Monday, 11 March 2013

An Alpaca is for Life ... Not Just Christmas

Both here, and on the Facebook page, I've made no secret of my love for alpacas.

And while I genuinely believe that many people would benefit from a couple of these whimsical, curious animals in their backyard, it is probably time for 'The Responsible Alpaca Ownership" post.

Yes, they are cute, friendly, low-maintenance creatures. And there are many situations in which they make a very good pet. But there are at least 5 good reasons why you need to think very, very carefully about whether you're ready for ownership:

1. Alpacas have a lifespan of around 20 years. If you thought it was difficult to arrange pet care for your dog over Christmas, just consider the likelihood of finding a kennel to take your aging Huacaya.

2. Alpacas are herd animals. Owning only one is not only going to cause you problems, but is also out-right cruel.

3. You may have heard that alpacas are great herd-guards, and you want to get one to keep the foxes from dining out in your chook pen. Just remember that like all animals (and people!), not all alpacas are the same. Slightly older, castrated males are generally recommended - but they do have different temperaments, so you can't necessarily assume that they would all be willing and able to defend Chicken Little. The Alpaca association has some very good advice on this topic, and there are also breeders that will offer guarantees, so keep this in mind if this is what you're after.

4. While they look cuddly, these are not animals that necessarily like to be touched.  If you want a pet for snuggles and cuddles, an Alpaca isn't going to be your best choice.

5. While rare, inappropriate handling and socialization of 'cute little babies' can lead to dangerous aggression as the animal becomes a hormonal teenager. There are increasing reports from the US of former petting zoo alpacas being put down due to developing  Beserk Male Syndrome (now known more commonly as Aberrant Behaviour Syndrome).  Let's not allow this to happen, ok?

All of this is not to say that you shouldn't get an alpaca. But with the increasing popularity of the animals, as well as the talk of all their positive traits, it's just important that we are also aware of our responsibilities.

And if you really want an animal to cuddle. there are many cats and dogs at your local shelter looking for their furever home.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Life in the country: When pets die

Just to prove that this blog is not only about alpacas, today I'm going to talk about spiders.

You see, this week we had our first pet funeral, for Bradley's beloved garden spider.

The poor boy was devastated. He had only just connected with the spider, when he found it curled up in a ball, totally unresponsive.

And so we named the spider Long Legs; laid his little body on a soft tissue in a matchbox, and buried him in the ground.

Bradley said some beautiful words about how much this little guy had come to mean to him over the course of the last 6 hours. And we said our goodbyes.

It was an emotional evening, but Bradley was terribly mature about it all, and agreed that while he was sad, he believed he had done the right thing.


Being an inquisitive child, of course it wasn't long at all before he was ready to dig up Long Legs for a look.

So he did.

And Long Legs MOVED!

As much as I would like to blame this turn of events on the Spider Zombie Apocolypse, it seems I was simply a little hasty in declaring a time of death. 

My bad.

Although to be fair, according to my very clever friend,  apparently spiders shed their outer bits, and when they do, they curl up in a little ball. Just like they are dead.

I probably should have known this. Living in the country, and all.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Meet Mike

While Bradley does share a middle name with his Opa, I had never been all that fussed about the idea of passing on a name through the generations.

However since my parents died, I must admit to appreciating the significance a little bit more.

Nevertheless, time wearies our ovaries, and being on the other side of 40 years old, I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I would probably never name a child after my ancestors.

Then it  happened.

But not in the way I thought it would.

Because yesterday, you see, the boys decided they wanted to name our newest Cria (baby Alpaca) after my Dad.

Now, lest you see this as irreverent or disrespectful, I should probably tell you a little bit about my Dad. 

He had a great sense of humour, and a natural sense of wonder that would have made him very interested in these funny little creatures who have entered our life.

Alpacas even remind me a bit of him. Spindly legs, curious eyes, and a cheeky demeanour that makes you laugh out loud, even whilst it is driving you crazy.

Of course, there are also many differences. My Dad never spat on my husband like our Alpacas have. 
(Although to be fair, My husband never held my Dad down to have him shorn, so it may not be a fair comparison.)

On reflection, I don't think Dad would mind at all. In fact, I think he would be quite chuffed to know that his memory lives on in this little guy.

And so without further ado, I introduce you to Mike.

I think you'll like him.

Monday, 11 February 2013

I wondered wether or not to mention this ...

Choosing a topic for a first blog post is hard.

You're setting the tone for what's to come.

You want to get it right.

And so you dwell on it.

Play around with ideas in your head to get a feel for them. Let them flow onto paper to see how they flow. Type them on the computer to see how they look.

But eventually you just need to bite the bullet and write about something.

And today that something is castration.

Alpaca castration, to be precise. Or 'wethering', as it's apparently known in the business.

You see, today we found Black Beauty (who's a bit of a stud) tring to mount Zeke (the horny teenager), while Zeke was mounting Milo (the new Mum), and Baby Treasure was running around trying to join in the fun.

stacks on Milo!

Clearly something has to give.

Sorry Zeke. But you're going to be joining the Laydee Paddock. Sans your bits.

And that, my dear readers, is just another day at Kootenay Gardens.