So if you could hear me now, literally, I just gave the world’s biggest sigh because this is not how I wanted to get back into blogging. The last month & a half has been one huge blur for many different things & such trying times. It’s been one thing after another. You try so hard to not let things get you down. The number one thing that was the hardest was my sweet alpaca Magic started not feeling well. I just want to give a big, huge THANKS for everyone who’s texted, asked & hugged me when they’ve seen me about losing Magic. It’s means a ton to me & Bo as this was a completely unexpected loss.
I just wanted to give an update from what his vet thought & a general run down for anyone interested in what happened. I know my animals extremely well. It’s like a 6th sense in me & I know when they’re off by a fraction of a hair. Even though it may be something very subtle & no one else would pick up on, I do. Even Bo can’t pick up on it 99% of the time. He’s always like “It’s fine, you’re overreacting, chill out.” But I’m with my animals all the time & I just know.
I also know that if you can get on top of a problem before it becomes an actual problem, the chances of them recovering/being able to be treated before it turns into an extreme emergency situation is pretty high. So I don’t do the “wait & see” approach with my animals. If I think something is wrong, I call the vet asap. Yes, it’ll result in me having to pay an emergency fee for them to come out but that $100–200 is worth it if that means it’ll save their life or save me $1000s of dollars in the long run. And no, I’m not made of money by ANY MEANS…CareCredit is amazing!
But I’m a firm believer when you take on the responsibility of owning an animal, you also take on the responsibility of getting them the care they need regardless of cost. You find a way, do what it takes & if not then you shouldn’t have gotten them in the first place. This might seem very opinionated I know, but I am on this. I’m so tired of seeing animals being surrendered, put down, turned loose, given away when people didn’t realize “oh, animals get sick too & need care?” I’m stepping down from my soapbox now.
So 2 weeks ago I noticed when I walked Magic over to one of our other pens he was very lethargic & kept wanting to cush (lay down with his feet tucked under him in alpaca body language terms). Cushing isn’t unusual at all, it’s how they lay down/rest/sleep. He’s normally super excited to get to the other pen to eat grass all day. But it was also very warm already that morning & I didn’t spray him with the water hose like he loved so I thought for a second that maybe he was cushing because he wanted to be sprayed first…wasn’t unusual for him to do that either. But cushing when I’ve got him on a lead line walking him was very unusual for him. I turned him loose in the other pen & watched him. He was seemed fine, stayed up on his feet & started munching happily away on grass. My gut was on mid-alert, a watch him & see how he does. I had to leave for most of the day & when I got back he was resting in the shade in the pasture. When I walked out to check on him I just knew he wasn’t 100% so I got him up & back to his stall & called the vet.
He got here at like 9p that night, checked his vitals & temperature. All was normal except his temperature, 103, which was only slightly elevated & his lungs sounded a tad congested but nothing major yet like full blown pneumonia. “Normal” temp in alpacas is 99.5–102.5. We also hadn’t sheared Magic for the season yet. Hence because of weather like this past week, cold & rainy in May when it had been warm a few days ago. Sometimes we shear at end of April, sometimes a few weeks into May depending on weather & forecasted weather. So his vet thought a culmination of maybe too much heat with all his fleece still on him & possibly the beginnings of some sort of respiratory infection. All the cushing was probably him trying to keep his body temp down & conserve his energy since he didn’t feel good. He gave him a shot of medicine for his lungs & left me with instruction to give him shots of Banamine (pain reliever for horses/some other farm animals…DO NOT EVER USE ON YOUR ANIMALS UNLESS INSTRUCTED BY YOUR VET…EVER!) along with another dose of medicine 4 days later for his lungs.
The lovely thing about owning farm animals is you also are the vet in many instances. It’s not practical time or money wise for a vet to come out every single time a shot is needed. Especially in instances of them being sick & multiple shots a day might have to be given. So I get the fun (insert sarcasm) job of poking them with needles or chasing them down to give them their oral meds. And the even better part, with some medications if you inject into a vein by accident they’re instantly dead…embolism straight to the heart. Of course, the injection I had to give for his lungs was such a medicine that would kill him if I injected it wrong. No pressure on me or anything right?! You have never seen my hand shake so bad as to when I had to give that injection.
So you’re probably thinking, how the hell do you know if you’re in a vein or not. You pull back on the syringe & if there’s blood in it, take it out asap cause you’re in the wrong spot my friend. My parents are still waiting for me to go back to college & get another degree in veterinary science with all that I’ve had to learn & do with animals over the years. No thanks.
Magic perked back up the following week, got sheared & was so glad I was finally done taking his temp 3 times a day & poking him with needles! But my gut still wasn’t satisfied that he was over the hump. So I called the vet & made an appointment to have blood work done. Most horses (& other animals) when sick give you specific signs/clues/symptoms as to what it might be & that particular thing gets treated. Alpacas don’t. They’re a mystery. So that’s why blood work is done to show if there’s anything going on that we’re not seeing physically. He actually was scheduled for the 15th of this month for that. And last Thursday I knew he wasn’t acting right again & I had to go out of town the next day so I made an emergency call & asked could it be done that day & have him re-checked. When alpacas “go down” (decline in health) then it’s usually something very serious & something that is probably past the point of being able to treat because they don’t give you any signs/symptoms until it’s too late. He also started declining all food except hay. But he was still eating hay & drinking so that was good. Grain wasn’t necessary if he didn’t want it.
