This will be of more interest to some than others, but I'm here to report that Sparky the Ambiguously Gay Alpaca is now Spartacus the Macho Male Horndog. Dar heard him orgling* the females a few days ago. That was strange enough, but yesterday the Testosterone Fairy stopped by and whopped him in the (truly impressive) testicles. Or something. He was suddenly Threat #1 as far as our herd sire Hannibal was concerned - and with good reason. Spark was going bonkers trying to get through the fence so he could get at the open female. (Who I'm guessing is Cinnamon Girl.) Hannibal was still in with the girls at that point. He was on one side of the fence; Sparky and his little shadow (Neo) were on the other side and the spit was flying fast and furious. Then Hannibal tried to climb the fence to get at Sparky. Then Sparky tried checking out how he could crawl under the fence to get in with the girls. I managed to get Hannibal back into his own paddock, and then I started trying to batten down the portions of the wire fencing that were loose enough for Sparky to try to crawl under. I'm not sure he would have made it all the way through, but it would have been a hell of a mess if he got stuck and I had to try to free him by myself.

Everyone mostly settled down once I separated Hannibal out. I think it was the fact that there was an adult male in with the girls that was causing all of the problems. BTW, our other horndog, Valentino, was blissfully ignoring all of the testosteronics, which is very strange in and of itself. I don't get those boys sometimes.

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*Orgling is the sound a male alpaca makes when he wants to mate or is in the process of mating. It's a pretty unique sound if difficult to describe. Think of it as sounding like an animal humming while he gargles. Loudly.
I had a number of people ask me what I meant when I said that the alpacas were uncooperative in walking out to the garage to get sheared. I figured a few pictures would tell the tale better than I could. This is Spartacus, but it was the same routine with about six of the alpacas.

Adventures with Sparky )
Today was not the weather that we had been forecast. The sun did come out in the afternoon, but it was (is) brutally cold because of below freezing temps and a bone-chilling high wind from the north. The alpacas didn't seem to mind it as much as we did; they spent the entire day outside. We made a few trips out there to check on Satine just on the off chance that she was going to give birth to a popsicle. Wisely, she decided to wait for another day, but things are progressing. Slowly. But . . . progressing.

We're all feeling that spring will never arrive. There's little but below freezing temperatures and snow in the long-range forecast. Wait - we have two days of temps around 40 coming up, but they'll bring snow and rain. Not exactly a springtime extravaganza.

Anyway. It wasn't a total downer. It's always fun to hang with the alpacas, and because the weather was so brisk, the boy alpacas got frisky.

Boys at play. )
Kitten first. )

So Sparky is all bouncy and running around like a good little cria. I was watching him from the kitchen window, and I was telling Dar how crazy active he was - running up and down the width of the back paddock, looking for someone to chase him. I was wondering where Valentino was, because usually Val is right there with him, running and bouncing. I didn't think anymore of it, and I went about my business.

A few hours later, I notice he's still running with no one playing with him. Hmmmmm. I wonder if Val is OK. Dar and I go out to the barn to do the evening feeding. I'm up on the ladder pulling down a hay bale when Dar comes rushing in. "I need you. We've got trouble." My heart dropped. Fortunately it wasn't anything life threatening, but it was Sparky still running back and forth . . . in Iceman's paddock! How the hell did he get back there? And he'd been there for hours, which meant not only was he scared and frantic, but he also hadn't been nursing, which isn't good given his low immunity. So off we hustle to get him back to his rightful place. It took a little doing to catch him but not much. He's starting to trust me, so I let him come to me, and he did after a few minutes; I scooped him up and walked him back to his mom. About two seconds after his feet touched the ground he was latched onto her, nursing like there was no tomorrow. Poor baby. We felt awful that we didn't see that he wasn't in his own paddock. And it's another lesson learned: if something seems off - even if it doesn't seem like it's harmful - go check it out to be sure.

After checking the fence line between the two paddocks, we could see that he hadn't crawled under or climbed over. All we can figure is that he crawled through the spacing in the wires. The adults often put their heads and necks through to graze on the grass outside of the actual paddocks. He was probably trying to mimic what they were doing, except he's so thin and gangly he managed to get his whole body through. We're betting that he never tries that again. He spent the rest of the night practically glued to Conchita's side. I swear, he's going to give her a heart attack, the poor mom. And we won't be far behind.
So far, so good. Dar went out to check on him before dawn, and he was doing well. He had a good day today - well, outside of getting his daily penicillin shots and globs of eye ointment :) Hopefully the plasma that did make it in will get him through the eye infection; we're being cautiously optimistic.

Thank you for all of the support and good wishes; you all get to be godparents! And we won't even hit you up for birthday presents or Christmas gifts. Such a deal!
We're back. Kind of defeated, mind you, but back. We picked up the plasma in NY about 45 minutes from the border, then hightailed it back to our place. We got here around 3:30, and Dar set about thawing the plasma while I crashed for about 30 minutes. Dar called the vet hospital to let them know that we were all set to go; they said to come over at 5:30 and the whole process should take about 35-45 minutes.

