them in various livestock journals and books) but I somehow think his opinion is necessary. I need validation regarding my opinion that this is a sick llama, and I guess I’m hoping Mark might see something I don’t see, like a bar of soap hanging out of the animals cheek, which would explain the foam.
We go to investigate together. He says, “Yep, the llama is foaming at the mouth. We’d better call the vet.”
“What is that stuff hanging out of his mouth?”
“I don’t know.”
“I think I should get that stuff out of his mouth. What do you think?”
“I don’t know.”
“I’m going to get it out of his mouth. Do you think I should?”
“I don’t know.”
I stare at my husband. He stares back.
“I can’t catch him without your help.”
Mark sighs again. He is a good soul, so he will help me, but I think he is also considering what a mad llama might do when he is chased. Nevertheless, Mark gave me this llama, and I love the dang thing, so he feels honor bound to lend a hand. Besides which, if the animal up and dies, he doesn’t want me to blame him for not caring enough to try to do something when we could.
Tentatively we go into the pasture and with the help of our dog, we corral the llama into a corner and get him tied up. He is a bit sluggish (the llama, not Mark) which makes this easier than some days. This worries me too.
Llama’s hate to have their face touched, so slowly, I reach up to his head to yank a big wad of gunk hanging from his mouth. His eyes look into mine sadly (the llama’s eyes, not Mark’s). He is trusting, definitely under the weather. I remove as much of the debris as I can but I can see there is plenty more in his mouth.
“Give me a stick,” I say to Mark.
He hands me a stick.
I start digging the stick into Dalai’s cheek and what looks like wads of chewed hay, bark and mud starts coming out. It is really gross. Dalai is like some kind of llama chipmunk with stuff stored deep into a side pocket – only llama’s don’t have side pockets. Not only is his mouth full of debris, but there is still all this foam and saliva spilling out. This is not an attractive llama today.
Eventually I get the bulk of the stuff removed, and suddenly, the llama grinds his teeth together like he is eating rock candy. He swallows and blinks. Now, his mouth closes and I can’t get it opened for anything. I think this is a good sign, so I tell Mark maybe we should feed him and see if he eats.
He chows down (The llama, not Mark).
I believe we have solved the dilemma, and I’m feeling quite the savvy country gal now. It’s not every girl that knows how to save a llama, ya know.
We go about our day, checking the llama every time we pass to see if he is foaming again. He looks great, then at around four, we see he has more stuff hanging from his mouth. And is that foam? Damn. I feel betrayed by the gods of livestock.
So today, we decide to call the vet. Mark wants to call our favorite vet, Dr. Mitchell, but this man is a cat and dog guy. He doesn’t handle large animals. Mark says Dr. Mitchell owns a llama however, so he must know something about them.
We call. Mark says to the secretary, “I know Dr. Mitchell doesn’t handle large animals, but he owns a llama, doesn’t he?”
The secretary says, “He did. But it died.”
This makes me swoon. I don’t exactly have confidence in a vet whose llama died on his watch.
We describe the foam.
“This is very , very, very bad,” says Dr. Mitchell. “You better call Ocoee right away (that is the animal clinic that does handle large animals.)
Now, I have visions of my mad llama lying in the field belly up, with four legs sticking up like a stiff in a bad cartoon. We call Ocoee and they make an appointment for tomorrow morning. The person on the phone said that sometimes llamas get things stuck in their throat, and it was good we removed the debris. We should do that again if we see more of the same. They will sedate the animal in the morning to give him a good check.
I go down to take a look at Dalai again, thinking we will have to catch him and do whatever we have to do. But now, Dalai is happy, healthy and behaving his normal perky self. No foam. No gunk. Nothing. I fed him. He eats like a pig, then goes to the baby horse’s bucket to bully more food. Of course, now that I called the expensive vet, it turns out to be a false call. This big faker llama is NOT sick. The only one mad now is me. Tomorrow, I’ll have to pay dearly for a home visit for a llama who is perfectly fine.
I asked Mark if we should cancel the vet visit but he says the horses need their yearly tetanus, and we might as well see if Dalai needs something too. Just in case. I know he is right and I appreciate that he is willing to spend money on vet care for animals he doesn’t exactly adore in the way I do.
So, all’s well that ends well.
The llama isn’t mad. The dog isn’t going to kill my chickens when I let them out permanently. The bunny is alive and well living under the chicken house. I have a new tack room. Best of all, I discovered a new talent. I can dig shit out of a llama’s mouth without flinching. I may have left a dance empire behind, but look at all I’ve learned in the process.
Personal growth comes camouflaged in many things. Today, it was covered in foam.