Many years ago, when it was just Pisca, Karolina, and Noelle (plus Star but he was from a different location and was kind of on the outskirts of their clique), I set out to socialize these beautiful creatures. They’d been living at an alpaca farm with many others and when the owner was no longer able to afford them, all of them needed new homes. These three came to Winslow to live out their days in peace.
They were very people-shy and uninterested in human touch. One of the ways that I try helping at Winslow is to socialize animals who’ve given up on people. I worked very hard with Athena, the sheep who lived on a median strip on 495, and by the end, I was able to lie down with her. I continue to work with Justice, a once-feral goat, who now eats a treat from my mouth. And I’ve focused a lot of energy on these beauties.
Before Pisca passed of old age (r.i.p. little lady), she was pretty comfortable eating grain out of a bowl that I was holding. Karolina became comfortable enough to eat grain right out of my hand. And Noelle would grab a bite from the bowl now and again.
Once Fern and Charlotte, and then Leia and Sundae, arrived at Winslow, there were a lot more personalities floating around and trying to hand feed seven alpacas became less of a focus for me. Until last week.
I was going about my chores, getting ready to feed the donkeys who were loudly exclaiming that it was taking too long. Gabriele, the llama, was lurking around the barn during this, which was a little rare. He usually goes to his little house, perched in the alpaca enclosure, without much protest. As I grabbed the donkey food and was setting out to feed them, Gabrielle put his nose right into the bowl and started eating it. I feed him a couple of fortune cookies each week as a little bonding ritual so hand-feeding him was normal but he’d never just shoved his nose into a bowl while I was clearly on my way to do things.
The donkeys were like, “Hey! That’s ours!”
But Gabriele was like, “So? Mine now.” I gave in and let him munch, refilled the bowl, and went off with to the two cursing donkeys.
I came back and he was still there. It was clear that he wasn’t going to budge from his spot and I realized that it was because it was icy and he was not having any of it. Here I am on the other side trying to coax him to come over.
So, yes, I started bribing him.
I finally got him to trudge through the ice and continued feeding him from the bowl inside the enclosure. Good boys must be rewarded! This peaked Karolina’s interest and she started heading my way. Soon enough, she was eating out of the bowl while Gabriele was eating a handful out of my hand.
The rest of the alpacas watched curiously. “What is she doing?” they seemed to say. “She’s never done this before.” And they stood, stock-still, behind her contemplating this new arrangement. Noelle came forward to eat but Karolina kept squawking at her to back off. I kept encouraging Noelle to ignore her but her daughter won that round. She waited until Karolina was done and found all the leftovers on the ground.
Alpacas are wonderful, curious creatures. They have interesting quirks that I haven’t found in other animals. They blink differently, they argue with each other in amusing tones, and most fascinating to me, they scream at big dogs. I’d never heard anything like that the first time I heard it! I’ll see if I can dig up video.
Mostly, though, I’d like to get into a big snuggle pile with them. I’m not holding my breath that it’ll ever happen, but I’m definitely crossing my fingers!