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The scale of things


A number of years ago we were lucky enough to travel to Australia and New Zealand.  I could go on and on about how lovely and different the two countries were.  New Zealand really is Middle Earth and Australia is as vast and changing as our own country.  I would go back to Australia and New Zealand in a heartbeat if given the chance.

One of the places we visited was a sheep station north of Adelaide.  Portee Station was first built in the 1800's and is now owned by Ian Clark.  It's 55,000 acres of open, mostly rough country where the sheep thrive.  It had been terribly over grazed when Ian bought it so he cut the number of Merino sheep in half and has rebuilt the station house to welcome guests.  We were there slightly off season so Ron and I were the only guests.  We helped sort sheep along with the sheep dogs and inoculate the lambs.  It was wonderful.

Ian had about 5,000 Merino sheep.  I told him about my animals, only Angora goats at the time.  He asked if they were livestock or pets.  I told him they live outside in pastures with shelters so they were livestock.  He asked if they had names.  Well, of course, they have names.  Then they are pets, he assured me.  I think he was right.

I went out to feed yesterday morning and found Prank dead in the pasture.  I'm heartbroken.  Prank was my only Suri alpaca and a beautiful dark fawn color.  He was the hysteric in the group.  For the entire two and a half years he has lived here, he always assumed the worst about me.  Every day I drive up to the pasture in my mule and feed.  Every day he ran around trying to convince the others that I was there to kill and eat them all.  Fortunately, the other alpacas and the llama all had figured out I was there to feed them and came running.  But not Prank.  He just knew I was up to no good.  That doesn't mean I didn't love him.  He was funny and skittish and beautiful.  Just not very trusting.

He may have decided early on that I was evil because he arrived at my place with an irritated eye.  It's not uncommon when these lovely animals are transported.  I took him to the vet's and was given some eye cream to put in his eye every day for at least 10 days.  So, every day for 12 days I corralled him in a small pen and grabbed him and put cream in his eye.  He recovered nicely from the physical problems but never really trusted me after that.

The scale of things really does make a difference.  When Ian looses a sheep, one out of his 5,000, he is sad for the loss of property.  He only makes a living by giving his sheep the best that he can, keeping them safe from predators and healthy.  For him, the numbers change and he moves on.  He may address why that sheep died, in order to keep the rest of them safe but it's not the heartbreak of loosing a friend.  When I loose an alpaca, one of my three, it's different.   There will be one less feed buckets clipped to the fence, one less lovely animals to watch gamble about in the pasture.  I have lost 1/3 of my alpacas, not one out of 5,000.

For now, I'm waiting on the vet's tests to see if we can figure out why Prank died.  He was fine one day and dead the next.  It wasn't a predator.  Could he have found a poisonous plant?  Don't know yet but we will continue to investigate.