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Go Hug a Llama

This article was the 12th in a series of columns under the heading Observations from the Pasture in the GALA Newsletter. It was originally published in December 2001.

It is the day before Thanksgiving as I write this and as I gaze out onto the pastures I am reminded of how thankful I am to have llamas. They have truly enriched my life and have helped smooth some of the rough patches we have encountered over the past year.

Abigail hugging ZapataIn the first week of October my faithful German Shepherd, Mozart, passed on at age 12 after a long and full life. One week later my mother died just two months prior to her 91st birthday. Three weeks later my father-in-law passed away at age 92. One of the more touching communications I received during this period was an e-mail recommending that I ‘go hug a llama’; my eyes still fill up when I think of it.

I look forward to the time I spend in our pastures. The pastures are an excellent venue for musing on life. In the past few weeks I have given significant ‘pasture’ time to thinking about life, death and our relationship with our llamas. Some of this thinking has been prompted by a Next of Kin/Live Animal Alert card that Lars Garrison was passing out at the GALA Conference 2001, Lamas En Mass. Unfortunately we had to leave the Conference early to tend to Jeanne's father and missed Lars’s session on the Geriatric Lama Owner.

Most of us try to avoid thinking of death and dying. As a consequence many of us do not make appropriate arrangements ahead of time to ensure that those who depend on us have their short term needs met in the event of our untimely death or incapacity. One of the individuals who passed on had organized matters such that all that was left for the survivors to do was to make several phone calls. The other individual had procrastinated and it will be many months before all that is required to be done will be accomplished. Many family members were scrambling in the final hours to assure the safety and well-being of the surviving spouse.

All this has caused me to ask myself the following questions:

I know of several GALA members who have created notebooks containing pictures and pertinent information on each of their llamas. We have created such a notebook but have not told anyone else of its existence, making it totally useless in an emergency if we are not present. Clearly we need to stop our procrastination and make suitable plans.

Both my mother and father-in-law were surprised (read ‘questioned our sanity’) when Jeanne and I acquired llamas. My mother adopted the positive view that we had given her something else to talk about (look what those crazy people have done now) with her friends and relations. Ultimately, while she would never have considered having llamas herself, she became quite accepting about this change in our lifestyle. I suspect that my father-in-law initially had a less positive view of our acquiring llamas. I was quite pleased when, during the last few days of his life, someone made a less than positive comment about our having llamas he retorted that “it was the best thing Jeanne had done in her life”. My fragile male ego would have preferred he had said “second best thing”, but one cannot have everything.

It's time to go hug a llama.