Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A conversation with my goat

There are two lawn chairs in the middle pasture currently. Since I had myself in one of them, Reggie decided he'd help himself to the other:

"Look at me, I'm in the chair":

"And just so we're clear, I wouldn't be in this chair if you had let me sit in your lap in your chair":

"But fine. I'll just curl up here...maybe close my eyes for a minute or two":

"Huh," I say to Reggie. "That chair doesn't seem to fit you as well as it did the last time we were down here":

"I dare say maybe it's even time to cut back on the hay a bit, Chubby Chubster..."

"Really, though," Reggie responded, "if I could just get this back to recline - just a smidge - I bet I could totally fit":

"Yeah, there you go, Reggie, way to use your head":

"Wait - I'm not sure that's such a good idea...you're on a bit of a hill, Reggie":


"Heh," I say to his retreating backside, "Bet that got your little heart racing. Maybe a nap down there in the soft grass would be better?":

I did not get a response.

Oh, and here's a short example of what Kai is having to put up with these days:

Monday, June 28, 2010

All about Kai (Part 2) -or- Kai and the donkeys...and me

Any time an animal is removed from a herd (flock, gaggle, pack, pod), the dynamics of the remaining herd always changes. Behaviors change, dominant roles shift, and new relationships form. I watched this happen when I ran a satellite adoption center for foster donkeys in 2008, I saw it when we added Beau to our family in January 2010, and I'm a first-hand witness to it again now.

Since our family here on Critter Farm was reduced by two a little over a week ago, our small herd's dynamic has changed in two immediately obvious ways:
1) There seems to be far less (llama) spitting going on and
2) There are no longer two distinct and separate groups roaming the pastures.

Less immediately visible is that the interesting social behaviors between Kai and Chester and Beau, the donkeys, that I first noticed a number of months ago, have increased.

Kai now completely trusts Beau, preferring to eat with him at mealtimes:

Beau is the steady, gentle soul who never refuses to share. Here he is sharing with not only Kai, but Chester, too:

It is, however, Kai and Chester's relationship that I find most fascinating:

They do this a lot:

I also frequently find them grazing together, much closer than two animals should who previously tried to avoid each other. There is a lot of room on our property - there's no necessity for them to stand quite so close:

I've seen Kai on more than one occasion seek Chester out:

Just to sniff him:

And he will freeze whatever he is doing, and let her sniff for as long as she likes:

That's not to say, however, that if the situation is reversed and Chester is the one doing the approaching:

that she won't let him know - in very clear terms - that he has crossed the line:

Kai's curiosity and interest seems to be growing daily. She is now second in line to check out any newcomers to their pasture:

She also seems to enjoy watching the donkey boys chase and wrestle with each other. The poor and blurry quality of the next photo is due to my great surprise at Kai joining in on one of Chet and Beau's "running games":

Personally, I have a hard time resisting these guys:

so, if it could work out that she loves them, too:

well, this would just be the icing on the cake.

As for her human interaction, Kai continues to come out of her shy shell. It has been baby steps with her from the very beginning:

Lately, she has begun seeking me out:

and engaging with me in ways she previously wouldn't have:

I was lying in the pasture the other day and she got up from where she was kushing and came to graze beside me. This made my heart swell:

She *really* doesn't care to be touched - by anybody or anything, and we're still working on the whole haltering-without-great-upset thing, but that's ok. We're taking things slowly.

Not a day goes by that she doesn't make me smile:

I hope she likes being here as much as we like having her:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

All about Kai (Part 1) -or- Kai and the goats

I received some questions from people in my last blog post asking how Kai llama is doing without Dolly and Toni.

Well, after a week of careful observation, I am happy to report that she is doing wonderfully. Even I have been amazed at the seemingly painless transition (knock on wood, throw salt over my shoulder, and jump three times on my right foot).

As I am with all my animals and the decisions concerning their care, I obsessed was concerned about Kai's transition to single-llama status here on Critter Farm. Since Dolly and Toni's departure, I have been watching Kai almost non-stop for signs of distress or unhappiness. I can detect none.

