Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hobbit


I know I said I would talk more about this summer's Search and Rescue events but I am going to leave that for another day. Ironically part of the reason is that we have our annual SAR picnic this afternoon and I find myself in a bit of a hurry. I thought I would tell you a little bit about one of my favorite llamas instead.

Hobbit is one of the smartest llamas we own. Unfortunately that doesn't mean he stays out of trouble. Just the opposite, in fact. Intelligence, at least in llamas (and often in people I think) seems to go hand-in-hand with curiosity. And curiosity can often lead to trouble.


Hobbit came to us at the tender age of 6 months at which point we gave him his unusual name because of his decidedly unusual appearance. He was born on a ranch just south of here on a night when the temperature dipped to minus 15 degrees F. By the time his owners discovered him the next morning his ears had frozen solid. Over the next few days his frozen tissue proceeded to slough off until he was left with just stubs where his wonderful banana ears should have been. I am not sure if his brutal beginning also did something to his eyes but they just don't seem to be set properly into his face - one always seems to be pointed the wrong direction although he has shown no signs of difficulty with either his sight or his hearing. Because the ranch where he was born was in the business of raising show llamas, Hobbit did not fit into their plan at all. Until we brought him home he had been living his life inside a paved dog run with a very limited area in which to roam.


The first night we had him on our place we put him in a small (20 acre) pasture with two very gentle older llamas. By the next morning we had our first clue of what life with Hobbit would be like. As he came running up to us we noticed something did not look quite right. Closer examination showed dozens of porcupine quills sticking out of his face and up his nose. We live in the desert. In the 15 years we have been here I have never seen a porcupine or any sign of one within ten miles of here. It didn't matter. Hobbit found one. He was smart enough to let us remove the quills and life went on. Fast forward six years. We have lots of Hobbit stories, all of which have happy endings, thank heavens. He has turned out to be one of our best pack llamas because once he learns something he doesn't ever forget it. But last night he proved once again that maturity does not mean lessened curiosity. As I went out to feed the animals this morning I noticed a distinct odor of skunk as soon as I opened the door of the house. A glance down at the pen where all the males were taking pains to stay as far away from Hobbit as possible confirmed the source, as if I had any doubt. Like the porcupines I have never seen a skunk in this arid environment. Doesn't matter. Hobbit found one. Lucky for us he learns quickly and I doubt he will approach another one anytime soon.


I also thought I would post this photo of Capola I took this morning. The cottontails around our place are relatively tame and put up with Ken and I getting pretty close. They are totally comfortable with the llamas and will often share a bowl of food in the morning. This one was walking unconcernedly down the trail in front of Capola who was following him as if the bunny was leading him to some special place.

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