There are times when thoughts creep into my mind and simply will not go away. They totally nag at me to take action and continue to spur me onward until I act on the instinct, regardless of how foolish I might feel afterward.
Late one night, one such wild thought hit me. We normally feed all of the alpacas, make sure everyone is okay then lock the barn doors well before darkness falls onto the pastures. We lived in Colorado where mountain lions and bears were known to attack alpacas so the idea of locking everyone in the barn before dark is an old habit of ours. Once the doors are locked I know everyone is safe and I can sleep without worry. But that night, something was nagging me to get up out of bed, get dressed and go out to the barns to check on everyone. Arlin is wonderful and so patient to indulge me when my instincts are screaming to take action.
We got dressed and grabbed our flashlights for the short walk to the big barn that houses all of the female alpacas. As we unlocked the door and swung it open, we noticed all the alpacas were standing up and that really is unusual. Late at night, they are usually all laying down and trying to get some rest. As we walked down the walkway to examine the herd, sure enough there was a newborn baby on the ground. We opened up the cabinet where we store towels for newborns and walked into the gated area to check on the baby. It became immediately apparent that the baby was incredibly small and had been born prematurely. It needed immediate attention if it was to survive. We wrapped it in several towels and ran to the house with it as quickly as we could.
The newborn baby was a beautiful rose grey female but almost lifeless. A quick check of the body temperature indicated it was time to fill a sink with warm water in an effort to raise her temperature then get some warm calories into her quickly. It took some time but we finally got her warmed up and dry with the help of a hair dryer. Her teeth were not erupted yet and her tiny little ears were folded inward pretty badly…. All indications of a premature birth. Then we weighed her and our hearts sank. She weighed slightly less than five pounds. Good grief! She weighed less than a 5-pound package of flour or sugar! Normal birth weights at our farm are 16 to 18 pounds so we knew in advance her low birth weight and being so premature did not leave us much hope.
Once we got her body temperature up to normal, we went back to the barn to check on her mom. Nobody was due but we identified the mom and it became obvious very quickly why the baby’s weight was so low. There was another identical baby in the barn! Twins!
Unfortunately, the twin female’s birthweight was even less than the first. We warmed her in a sink of warm water and was able to get warm milk into her successfully but her tiny little lungs were not developed well enough. We lost her at 48 hours and I can honestly say it was a blessing as she was struggling needlessly despite our best efforts to save her.
The surviving twin was named Nicole but she very quickly became “Nikki.” She was so small and tiny that she lived in a fleece display box in our family room for two months, too small and far too delicate to live in the barn during the cold winter. Her little ears straightened out within a couple of weeks and she romped around in her little fleece box like it was a huge playground for her. She was fed every few hours around the clock and had fresh, warm towels to sleep on to maintain her body temperature. She loved to watch animated cartoons on the big screen television and became totally spoiled from all the attention. She gained weight but it was slow. Where we like to see a gain of one half pound each day in a full term baby, we rejoiced with a few ounces gained each day with Nikki. Every ounce she gained was precious and proved she was thriving despite her tiny size. The really difficult thing for her was rejection. Her maiden mom wanted nothing to do with her despite many introductions and reintroductions. Even when Nikki was old enough to move back to the barn to be a herd member, the alpacas rejected her due to her tiny size and having no mom to nurture her and watch over her. She looked like a tiny little grey puppy the first six months of her life! I’m sure the alpacas were afraid of there being a puppy in the pasture! I felt so sorry for her! It was heartbreaking to witness the rejection.
I spent a ton of time with Nikki, teaching her how to eat grass and how to maneuver around the barn hay troughs. Needless to say, she did not want to be an alpaca by any stretch of the imagination. She did not want to stay in the barn even though she had to do so in order to transition from a cute little puppy to an adult alpaca.
However, after months of challenge on Nikki’s behalf Mother Nature finally kicked in and took over. Nikki has become a gorgeous adult alpaca with heart-stopping fleece and an attitude that keeps everyone entertained. She is still small but fits in well and holds her own with the herd that finally accepted her. She will always and forever be “my littlest love.”