Yesterday was a very difficult day for Laura and I. We had to say farewell to Lewis, our farm mascot. Over the past ten years Lewis has taught Laura and I much about courage and overcoming adversity. Lewis was born totally blind. After a slow start he began to amaze us with a sixth sense that seemed to enable him to see–even though he did not have a retina in either eye. We were amazed how he could find his way around the pasture and the way he could walk right up to us when he wanted his back scratched; even when we were zigzagging our way to the barn.
In 2000 while we were at the ALSA National show, Lewis’ left rear leg was badly fractured when vandals broke into our farm and left gates open allowing our male llamas in with the females and Lewis. Lewis spent over 7 months at the Ohio State Veterinary hospital recovering from a very severe rear spiral leg fracture and several post operative infections. After four surgeries, months of antibiotics and tons of love and care from many veterinarians and students, Lewis walked out of the hospital under his own power.
Over the subsequent eight years Lewis has taught Laura and I about courage and the importance of enjoying life’s simple pleasures. Lewis’ simple pleasures included a good back scratch, nice flakes of alfalfa and talking to Laura and I with his honks which signaled his need for attention.
This past winter we realized that Lewis was having increased difficulty walking. Favoring his once-broken rear leg had eventually resulted in the joints of his other three legs breaking down prematurely. When the warm weather of spring finally arrived we saw some improvement. However, over the past two weeks Lewis starting spending most of the time in his stall, only getting up to eat and drink. During the past few days Lewis could no longer stand even though he made many courageous attempts. Even though Lewis could not stand he still enjoyed his meals and getting his back scratched. Unfortunately we knew that it would only be a matter of time before the lack of exercise would result either in depression or other health issues that would lead to infection or pneumonia.
One of the most difficult things we have had to do during our 15 years of raising llamas was asking our vet to end Lewis’ life. Even during the procedure, Lewis demonstrated his courage by gently leaning against me as our vet inserted the needle that would end his life. Lewis quietly fell asleep in my arms as Laura and I struggled with our grief.
The coming days will be especially difficult for Laura and I when go to the barn at feeding time and are not greeted by Lewis’ gentle honk and demands for his daily back rub.
I’m sure God has a special place for gentle companions like Lewis. I’m sure Lewis now has a perfect body that allows him to run and play in a perpetually green pasture full of rich alfalfa, with perfect eyes that let him finally see all that he has missed these last ten years, and he has angels waiting to scratch that special spot.