The Great Escape

by | Jan 29, 2021

by | Jan 29, 2021

 It is winter. Every morning at feeding time, I have to fight off two llamas who do not need extra nutrition to get the buckets with soaked alfalfa pellets to the two that do. This involves a lot of trickery, quickly locking gates, hiding the bucket behind my back, etc. So this morning I locked in Diego, who is just obnoxious trying to get his nose into the bucket at all costs, into a stall in the barn so I can leave the bucket with Picasso, who for some mysterious reason is not eating hay and who I have been feeding extra nutrition for weeks. He is quite skinny. He is also very sensitive to stress, other llamas milling around, spitting and so forth. So keeping him calm is necessary for him to eat. So while Diego is locked in and Picasso is munching away, I am breaking big blocks of ice from the gate area so I can get in and out without having to squeeze through. I am making good progress with that, freeing the gate so it swings open a bit more. While I am working, Diego is trying hard to get out of the stall and to the bucket with goodies. I let go of the gate and rush over to prevent Diego from pushing the stall door open – and Picasso is out the gate!!

I am NOT getting any breaks here. Did I mention that Picasso moves like a deer? He is the most athletic llama of the bunch. What follows is an hour (or it seemed like an hour) of futile chasing on foot (lots of snow and ice around here at the moment!) and by car. Of course, Picasso ignores the bucket I rattle and is well aware of the halter and lead I carry. As plan B, I take the bucket and place it in the middle of a corral that I use in the summer for training at the bottom of the road, adjacent to the main fenced area. I have to lift the metal panel functioning as a gate out of 2 feet of caked snow in order to open it. Luckily it comes loose and can be moved enough to leave an opening for a llama to fit through – I hope. I leave it open and place the pink bucket in the corral. Then I run back to the car and continue chasing Picasso who runs full out in all directions along roads and fields, around neighbors’ houses, up my road, back down my road and so on. I am trying to wear him out. In the process I wear myself out, backing up the long suburban over and over again to chase after the fleeting llama-deer. At the same time I am telling myself that this is it, I will just leave him to hopefully come back eventually to be with the other llamas. But I give chase nevertheless. 

At a certain point, Picasso runs back up my driveway to the gate that’s below the one he escaped through earlier. I jump out of the car and cautiously approach. He avoids me, of course, and moves away. I open the gate a little trying to entice him – and little Pikuni, wild as ever, escapes in the blink of an eye. I can’t believe it!! Pikuni kicks up his heels in delight and races after Picasso who runs down the road again. They are headed for the corral, through deep snow. They see the opening and bucket and run in and Pikuni takes possession of the snacks. Picasso stands near him, uncertain what to do next. I race through the snow as fast as I can. I make it! I lift the metal panel and slam it closed. Gotcha! Picasso circles in the corral on top of 2 feet of packed snow, looking for a way out. I whip out the halter and go after him. Soon he is tied to the rail. I am not taking any chances. I return to the house and get a second bucket with feed, so both llamas are content for a while in the elevated corral while I free the inner gate from ice and snow. Eventually, these two are reunited with the herd and I close off the corral.

I am beat but glad I know a little about llama psychology. Nevertheless, it amazes me how both running llamas saw that opening and the pink bucket in the middle of the corral. I drag myself back up to the barn and soon hear Diego’s loud complaints. He is still locked in the stall and emerges with a snort of disapproval as he is finally let out.

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