Monday morning I found an email in my inbox from a woman in northern Minnesota. She’d found us through the internet. Her brother had been arrested and was expected to spend time in prison. She’d just learned that no one was taking care of the 12 llamas and 14 sheep he left behind.
And now that we knew about it, it became our problem too. The sister needed help finding homes for the animals. Melissa made a dozen phone calls on Monday, and found someone willing to take the sheep. Tuesday I posted the situation on my facebook page, and found a llama rescue operation willing to take them.
The sheep and llamas that had the run of the place could eat snow, but the three stud muffins locked in the barn had nothing. (I learned today that llama stud muffins are called stallions.) We could find no source of water.
It’s been a stressful week. Melissa brought the inside llamas snow. Twice she brought a few buckets of water from home, but of course the water freezes before the animals drink it all. We don’t have portable hay bales (ours weigh 900 pounds) so Melissa flaked off some of the hay and drove it to the abandoned animals.
The sister gave us permission to disburse the animals, but we also got written permission from a friend of the landowner, the one who’d owned the animals initially. (Anyone confused yet? We were!)
We lost sleep as we worried about the animals. Their coats were incredibly matted. The sheep hadn’t been shorn in a LONG time. Would the rescues actually happen? How would we get the animals out of the barn?
Through ChipIn donations, the non-profit llama rescue operation, located 7 hours away, raised enough money to pay for gas, motel, and some of the other expenses associated with a rescue operation (vet care, gelding the 3 stallions, etc.)
So what follows are the two rescues themselves. Not to give the ending away….but everything worked!
Drew backed his goose-necked trailer down the hill and around the hairpin turn.
They drove all the animals into the barn, then separated the sheep from the llamas (except one. The owner requested that a certain sheep stay with its llama buddy.) Here are Drew and Bunnie setting up panels from the barn to the back of the trailer.
Then with lots of whooping, they drove the sheep straight out the barn and into the trailer.
So far so good. But getting up the hill proved a challenge, even with 4-wheel drive and Drew at the wheel.
Enter Melissa’s tractor. We drove home, fired it up, then I followed her in the pickup, emergency flashers on, as we drove 1/2 mile on the shoulder of the highway.
Melissa and her tractor pulled the truck and trailer up the hill.
Sheep leaving for their new home:
Meanwhile, the WhipStaff Ranch and Rescue people drove 7 hours, reaching Zumbrota well after dark.
Sunday morning we drove to the motel, and led them to the llamas. Jeremy’s trailer and truck weren’t going to make that hill, so he backed it to the edge of the hill. We set up panels running from the barn, creating a walk-way for the llamas.
First step was bringing the stallions out. These guys hadn’t been handled. In fact, it’d been so long since they’d been outside that it was very scary for them even to step across the barn threshhold.
By pressing the first stallion up against the wall with a panel, Carrie was able to put a halter and rope on him. Then they waited awhile to let the llama relax a bit and realize he wasn’t going to be hurt. We’re so relieved Carrie and Jeremy know llamas so well. They’re llama whisperers!
Then Jeremy and Carrie “led” the llama out, pulling pulling pulling him up the hill. Melissa brought up the rear…literally.
She took her ‘rear end’ job very seriously, not stopping until the llama was all the way into the trailer! That’s my girl—she commits 110%, no matter what she does.
They did this with the two other stallions as well. The three stallions were tied inside the trailer, otherwise they might slash and bite the other llamas.
Then they herded the rest of the llamas up the hill in two batches. All went well with the first batch. They used a panel to herd the llamas into the trailer.
The second batch was less cooperative, and stood with their butts to the trailer. We were all there pushing, and suddenly one llama went skyward. Hey! Where’d this giraffe come from? How’d he get so tall? Quick-thinking Jeremy held firm with the panel, even though llama hooves whistled past his head. Finally, all were inside.
Here’s the happy llama crew: Jeremy, Melissa, Carrie, and young friend.
Here’s Melissa saying adios to the llamas.
Jeremy’s truck had trouble pulling the trailer up the hill, so I backed up our truck, and Melissa pulled him forward.
And off the llamas go.
We feel really good about helping, but we are so relieved it’s over. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the llama rescue through ChipIn. The WhipStaff people will make sure the animals are healthy, then place them in new homes (at least 8 have been spoken for.) Drew will shear the sheep to see what’s going on—are they skinny and need extra food? Are they pregnant and about to give birth? The fun never ends…
Once it was all over, Melissa relaxed by going outside and cleaning her shed—a favorite activity. I poured myself a gallon (I mean, glass) of wine, and started knitting a new sock.
And our lives will be quiet, until the next crisis.