For the love of a llama

There have been better weeks.

Wednesday afternoon, I found one of my llamas, Pulitzer, spread out in the barn, her nostrils flaring. It was hot that day, nearly 90 and we’d blown an electrical socket in the barn, which meant the fans, critical to keeping the girl’s side cool, weren’t working.

To complicate things, Pooh, as we call her, is a heavy wool llama, with fiber so dense, she’s got curls between her toes, and while I’d sheared her barrel area, there was still lots of fiber hanging off her neck, her legs and her haunches.

Llamas don’t tolerate heat very well and humidity can be even worse. Sometimes heat can be fatal to these animals.

Immediately, we got Pooh on her feet and hosed her off, but she wasn’t snapping back. A check of her temperature found 103 degrees— elevated, but not dangerously so, but still we didn’t take any chances. On the telephone advice of a vet at OSU, we sheared her. Imagine how much fun it was to try to get blades through wet fiber on an animal flat-out on her side on the barn floor, then rolling her over to get the other side.

A month before, I’d taken extra care to give her a nice show cut. Even though we didn’t expect to attend many shows this year, Pooh was regularly in my show string. This shearing job was the work of a panicked owner, with digs and hacks and missing spots. She looked awful, but she was naked. That was the important thing.

After that, we packed five-pound bags of ice between her back legs. Within a couple of hours, we got her temperature down to 100.3, in normal range, but she was still laying on the barn floor, flopped over on her side and, we noticed, horribly bloated. When she stood, she staggered and then lay back down.

Greg got the livestock trailer hooked up to the truck, ready to run Pooh to OSU if her condition changed.

By this time, our farm vet arrived and decided it was one of two things: a parasite that attacked her spinal cord (and would likely be fatal), or an afternoon of eating lush green grass and clover had given her a good case of bloat. Injections of Banamine would help with the bloat followed by tube of Safeguard, would serve two purposes: treating the possible parasites and keeping the Banamine from causing stomach ulcers.

From here, all we could do was wait. Storms came through Wednesday night and reduced the heat and humidity. My husband Greg got the socket repaired so the fans were back on and the girl’s side of the barn was cooler.

On Thursday, I checked on Pooh about every 90 minutes, and when I finally caught her pooping, snatched up a sample for the vet to analyze. She was slowly improving, but still off her feed and not flopping on her side as frequently.

She spit me whenever I touched her belly, which, while extremely disgusting, told me she was still in pain… but had a lot of fight left in her.

The good news was she didn’t have the meningial parasite—or many parasites at all, in fact! So that narrowed it down to bloat, which has continued to decrease.

Over the past two days, we’ve watched her improve, eating a little more each day. Today, we turned her loose into the back pasture, after we were certain she was OK.

Whew. We’re unhooking the trailer today. I think she’s going to make it.

These events took a toll on my writing this week, putting me a little behind on MURDER ON THE LUNATIC FRINGE, but some things, like the life your llama, is more important.

I’ll be back at it on Monday.

Take a look at my latest book, LETHAL LITTLE LIES, available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kindle. I’ll be signing books at Loganberry Books in Shaker Heights on July 6. Come see me!

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