The lady who originally rescued Kai, Dolly and Toni mentioned to me last November that Kai had the characteristics of an excellent livestock guardian. I didn't really understand what those characteristics were at the time, but I certainly do now.

A few months after the three llama ladies' arrival here, Kai began to differentiate herself from the other two llamas. She was consistently more standoffish and independent than the other two, frequently distancing herself, even from her llama family, to "do her own thing". She was extremely alert to what was going on around the property, frequently running off to investigate a new noise or visitor:

And then there were the goats.

From the first time Kai met Pete and Reggie through a green farm gate, she loved to be close to them:

It delighted me the first time I watched her protectively follow them around the pasture:

To this day, if the goats stop for long enough, she'll just stand there and sniff them, inhaling deeply (they do smell really good):

What I never anticipated was how much her interest in the goats could help me, too. The 7-strand New Zealand electric fence that protects our property, and separates our three pastures, is meant for large animals. It provides zero protection or security for the smaller animals (goats) that can (and do) slip under and through it on a whim. With Pete and Reggie, this happens at the drop of a hat if they want to follow me or something else suddenly catches their attention. This means that, since I've had them, if the goats were to be in the pasture, I needed to be right there with them. Tethering is not a safe option and the expense of changing the fencing was too great. Enter Kai the llama.

With her in the pasture with them, they stay put. The best part is, I think they're pretty taken with her, too:

Today, Kai knows that when I walk down the hill with Pete and Reggie and open the gate to the middle pasture, this is her cue to come and protect "her" goats:

And this she does with seemingly little effort:

Pete and Reggie take it all in stride:

I'd like to believe that she is a happier llama because she knows she has an important job to do:

It's funny, but even with a post this long, I still feel like I've still only partially answered the question of how Kai is doing. There's a bit more to be said.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you how things are going between Kai and the donkey boys, Chester and Beau. And with me, too.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dolly and Toni leave Critter Farm

So, if you've been over to my friend, Marcee's blog lately, you will already know that she became the proud owner of two, beautiful llamas this weekend. You might recognize those llamas. Dolly llama and her daughter, Toni, who have been living on Critter Farm since last November, now call Marcee's new home their new home, too. Marcee has been fancyin' llamas for a really l-o-n-g time, so when her new "babies" set foot on her property for the first time on Saturday, I felt very lucky to be able to be there with her.

Last November, when I took in these sweet rescue llamas, the plan was that I would foster them over the winter and, come spring, find a forever home for them. In an incredible turn of events, during this time, Marcee's family managed to 1) find new employment, 2) find new employment in a city only 4 hours (instead of 34 hours) away from Critter Farm, 3) find and buy a house with property and a barn and 4) be totally moved in shortly after spring began. She never even hesitated when I asked her if she would like to have these girls come and live with her. In fact, I think she had had a similar idea mulling around in her head for quite some time. It seems pretty clear these llamas were meant to be with her.

So, here is the story from my side - told mostly in pictures - of what happened this weekend...

Observing the giant trailer in the barn driveway:

Helping to navigate from the back of the truck (with the Shasta daisies):

A new place in the sun:

Critter Farm pup, Roxy, and Darby made friends quickly:

Little G. was very excited to share a goldfish snack with (and sit right next to) Mr. Jim:

G. pleasantly surprised me with a glass of ice water, presented in a festive Zoey cup with a lid and straw:

A first taste of grape leaves:

Meeting her new goats:

Scrambled eggs:

Roxy made herself completely at home:

Trimming llama nails:

CD&T booster vaccine successfully administered:

Saying goodbye:

Those of you who follow my blog will notice that Kai llama did not go to Marcee's. She has stayed behind on Critter Farm to care for her goats, Pete and Reggie, who refuse to stay safely in their pasture without her watching over them. In the time she has been here, Kai has become a delightful - and protective - goat guardian: