The day came to say goodbye to Ebony.
At 19 1/2 yrs old Ebony was our oldest alpaca as well as our very first!
She came to us as a 5 yr old proven mum in the autumn of 2002 with a male cria at foot. Her cria and the three other originals are still with us and doing very well. A foundation import, Ebony was one of very few true black alpacas available at that time. Hard to believe these days…I can remember how excited I was when my small herd arrived 🙂
It is easy to say they are ‘just getting old’ and wearing out but Ebony had been very fit until recently. She has not bred for years (our decision) and volunteered for the job of best spit off male ! She has not been shorn for years either. A 20 micron fleece with absolutely no density whatsoever did not keep her warm in colder months. We used to tidy her up a bit as required and every winter, about now in fact, she would get her waterproof winter coat fitted and set off to keep the herd in order…
She had been having trouble eating. Her weight remained constant until last week when she started to lose condition. Packing grass into her cheek and taking ages to chew and get food down, we thought her old molar teeth were probably the cause. She was still bright and interactive and could easily avoid being rounded up! However, she followed me out of the field when I called her on her final morning and did not look back at the rest of the herd. Those moments were heartbreaking…. but very telling.
People have the luxury of making those difficult decisions to prevent animal suffering and after an examination by our vet, that was what we did. We always do a post mortem to ‘have a look’ and see if anything can be learned. It turns out she did not have great teeth but this was not the cause of her difficulties. Ebony had a tumour growing at the back of her mouth which was growing across and slowly blocking her oesophagus. Further investigation revealed her lungs and liver appeared normal which is so pleasing to know given that she has spent most of her life with us on 3 different premises. No scarring, abscesses or lesions anywhere. We can’t remember how many years ago she was wormed but no sign of gut worms either.
Over the years and especially in the first few, Ebony very calmly and in a very matter of fact way taught us so much! She taught us to look and listen but most importantly, question everything we had learned about alpacas up to that point. Much was still unknown in 2002 with very few resources available apart from the phone! Ebony is the reason we attended one of the very first Camelidynamics courses with Marty McGee Bennett and then went on to develop our own catch pen and handling system. It is Ebony who is mostly responsible for the calm and relaxed herd we have today. When we bought her she was pretty wild, hated being handled by the ‘grab by the neck and hold on tight’ method and had a history of skin disease. Interestingly, she had only very minor skin issues on occasion once with us, leading us to believe (along with other experiences) that stress is the precursor to most alpaca issues.
Ebony has never been the best looking alpaca in the world. Visitors to our farm would always be taken to meet her and advised; ‘don’t buy one that looks like that!’ Poor Ebony! However, she has been the very best mother. She produced a healthy cria every year without fuss or issue. We only once actually saw her give birth and she weaned her cria at 4.5 months every time.
We were so fortunate to have a wise, gentle animal like her from the very start of our alpaca journey. She survived all of our ‘learnings and experimentations’ for all of those years and we are so grateful to her for her help. We will miss her greatly but know she will continue to influence our decisions in the future.
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