Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Hopeful Farmer - on Death


"Thorin, son of Thrain, son of Thror, "King under the Mountain". Oh, but I'm forgetting; you don't have a mountain, and you're not a king, which makes you...nobody, really."
—The Great Goblin taunting Thorin Oakenshield of his title
He was not King Under the Mountain - but he lies buried at the base of one.  It has been a couple of weeks, and I  finally have time to write about Thorin.  He was the gentler of our two llamas, with a friendly demeanor, a goofy face, and the habit of leaving a piece of hay hanging out of his mouth - reminding us of the old Joe Camel advertisements.

Thorin vs. Joe Camel

He taught us a lot - unfortunately one of those lessons was that just because we were giving him medicine, it did not mean he was completely protected from menegial worms.  By the end, he was no longer able to stand - his back legs kept collapsing under him. We knew the end was near one evening when my husband went out to  check the barn one last time for the night and found Thorin had fallen and was laying across the board separating the run-in from the outside.  How long he had been there we do not know - anywhere from 20 minutes to three hours were possible.  It took three of us to get him on his feet, and all the while, his back legs kept giving way.   It was bad.  We had to admit he was not getting better. 
    The next morning I found him down on his side.  I sat with him, put hay near him,  and he ate a little, but drank nothing.  Later that day, our youngest son and I managed to drip some  water into his mouth and get him to swallow.  It was the weekend and my husband managed to get him up into a kush position, and he ate more and drank from a bucket.  Great to see.   Sunday, he was down again - always on his right side, and his eye was swollen from rubbing on the hay on the barn floor.  We got him in a sling, and indeed, without it, there was no way he was getting up.  We put him back in the kush, and  braced him with hay bales.   He was  still as sweet as ever, but  there was no sparkle.  He was unable to move, but seemed to take comfort in having us around.  We told the children to say goodbye.  Our daughter and youngest son were very reserved and matter of fact about it.  I was a mess.

 The ewes kept checking in, perhaps curious why he was just lying  there, and not chasing them around the pasture.
     My husband and I were there Monday when the vet came.  She had us sling him and she confirmed what we knew, and she got her bag.  Sedative first and several doses of a bright blue potion to put him down.  He took a while, but was gentle to the end.  No great death rattle, no fighting, just kushing  while we held him in position and talked to him and the vet gave him the shots.
      This is the part of farming I do not like.  This is the part I do not think I will ever be good at.  When I feed and care for a creature - talking to it, petting it, I become attached.   The death part was a kindness - it was necessary as llamas are meant to run and bounce.  The burying part was horrific.  We had our contractor  did a big hole near Bald Mountain, but we had to get Thorin in the back of the truck, drive him up the pasture,  and put him in the hole.  My adrenaline was practically in overdose amounts as we pushed him in.  I was going to throw up and pass out and shake - but I mainly just shoveled a lot of dirt into the hole.  This was not necessary as Brian was coming up the hill with the bulldozer to cover him, but I was not calm and I needed to do something, and my darling husband just let me shovel.
     There is a silver lining.  The other llama, Elrond, is doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing and bonding with the flock.  He is on pasture with the ewes, and  sleeps  just outside the rams' pen, in the doorway to the run in.   He will keep the sheep as safe as a llama can.
     No folks, I am not good at this death thing.  I do much better with the living.


  1. Much love to you. You are one of the strongest people I know.