A Case of Broken Leg

David-cameo-200Daily interaction with animals can bring huge rewards. To learn to communicate with and develop relationships with our brothers and sisters of the animal kingdom provides countless opportunities for personal growth, and we like to believe that animals are also able to learn and grow from their interaction with us. However, there are moments when that interaction presents really tough decisions for us and there is no doubt that we all have differing opinions and ideas on how to respond to those challenges.

icy november

Extreme Ice!

cocoaA couple of weeks ago, Coco, one of the long term boarders at The Llama Sanctuary, was in the barn and did not want to stand up, even when a new bale of hay was wheeled in. Something was not right! When we finally managed to encourage her to stand, she hopped around on three legs, holding her front right foot off the ground.

With the weirdest weather we have yet experienced in Canada, rain has been falling on frozen ground, without the usual cover of snow and we two-legged creatures, with studded boots, were having a hard time remaining upright. The cause of Coco’s injury was therefore, no mystery, but the nature of the injury had yet to be determined. The vet arrived complete with mobile x-ray unit, but the injury was so obvious, that x-ray images were not required. A clean lateral break right at the base of the cannon bone was not good news as far as the vet was concerned and he advised immediate euthanasia/execution.

Ending an animal’s life because of a broken bone was not a consideration as far as we were concerned, but for the veterinarian, he saw no other option, other than, he believed, cause the animal to experience pain. He called a colleague for a second opinion, which matched his own. Seeing our own refusal to consider this without exploring all options, he called an animal hospital. They suggested external or internal steelwork at a cost of $5000 to $10,000. He left us with a soft splint and a couple of doses of Banamine, whilst we explored our own ideas and reached out into the network of llama and alpaca owners for their experiences.

In our personal experience, structural repairs are not very successful in large animals, especially with the injury located in such a difficult spot.  We also feel that while pain is to avoided, since we don’t kill humans for experiencing pain, if there is a chance of recovery, then pain is an adjunct to healing.

Other Options

One option that we had explored following the loss of a beautiful llama several years ago, was amputation and a prosthetic. This was far more likely to succeed, since there was no rejection of foreign material to consider and less-invasive surgery.

But, before even that would be considered, we wanted to give Coco a chance to heal. The soft splint was applied, pain-killer given and then we invited another vet, recommended to us by another Camelid keeper, to examine the situation and potentially apply a moulded plastic splint. He came along the next morning and after a brief analysis, expressed his desire to create a conventional glass-fibre and resin cast. He saw no reason why the leg should not heal. Coco is young, strong and full of vital energy.coco-cast

Coco lay perfectly still during the casting, while Lynne sang to her and very soon after she was scooting around the barn. THAT had to stop! She has since been confined to a pen in the new Clearspan barn, where she is NOT very happy, but where she has the opportunity to heal and not slip on the ice again.

…and little Cocobean, he spends the night with his mother and is allowed to run off and play during the daytime. Between them, they’ve worked out a little routine for daytime feeding through the railings and confinement is only for a few weeks. Healing of bones can be greatly supported through the homoeopathic application of SYMPHYTUM. This is one of the rare instances where I can happily provide the name of a prescribed remedy. SYMPHYTUM OFFICINALE, commonly known as Comfrey and traditionally called Knitbone, has been used since time unmeasured for accelerating the healing of injured bone and cartilage. Even brewing a pot of comfrey tea and adding it to drinking water can be helpful, as well as applying it externally.coco-leg-cast

The first vet who recommended euthanasia is now interested in following Coco’s progress, in the hope that he can offer better service to llamas in the future. Most people tend to work within the confines of their knowledge and skill-base. Remaining open to new possibilities is a muscle we all need to exercise if we are to be the best we can be and get off this tramline of madness we have assisted in creating in the world.

As for Coco, she appears to be progressing well, but we will definitely let you know when the cast comes off.

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A Cure for Paralysis?

llama in a hoist, sling, harness

Helplessness & Miracles

Have you ever experienced that feeling of total helplessness in the presence of suffering? Whether the sufferer is a friend, a family member, a stranger or an animal, witnessing pain in another, without being able to alleviate it, can promote within us the whole gamut of emotions, including anger at powers unseen or motivation to find a solution. newborn llama blessingFeeling powerless to alleviate the suffering of others has driven countless people to study and train to become doctors, nurses, care-givers or therapists. Ironically, committing to a life of helping others places people right in the path of pain and suffering, and although training can provide us with tools formulated to help, all too frequently, we can be left with that same sense of helplessness, when those tools fail to work or are incapable of repairing the damage before us.

