I really don’t need to explain to anyone that it’s been a brutally cold winter this season. Temps have often been near zero and with the wind it’s well below zero. The tips of my fingers go numb within a minute or less of scooping up frozen beans. It’s a nauseating feeling. I run into the tack room to get out of the wind, take off my gloves, and shake my hands wildly to get the feeling back. If I’m on the boys’ side, I usually run to Guinness or Arlo to put my fingers into their fleeces. This time of year the alpacas’ fleece is usually about 3+ inches long and it’s toasty warm down by their skin. Guinness will usually grunt and look up at me quickly, surprised by the sudden cold. I wish they’d stay still long enough for my fingertips to get as warm as their skin, but usually it’s just long enough to get the feeling back.
On the plus side, we haven’t had as much snow as we’ve usually had the past several winters. On those odd days where the wind is calm, the sun is out, and it’s over 20 degrees, I am able to open up the ‘big door’ for the boys. They love it! It’s so dark in the barn with all the tarps up along the front opening. Plus, it gives me another way to get into and out of the barn to scoop all the paca poo.
Over on the girls’ side it’s a bit different. We’ve been keeping the tarped gate closed and their ‘big door’ closed most of the time, trying to keep poor Shiloh warm. Shiloh stays cushed in the pen, on piles of warm straw, and wears a lovely coat. She can wiggle around fairly well using her front legs but doesn’t leave the pen on her own.
Shiloh came to us somewhat mobile. She’d been injured back in October at the farm she’d been living at and went down, and then spent a week recuperating at the vet. For the next month she needed assistance getting up and overall seemed to be improving. When she first arrived here at the beginning of December, she just needed a boost to get up but could do a wobbly walk. After several days, Shiloh was getting up on her own! We were thrilled and thought she was basically recovered. NOT. The intense cold came on suddenly and within days she needed a boost to get up again, and just as quickly needed help just to stand. And then, she couldn’t even stand. Her front legs work just fine, but her back legs do not. It is incredibly sad for us to see her so helpless.
Shiloh is considered a ‘down’ alpaca. In the mornings and mid-day, I massage and rub her legs as best as I can to get some feeling into them. I do reiki on the part of her lower spine where her actual injury appears to be. Her wonderful owners have provided her with all kinds of homeopathic remedies, vitamins, banamine [a livestock medicine to reduce pain and inflammation], etc. In the evening, Dan lifts her by her hips and she stands. He sits on the hay feeder with her hips in his lap and her back legs somewhat dangle. We then rub and massage and stretch out her legs and feet trying to work the muscles.
Shiloh is one very co-operative alpaca. It is amazing how she just lets us ‘do what we have to do’ with really no complaints. She has the best disposition of any alpaca ever! The downfall is this: she is a rather large-framed alpaca. She is not fat, in fact even after all this she still body scores very well, but she is much too heavy for us to lift her easily; in fact I cannot lift her at all if she isn’t assisting and quickly trying to stand on her own. This makes therapy rather difficult and is certainly slowing down her healing process.
It’s time for us to make a sling. Dan has put something together and we did a successful test run with a hay bale last night. It will still require both of us to get her into the sling and lift her. Once she’s in the sling and Dan doesn’t have to hold her up, we will both be able to work her legs much better. Her muscle tone in those weak back legs will improve. She will soon be able to start standing on all 4 legs with the sling helping her to keep her balance. And then, she will be able to run again on her own. That’s the plan, anyway.
We refer to Shiloh’s condition as an injury, but it’s actually the affects of the dreaded meningeal worm.