Because I have a compact car and we needed to transport a very strong and upset cria, we asked our friend Alpaca Di to help us out by using her minivan for transport. She helped us corral poor Sparky; we hustled him into the van while Conchita wailed in anguish. (I so fucking hate this part of working with animals.) We got to the vet's on time, and then it all sort of went to hell.

For almost three hours Dar held Sparky while the vet tried to get the plasma into him. It all boiled down to the fact that they didn't have the right filter for the transfusion. The vet, Andrew, placed two different IVs because the first one popped out. Then the filters kept leaking so he'd stop the transfusion to fix that. Finally after almost two hours of failed IV transfer, he decided to go with the originally planned procedure which involved an incision into Sparky's peritoneum; this carried more risk of infection but was faster and the more recommended process. But even that failed because of the lack of the proper equipment. He admitted defeat at around 8PM.

Sparky got about 1/3 of the plasma that he needed, and all we can do is hope that it's enough to hold him until his own immune system starts to kick in when he's around six months old. (I think I have that right. I'm not the medico in the family.) Dar was wonderful and kept her professional demeanor throughout, but she's feeling as if this were partly her fault because she should have thought to bring her own blood transfusion filter. Which is ridiculous, of course. It's a veterinary hospital - who would have thought that they wouldn't have the necessary tools for a plasma transfer??? Andrew is very embarrassed and rightfully so. He's not charging us for his time, only for the materials used; I hate the fact that there's a bag of unused plasma that's pretty much useless now.

Poor Sparky had the worst night, of course. As I said, Dar held him the whole time, but Di and I took turns helping to restrain him, too. He'd struggle, then collapse. His poor heart would be pounding, he'd go through bouts of trembling and shaking, and his temperature dropped for a while. I was really expecting that he was going to die from the stress, but he's a strong little guy. We're counting on that to get him through this. I know it's foolish, because wishful thinking won't substitute for an active immune system and a strong spirit won't in and of itself kill of infection. But it's what we're holding onto.
So, I'm writing this from a Comfort Inn in Niagara Falls, Canadian side. As you may know, Dar worked her magic and we have Sparky's plasma being delivered to a fellow alpaca breeder in NY. Of course we have to get it back to Ontario, which means that I drive us to and fro. That's usually no biggie at all, except that I'm a tad more easily fatigued these days, so Dar figured it would be easier on me if we split the trip in two.

We did all the animal chores (including a fun-filled wrestling match with Sparky to give him his meds, and which he won, btw), and then booked it out of town. On top of the autoimmune whatsis going on, I also have that lovely late-middle-aged loss of night vision. Which is why we still have another 45 minutes or so of driving to make it to the border tomorrow, but it was not a good idea at all for me to continue driving an unfamiliar highway after dark. And boy, does that suck. I used to love night driving during the summer. Ah, well.

The room is pleasant and quiet. Well, once we turned on the AC to block out the noise of the live band down the street :) And it has high-speed internet access, which is why I'm sitting here on my bed in Niagara Falls, ON using my laptop! This is truly terribly exciting!! Really! OK, I'll stop with the !!!!s But it's so cool to be doing this :) I've never owned a laptop before, and to be honest I'd always thought that they were kind of weenie, but oh yes, I'm feeling the love now.

I think I need to clarify Sparky's condition. He is not prostrate in the barn, lying at death's door. Not at the moment. He's charging around like the young cria that he is, but the potential is there for his condition to deteriorate very rapidly, and where now there is a bouncy cria there would quickly be a dying cria. We just have to hope that the infection he has now won't go aggressive before we can get his plasma transfer done tomorrow afternoon. He'll be missing tomorrow morning's penicillin shot, too. Sigh. There's no perfect solution here, so we do the best that we can.

And the best thing for me is to try to get some sleep. We have a lot of running around to do tomorrow.
Thanks, guys. Dar found an alpaca breeder in NY that will take the delivery for us. What a relief. She's someone that we briefly met at a genetics seminar that we went to a few months ago.

To fill in the blanks for you, Sparky's difficult birth left him unable to nurse properly in the first crucial few hours after he was born. He looked to us as if he were doing all right, and when we realized that he wasn't, we got the cow colostrum into him. We found out this morning that it didn't work as we'd hoped. Now he has no immune system and he's dealing with an eye infection. It could go systemic at any time and kill him in a matter of hours. Hence our panic to get the plasma into him as soon as we can.

Go, little Sparky! Just hang in there for another 36 hours, little boy.
I just want to save this for historical reasons. )

ETA: For those who read the initial plea for help, we found someone to take delivery!

August 2015

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