I too have travelled that road and felt my spirit soar when witnessing an animal rise within minutes of administering a carefully chosen homoeopathic remedy. So too, have I felt the pain of despair and helplessness, when no matter what I do, the being before me continues to writhe and cry out. That is the way of life we have created. There is no miracle cure that we know of, at this time. The search will continue however, until we have grown and matured enough to be permitted to handle such power.

A Stroke of Misfortune

Snowball’s situation appeared hopeless. She lay on her side, grunting in pain, her abdomen grossly distended, apparently paralyzed along her right side. She writhed and thrashed on occasion, but could not sit up. When assisted, she immediately fell on her side again. I tried several different homeopathic remedies, but to no avail.

llama in a hoist, sling, harness‘Snowy’ is the matriarch of the herd at the Llama Sanctuary. She’s been around almost since the beginning of time, but we thought she had more years in her yet. Over the previous two years, she had steadily lost body mass, as is common in the older animal. Over the last two months we have twice seen her walking as though one of her legs was numb. It was obviously not causing her pain; she just couldn’t understand why the foot didn’t go where she wanted it to go or support her weight like it always had. The effect would wear off quickly and she would be back running with the rest of the girls.

Another unusual symptom, which although seen, we did not investigate, was the longer than normal time it took her to urinate.

And then one day she returned from a walk restless and staggering. She fell over, we stood her up. She fell again ….and did not rise.

After many hours of investigating and trying different remedies and techniques, the vet was on his way to put an end to her sorry state.

I’m Not Dead Yet!

Suddenly, she sat up with a look of shock and bewilderment equal to that of her onlookers, as though she had just caught the tail of a fading life. In the calmness possessed of saints and animals, Snowball appealed for more time. Even the vet remarked that it was right out of a Monty Python sketch. ‘I’m not dead yet!’ She rallied and she rallied hard. Over the next week, we rolled her, massaged and exercised her legs and hoisted her onto three extremely weak legs and one dead one. Her front right leg was paralyzed completely and hung flaccid and useless. Repeatedly, we righted the limp foot and encouraged her to place weight upon it. At times she seemed depressed, feeling that she would never be able to stand again, but strapped into a specially made harness and unceremoniously raised with block and tackle, she re-membered herself. She gradually learned to hold her weight, to walk a few steps to food, to evacuate while standing and to Cush, rather than crash.

homeopathjy for llamasCareful observation revealed a few other interesting symptoms: the light hurt her eyes, she had very little thirst, even though she had been severely dehydrated and she also experienced some difficulty in swallowing. These small details led to the administration of another remedy, following which, Snowy was seen scooting around the barnyard and corral of her own volition. Furthermore, she was regaining use of the paralyzed leg. Just one infinitesimally small dose of a highly toxic plant was all it took.

Fast forward another week and you would barely know that she had any problem with that leg; the occasional stumble if she turns too sharply, but overall, her strength and vitality have been restored to such a degree, that yesterday she was allowed to roam with the main herd. Steep hills through the forest were only of concern to us humans; anxious parents watching a child learning to walk ‘freestyle’.   If she noticed the hills, she didn’t let on.

Cause & Cure

The most probable cause of the paralysis was a stroke. ‘Different strokes for different folks,’ as the saying goes, takes on a new meaning in the veterinary world. Each animal species seems to express symptoms of stroke in a different way. With dogs, the hind quarters frequently becomes paralyzed. Don’t give up though, they have been known to recover! Snowy is one of several llamas we have seen with symptoms of stroke leading to paralysis in the front leg.  One thing we have learned so far, is that p   rompt action is essential.

the llama sanctuaryThat beautiful song ‘Don’t give up on me baby’ is on continuous play in my head when I see her strutting around in the paddocks or cantering along the forest trails. Even our extreme optimism gave up on her, since she was in such pain. The vet saw no living future for her either. But there is a force at work, mightier than all of us and to that force we must turn for guidance and to the sterling work and dedication of the pioneers of homoeopathy, who experimented upon themselves and other willing and healthy volunteers, often with drugs of the most dangerous kind. They then fathomed a way of diluting those drugs so that no toxic reaction could occur, even if one swallowed an entire flask of those pills. We now have the opportunity to add to that vast and accumulating wealth of knowledge about homoeopathy, with specific studies in Camelids; to my knowledge it has not yet been done.

