This is a painful blog to write, as I still find tears forming when I think of Barbaro being finally put to rest yesterday. The courage of this horse is unquestioned, and his loss both to horse racing and most especially to animal and horse lovers everywhere will be felt for years to come. Our animals give their all for their human companions, and I am always in awe when we see such a will to live as demonstrated by Barbaro. As we went through painful ordeals with two of our own pets last year, I often thought of Barbaro and hoped that somehow his strength would magically travel through the ether to help our own loved ones. I know that once Barbaro’s owners and doctors decided it was time to euthanize him, their decision was the right one. His stuggle may be over but perhaps we can all take a little of his courage with us everyday.
Yesterday I also recieved my copy of Llama Life II in the mail. This publication is one that does not just present the glossy, glamorous image of the camelid industry, but brings forth news that is important and sometimes unplesant. The closure of the Catskill Game Farm was covered, including the final auction of exotic livestock. Many people do not realize that animals in such auctions often wind up at rendering plants from which pet food and fertilizer are made. This final end must be horrifying as one can imagine the lack of care offered the animals on the way to their final destination. Equally horrifying is the number of animals purchased for canned hunting. How someone could make a trophy of a nearly tame animal, shot like a fish in a barrel, is entirely beyond me. Kudos to the rescue agencies who tried their best to purchase as many animals as practical to find them proper homes. The writer and her rescue group purchased 39 llamas, many of whom had obviously lacked proper human contact and training during their years at the farm, and were in poor health. The rescuers are endeavoring to find proper homes for these animals to live out their lives with good health and proper care. Adopting these animals, which have no commercial value, is an unselfish way to strike back at the inhumanity our animal industries impose on thier helpless victims.
The final news I read, also in Llama Life, was the obiturary of Iris Christ, who passed away December 8, 2006. She had liquidated her herd of llamas several years ago after a prolonged bout with cancer. For those who never had the opportunity to meet Iris, she was a special and interesting lady. She had a herd of about 350 llamas in Oregon, and was a descendant of the Vanderbilts. Her finances made it possible for her to create a special herd of animals with a farm that was state of the art. Despite her family money, however, she was quite down to earth and was a genuine animal lover. Upon first meeting Iris, you realized she was always concerned about the future homes of her llamas, and selling to strangers was not easy. Despite the high prices she could get for her llamas, she seemed to feel she needed to know you personally, and if you did not pass muster, you would not get to purchase from her. We spent part of three days at her farm in 1995, finally selecting LW Captain Curry, our first herd sire. A Willie K son by a Kissam daughter, he embodied the strength of Iris’s Bolivian program. What has impressed me even more since then is that now, having purchased other animals from farms all over the country, I really appreciate the care with which she raised her animals. Curry has been a gentleman since the day we brought him home. His babies have some of the finest personalities of any of our offspring born here. I have purchased other llamas with equally fine dispositions, and I know part of that is genetics, and part of it is handling and training. I have also purchased animals from farms where I think the first time the youngster was halter broke and handled was when they were being readied for one of the big prestigous sales. Hours of painful grooming, followed by days of shipping and then a rude introduction to their new owner, and new farm, and it is no wonder these llamas have a hard time trusting us. I do believe, however, that every one of Iris’s animals was trained and handled from the time they were born. She also was adamant about removing any llama from the breeding program at any hint of a genetic flaw. Many other profit-driven farms today will not share medical histories, and some will even employ surgical techniques to hide flaws from potential buyers. Iris would never have done that. She had integrity concerning her animals. Our beloved Curry and his many show winning babies are a testament to her. But when I think of Iris herself, I recall the story of how she purchased her first llamas, both youngsters. She then purchased a used school bus and drove the llamas home to Long Island across the entire United States, in the school bus! She sneaked the llamas in the hotel room at night, and did get charged a damage fee at least once! Well, those were the days. We will miss Iris, but the bloodlines she promoted in the industry are still the backbone of many thriving herds today.