Friday, December 21, 2007

Petting alpacas

I do not think I have fully explained the fact that alpacas do not like to be touched. They know exactly how far your arms and hands can reach and will stay just out of this range. However, if you do not try to touch them, over time they will come closer to you. But beware, the moment you try to touch them, they move back out of this range. Alpacas are curious, so they do try to come near you. But they do not like to be touched so they keep that distance. The best bet is to not touch them, but let them come by you. You will get a good look at them that way. The hard part is that they look so soft and cuddily you want to reach out and hug them but they won't let you. Sometimes a farm will have an alpaca that is very friendly and will let you pet them. I've been told that Victoria has let my neice pet her. I do not reach out to grab at them because I know in general they hate that. So they are not afraid to come into the range of my arms and hands. I actually have to tell them to move out of my way when I am doing chores! But if I reach out to touch them, they do jump back out of range. We've made it a family rule not to reach out and grab at them. They will be much more friendly if you don't. I tell the kids if they want to pet an animal the cat loves attention.

Because of this arm/hand range that they stay out of, the best way to herd them is to hold your arms out and move towards them. They cannot get out of your way fast enough! Just make sure the alpaca is between you and where you want them to go and start walking toward them, they will move to whatever openning is available. But be sure noone is standing where you want the alpaca to go. The alpacas do not want to be trapped between 2 people. This is how I herd Kateri into the pasture to eat. Most of the time I end up having all 3 alpacas follow me into the pasture (they know I have food and they want it). And since Victoria is always the first to go anywhere (she's the lead alpaca) I usually can't get Kateri to go into the pasture until Victoria leads the way. I get all three into the pasture, then I try to move around so that Victoria and Snowstorm are between me and the gate openning to the barn, yet Kateri is on the other side of me. I usually have to move between the 3 of them to get this arrangement right. I hold my arms out (which can be difficult while holding bowls of food especially when they are trying to eat the food!) and move toward the gate. Victoria and Snowstorm move through the gate, I lock it and put a bowl down for Kateri. Then I go through the gate and put food in the barn for Victoria and Snowstorm. Most nights this goes quite smoothly but there have been a couple times when it was very hard to get Kateri on one side of me and the other two on the other side of me, yet by the barn. Then in the barn there are times Snowstorm tries to steal Victoria's food. I end up standing between him and Victoria's food with my arms out. He sometimes will look for a way to get around me, but if I move at all he jumps and runs out of the barn. They are not agressive animals, simply by having my arms extended even the guardian alpaca runs (and Snowstorm is a big alpaca). Which compared to other animals this is easy. I'd be much more hesitant about getting between a dog and some food!

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