If you would like to support the Llama Sanctuary, we would love to hear from you; ideas, stories, donations or just a smile, we would love to hear from you!

The Miracle of Birth

llama mother and baby, suri llama

You don’t need to be a mother to be in awe of the miracle of birth; a process so complex that it is amazing that it unfolds perfectly almost every single time.

llama mother and baby, suri llama

From the countless llama births that we have been privileged to witness at the Llama Sanctuary, only on the rarest occasion has any form of intervention been required and even then it may not have been entirely necessary.  The front feet are the first parts of the baby to make an appearance, followed by the head.  In fact, several times, we have entered the paddocks to find a female walking around with two sticks protruding from her rear.  The waters have broken and the wriggling legs emerge, almost to their full length it seems, accompanied by a soggy head gasping and looking out at the new world.

llama cria newborn

Recently, one six year old who is boarding at the Sanctuary, was giving birth and it appeared to be taking a longer time than usual.  Coco’s contractions were not very strong and things were not progressing as they normally should.  When the feet emerged, they were folded under, restrained by the amniotic sac, which appeared not to have ruptured.  Shortly thereafter, the head emerged, also completely encased in the membrane.  After a brief pause, when it became apparent that the baby was not moving, we stepped in and tore the membrane from around the head and feet, allowing them to extend.  Instantly the little creature started breathing and gasping, but what was more disturbing was the great bulge that appeared behind the head.  The placenta was caught up somehow and was being expelled with the baby, who was coated in bloody slime.

It required another fifteen minutes of restlessness from the mother; alternately standing up and walking around and cushing, before the cria’s shoulders emerged and the placenta slipped back in.

At this point the mother usually stands up to encourage the birth with the use of gravity.  The cria slowly slides out with head hanging down, allowing the umbilical cord to tear away naturally and cria’s lungs to drain.  Pure magic! And this magic occurred too with Coco, although we carefully held the baby to prevent any sudden movements from damaging the mother, having no idea what was happening inside the womb..

torn placenta, llama placenta, llama birthThe placenta had obviously been torn, which can lead to serious infection, if any shreds remain inside.  However, we employed the wonders of homeopathy to assist in the expulsion and the mother experienced no post-partum problems whatsoever.  Another miracle; another beautiful Suri cria brought into the world; another expression of the magic of the Great Universe.

Llamas in the Raw Sanctuary is funded from our own pockets, from sales made on our sister website Fibre Arts Bootcamp and from generous donations from caring people, who like us, appreciate that all creatures are our brothers and sisters.

We thank you for smiling upon this page and spreading the word about us to everyone you know.

 

 

Llama Vertigo

newborn llama

Llamas are amazingly resilient creatures and that resilience extends to the entire process of birthing.  Once in a while though, we are challenged with an abnormality or health problem with the mother or the cria and this week we encountered a really unusual situation.newborn llama

This is a sanctuary for rescued animals and we don’t make a habit of breeding the resident llamas and alpacas; some of the rescues are pregnant when they arrive, so we have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the innocence and frolics of the neonates.  Tootoosis however, has exhibited a really bad temper for several years and it was decided to allow her to mate, in the hope that the hormonal jolt of pregnancy and birthing would restore some order in her otherwise fractious nature.

On Tuesday she gave birth to a bonny 27 pounder, full of squirm and vitality.  She was up on her feet within fifteen minutes and suckling within the hour.  A few hours later though, as she was following the herd down the hill and into the forest to reach water, she suddenly stopped and bent her head to the ground.  After a few seconds she lifted her head, staggered a little and seemed confused.  However, she carried on walking with the herd, but after only a few paces stooped again and hung her head.   She displayed sudden bursts of weakness and a desire to lay flat on the ground.cria, llama, vertigo, homeopathy

Being carried back to the barn was not what she wanted, writhing and thrashing with amazing strength.  Even then, she had to stop all movement every once in a while and hang her head.  Once in the sickbay, we could observe her closely and finally decided that she was experiencing vertigo.  Digging deep into the heavy tomes of the homoeopathic manuals we came up with a few options.  With six hundred and eighteen remedies listed under the category for ‘vertigo’, we had to be much more specific in the details of onset and associated symptoms.  ‘Onset of vertigo when descending’ was quite specific and so too was her confusion and sudden weakness.  She had to cush frequently and made no attempt to suckle.  Homeopathy is all about observation; about uncovering the uniqueness of each case; it is a truly holistic healing system.