His vet came out again last Thursday. I went through list of things I was grasping at that it could possibly be. He explained why he didn’t believe it was any of those things. And then said that I might be looking at something terminal, like cancer, specifically lymphoma. And a lightbulb went off in my head & I was like “ahhhhhhhhh!” It kinda made some sense. Because I noticed some changes in him this past November, some personality & behavior changes & some physical changes (mainly he was having a hard time maintaining weight). I did call vet back then & we both thought maybe parasites so I wormed him. They came out & did a fecal when checking on Fin & it came back clear. His personality & behavior changes got better but I wasn’t 100% sure about weight since he carries a heavy fleece all winter. So he gave him another antibiotic type shot & a shot of vitamins & drew some blood. And left me with a “wait & see what blood work says.” There wasn’t anything else to do.
My birthday was that Saturday & that Friday I had to go out of town to Durham because one of my best friends had gotten us tickets to see Loretta Lynn that Friday night to celebrate. I made the decision to go ahead & go & left after lunch & the storms because Magic was comfortable & eating hay all morning & there was zero anything I or anyone else could do but watch him. My mom came over to check on him that afternoon until Bo could get home to watch him. I gave him a big hug & kisses before I left & told him I’d see him the next day. Me & his vet were hoping blood results would be in that Saturday afternoon. And if there was any medication he needed I was going to go out & meet him to pick it up since he had a work related thing he had to attend & not on call.
We get to Durham around 5p, were having dinner at 6:30p & were going to be at theatre by 7:30p. I asked who the opening act was & she said it was in her email. So Amanda pulled up her email & was like “is this a joke?” and handed me her phone. There was an email from Ticketmaster that got sent at 4p stating the show had been postponed. I was speechless, we had no words & I just wanted to sit there & cry. She called the theatre & yes the show was postponed. So we get on the internet trying to figure out why…cause Loretta Lynn had a damn stroke the night before & was in the hospital! I can not even make this stuff up people! Praise the Lord she’ll be okay! But still. Bo told me to just go ahead & stay the night since we had a room & to try & relax & get some sleep.
In a weeks time Magic had been sick, I had to unexpectedly have a cyst cut open, drained & taken out of a extremely delicate area (ahem…the back end, way down…I hadn’t been able to sit on one side for a month before I sucked it up & went to drs thinking I was only getting antibiotics to make swelling go down..nope! That’s a whole other fun story.), a roll up garage door fell on my Granddaddy & he was in hospital (now is in nursing home recovering from a fractured pelvis), Magic got sick again, I had to go out of town & concert was postponed!
So after all that I hoping that for my birthday things would start to get better & that Magic’s blood work would be in that afternoon with good results. Bo was giving me updates on Magic, my mom texted me how Magic was & how my Granddaddy was doing. So we left that afternoon to come back home. I went to call Bo a couple of times but something kept stopping me from doing it. We were almost home so I was like “no, I’ll just call when I get to my car.” I called him when I left Amanda’s & asked how Magic was doing & his voice was weird. Robotic & holding something back asking “where are you?” I knew then it wasn’t good & he told me Magic had passed 30 minutes beforehand. And he thought I was almost home so he didn’t want me upset & driving…too late. I was beyond upset & made it home safely by grace of God. I got home & went out & laid with him in his stall to say my goodbyes & let the horses see him to say goodbye so they understand why he’s not there.
We normally go to dinner for my birthday with my family. But that night Bo spent 3 hours digging a spot for Magic & laying him to rest for me in the dark because I couldn’t stand the thought of him in his stall until the next day. It was a hard hard day.
There’s a different kind of energy in the barn now. It’s too quiet, you feel something is missing & it doesn’t feel right. His presence was strong & I didn’t realize how strong until he wasn’t there anymore. I haven’t been able to clean his stall out yet this week. It still smells like him (his fur, his hay) & I don’t want that to go away yet. Every morning I open the window to his stall I hate knowing his big brown eyes aren’t looking back at me, ready to come out. Two of my tiny chickens hung out with him all the time in his stall at night & I can tell they know he’s gone. They’re super quiet when they roost at night at his stall. Night time feeding is the saddest because the horses would wait at the gate for me to bring him back in from other pasture, it was noisy with everyone eating…now it’s just quiet.
His vet called me Monday morning with part of the blood results. He checked all weekend hoping results would be in but it just kept saying “pending” so he didn’t bother calling just to say that. His results were abnormal & all over the place in so many different areas. Based off everything he read me & explained, results were all pointing to something terminal….cancer (lymphoma). If the rest of his results when they come in make him believe anything different then he’ll call. So his passing on his own was a blessing in disguise if you want to call it that. Because if he had of made it to Monday when I got the call I would’ve had to of made the hard decision of “do I put him down?” or “do I hold out hope it’s not that & treat to keep him comfortable, if possible?” Neither are decisions I would have wanted to make.
A few answers to the questions everyone has asked….
He was 7.5-8…I got him when he was 3 & I’ve had him for 5 years this year in October. They can live 15-20 years but that’s pushing it. I read from one place that raises a whole bunch of them say that they’ve had a few live to 14-15 but age 7 was the average age they saw their herds start to drop off at. If you can get them past 7-8 years of age with no health issues at all, then they’re more likely to make it to 14-15. But age 7-8 is when health issues start to rear their ugly face. Lymphoma is a common type of cancer that is starting to come out more & more in these animals unfortunately. If we ever do get another we will get more than one at the same time since they are herd animals. But not right now. I’m not ready for another yet let alone taking on 2-3 new ones.
I love alpacas. They’re beautiful animals with the sweetest, most gentle souls. Their eyes are like horse eyes, that just look at you that contain so much wisdom & knowledge that we’ll never understand. Alpacas just have a real calming, zen effect. Very chill.
He is missed dearly but I do take comfort in knowing he’s not in any pain.