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Abuse, Guardianship

This article was the 8th in a series of columns under the heading Observations from the Pasture in the GALA Newsletter. It was originally published in April 2001.

We are in the throes of yet another winter storm. Before it is done we are supposed to have copious amounts of snow, sleet, freezing rain and power outages. But, despite the weather, it is clear that spring is on its way. The days are getting longer and the sun is stronger. In turn, our males have been unusually frisky and there have been some challenges to the pecking order. With any luck, by the time you read this, we will have moved from winter to mud season.

The optimism that spring begets is a good counterbalance to the feelings engendered by news of more llama abuse. The most recent news I have seen is the beating of two young llamas in Florida by two individuals who “only meant to tease” the animals. One of the llamas died, the other will survive but has lost an eye.

Snow, snow, snowThis incident, together with the articles in the last GALA Newsletter, has given me much to think about while I spend time in our pastures with our llamas. Yesterday there was a short article in the newspaper reporting that in West Hollywood, California, the city municipal code has been modified to remove all references to “pet owner” and to replace them with “pet guardian”. Boulder, Colorado, made a similar switch last July. The objective is to have the human in the relationship assume a greater sense of responsibility for the care of the non-human. While I like the concept of “guardian” better than “owner”, it still does not reflect totally how I feel about my relationship with the llamas on our farm. I view our relationship to be symbiotic with my life and the lives of the llamas both being better off because the relationship exists. Knowing myself, I will be spending a lot more time pondering the implications of this relationship and, perhaps, I will never achieve a total resolution of the matter. For the balance of this article I am returning to the concept of guardian.

When I consider the harm that others are doing to llamas I must also look at myself to see what I am doing to avoid harm being done to our llamas. In particular, what am I doing or what should I be doing to prevent accidents involving our llamas. Accidents will happen, some of which, in retrospect were avoidable. All we can do is to learn, take appropriate remedial action and move on.

Amongst the things we try to be on guard against are:

You probably have your own list. The above list was compiled from observing potentially dangerous conditions developing and from several events that did not, but could have, resulted in harm to our llamas.

On the positive side we have found that when a llama is in trouble, it will cooperatively look to you for help. One of the more amusing incidences on our farm occurred when one of our llamas had an encounter with a porcupine. We suspect he saw it wandering across the pasture and ‘nosed it along’. I was on an important conference call at the time. The llama, Jeanne and I ended up standing in the driveway, I with a portable phone in one hand, the llama’s lead in the other while Jeanne removed the quills one-by-one as the llama patiently stood quite still.

In closing, I would like to go back for the moment to the concept of a symbiotic relationship between humans and llamas and why I am not entirely comfortable with the concept of guardianship. Guardianship seems to imply a one-way relationship and our relationship with our llamas is not one-way. In my times of need, my llamas have been there for me and seem to look out for me as much as I try to look out for them.