The first two remedies we tried had little or no effect.  With newborns, we don’t wait very long for a response.  If we don’t see a positive response within a few hours, then we move on and try something else.  The third remedy was almost instantaneous in effect.  She walked further without having to hang her head and she appeared to want to suckle.  After two doses of the remedy a couple of hours apart and a third dose at first light, she was able to follow the herd up and down the hills and through the forest without stopping.  She was feeding regularly and developing that delightfully inquisitive nature that make young animals so endearing.  If only we could all retain that degree of innocence and trust!cria suckling, llama rescue

We may not understand the ‘why’, just like we cannot understand the why of our own ailments, but being able to restore health without using powerful and damaging drugs is what we should all strive to achieve.  Every dose of antibiotics that is administered results in decreased resistance to infection.  Large doses of drugs have serious implications in the very young, who do not have the physiological barriers that prevent certain elements from reaching the brain.  First Do No Harm, may be the Hippocratic oath taken by doctors and other medical practitioners, but it should also apply to each and every one of us, who take it upon ourselves to work with animals.

 

Fluffy Llama Ears

classic llama smooth ears

Fluffy llama ears might look really cute, but they do serve a purpose.

Classic llamas tend not to have woolly ears; instead the ear opening is completely unobstructed, enabling them to detect faint sounds and pinpoint locations.  This is one reason they make such excellent guardians for goats, sheep, alpacas, calves, foals or any other creature that tends to fall prey to our wild canine predators.

classic llama smooth ears

The downside to having unobstructed ear canals is that they are open to all the elements.  Being foragers, they tend to push their heads into bushes, tall grass and foliage.  Insects, seeds, and other bits and pieces of vegetable matter fall into the ear opening.  Hay and even rain can be funneled into the ear, creating blockages, irritation and even infection.  Head-shaking is the most common sign of something irritating the ear canal and clearing the ears manually is really difficult and quite dangerous.  We have learned that it’s best to leave them alone, unless it’s really serious and we usually find that within a day or two the llama has managed to dislodge the offending piece of hay.  Flushing the ear with warm salty water is possible, but unless you can be sure of draining all of the fluid, then it’s best not to attempt this without veterinary assistance.

In the summer time, those ears take on a new role as fly swats.  In Peru, many llamas have their ears pierced and wear decorative tassels that increase the swatting range to include the eyes, which are prone to fly irritation.  The tassels also help to prevent insects from entering the ear.

Argentines and other fiber llamas have naturally hairy ears and as a consequence, they are much less prone to ear problems.  We have noticed however, that they are not quite as alert as the Classics, when it comes to predators.

argentine llama hairy ears

….and there’s the likes poor Ping, who lost her ears to frostbite and she suffers terribly with ear irritation.  I think we might have her ears pierced this year!

ping llama frost bitten ears

There’s more to an llama’s ear than meets the eye!

Llamas in the Raw Sanctuary is dedicated to caring for llamas who have been abandoned, neglected or otherwise found themselves homeless.  Please visit our Fiber Arts Store Online.  All proceeds from sales are donated to the Llama Sanctuary.

Winter Sunshine

llamas in the winter sun, llama rescue

Just one day of February sunshine can wash away many days of tribulations ….if you let it!

There is always so much to do around the Llama Sanctuary, especially in winter with all the extra feeding, watering, mucking out and shoveling endless mountains of snow and it’s so easy to become impartial to the beauty and pleasantries that surround us all the time.sunbathing llamas Yesterday was magnificent.  Warm and sunny with brilliant blue skies and wispy clouds dodging around the mountain tops.  I thought this would be a great opportunity to wander around the barns and corrals with the camera, but the llamas didn’t want to play and they weren’t shoving and spitting at each other for the best place at the hay feeders; they were soaking up the sun.llamas in the winter sun, llama rescue

What a wonderful reminder that life is a ledger; it requires the books to be balanced.  It’s too easy to be engrossed in work to such an extent that life skips past, making it feel like a never-ending boxing match.  Spending that time just sitting with the animals as they enjoyed the splendour of sunshine and warmth, after so many weeks of cold and wet, was like having a full charge in our batteries.  Invigorated and rejuvenated, we know we can hold up through anything.

………………Just as well really, it’s snowing again today!

 

A Fond Farewell

llama grief

It’s very difficult not to become emotionally attached to the animals in our care and losing an animal at the Llama Sanctuary, is like losing a dear friend.  Some of the llamas and alpacas were once snatched from the clutches of the abattoir, the vet’s needle or the farmers gun and immediately a bond was created to serve and protect that life as we would serve and protect our own family.  I am sure this is the case with everyone who has rescued an animal of one kind or another and in doing so gained the best of friends.rambo bids farewell, death of a llama

When one of the llamas becomes ill, we do whatever is within our power to assist that animal in restoring health, but old age sneaks up on us all and even with the best of intentions and greatest care, the angels come calling.  Even though we knew Rambo was going to leave us, it still hurt, but what we tend to forget is that some of the other animals also experience that pain of loss.

Ping is the Herd Mourner.  She lost her mother to a brutal attack when she was very young.  She lost her own baby to an accident last year and she grieves sorely!  It took weeks for her to recover from the loss of her baby.  She would wander off on her own and sit and stare at the trees for hours, as though waiting for Kazuko to reappear.llama grief

Over the weekend, when she saw Rambo’s lifeless form being moved out, she descended once more into her pit of depression.  Bach Flower Remedies and a few doses of homeopathic Gelsemium seemed to restore her spirits, but as night time approached, she sought once more, the darkest recesses of the hay byre to pray or contemplate or whatever she does.  The look of misery on her face is pitiable indeed.  She doesn’t even move when touched stroked or hugged ….and that IS unusual.

Perhaps we haven’t yet struck upon the right flower or homeopathic remedy for her, but we will keep trying for her sake and for ours.  Please  remember that your animals have feelings too.

Narrow Back Roads

llama gangs, llamas inthe snow

 

These narrow back roads really make life difficult in deep snow.  Being held to ransom by gangs of marauding llamas is not uncommon in this neck of the woods.  Thankfully, the llamas are not so fast off the shoveled path, so in emergencies we can dodge around them!llama gangs, llamas inthe snow Now that the weather is warming up, they are not getting the full winter rations and some of them are peeved.  The simplest solution though, is to lay a halter and lead in the top of any bucket.  One look in the bucket and they keep their distance, if they know what’s good for them!llama halter

Snowflakes That Stay on my Nose & Eyelashes

fiber llama, snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes

Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes

…these are a few of my favourite things.

One of the most memorable songs ever written and I’m sure it was written about llamas!fiber llama, snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes

The llama’s coat is extraordinarily effective at insulating, which is clearly demonstrated by the length of time that snow will remain on a llamas back without melting.

It is interesting that alpacas have a slightly different type of coat to the llama.  Generally speaking, an alpaca coat does not have the coarse guard hair found on Classic llamas, instead it repels water through density, rather than the umbrella of the long shielding fibers over a soft down.

Putting your hand on an alpaca is like pushing your hand into a giant sponge, but doing so allows the snow and rain to penetrate the coat to the skin.  Maybe that’s why alpacas get very ‘spitty’ when another alpaca comes anywhere near them! ….hmmmm….llamas too

alpaca fiber, alpaca wool

The Classic llama has very long coarse fiber that shields the soft under-down from rain, snow and sun.  Thus, they can often stay in the sun without overheating.  Fiber llamas do not have this coarse guard hair and frequently  require more protection from the elements, with shade in the summer and coats in the winter.

Keeping Warm

llama coat

Llamas have extremely thick woolly coats.  In fact, when shearing, you realize just how thin they really are!  Rambo is chronically ill and has lost most of of his body fat, making him susceptible to the cold.  Even with his naturally thick coat, without extra blankets he probably would not survive temperatures below minus twenty Celsius, which is what we are experiencing right now.llama coatWearing a double layer fleece blanket, followed by a llama coat, with another extra long, double layer fleece blanket over the top that folds around him when he is cushed, he appears to be quite comfortable.  Sometimes though, he also needs a llama-sized hot water bottle (5 gallon water butt) to stay warm.

fiber llama before shearing, baby llama

Before Shearing

fiber llama after shearing

After Shearing

Rambo had to be hauled up the hill to a heated workshop this morning, since the air was so cold, he was struggling to breathe.   Yet another reason we need to have purpose-built facilities to care for the animals in the Sanctuary.    Llamas in the Raw will find new premises this year, come hell or high water!

If you would like to help, donations are welcomed with a smothering of llama kisses!  You can always help by visiting our Fiber Arts Store at www.FABinBC.com .  All proceeds go to the llama sanctuary.