Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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©Katherine Dunn.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

What it is really like...and I will be the hope other llama owners might need...and by the way, this is one hell of a llama

The warm sun was let not Birdie's barn, finally some spring weather
I have to say it is an honor working together with Birdie, and having Martyn here helping is also very rewarding. I could not have gotten this far without his help in constructing the lift. Let's remember 5 weeks ago we were using a hand pulley system and Martyn would hold the pulley while I worked with Birdie.

But here is the reality of it all...it's hard.

My followers and Apifera friends have been generous and kind and pulling us forward with positive messages. When we first started this regime, the message from the internet and my research was bleak at best. There was very little out there I could find from people that had actually pulled a camelid through this. Much of what I was reading, and being told by a few llama people, was 20% chance of recovery...or if she isn't up in two weeks you should put her down. But I did find stories of people who were doing what we are doing now and their llama lived to tell the story-one was down for over a year and stood up one day, he lived another seven years to 15. That is the story I keep in my heart. Not everyone has the time to do what we are doing or the person in that story.

I read another person's story of how she went through what we did-people telling her to put her llama down if it wasn't up in two weeks. Her llama was up in six weeks and she wrote about it on a llama forum, simply because while there is a lot of info out there on what medical treatment to give a llama with brain worm, and how to deworm to help prevent it, there is nowhere for llama owners to go and see encouraging stories. Even on that forum, people that commented wanted to focus on the negative, and the woman finally had enough and said she was there to provide encouragement to others.

The thing is, this is incredibly intensive work, both physically and emotionally. But that doesn't mean I hate it. I am blessed that I can be with her and help her. If I had a full time off the farm job, I don't think I could do it, or it would be very hard. If Martyn had not been here in the beginning to help it would have been really tough, and it was also really cold out. It took us a while to figure out a lift system since there was no place to go to find out how to make a lift for a llama. We had to dig around to find some videos, and then make ours work. We started with a strong cloth and hand pulley, and graduated to an electric lift and engine lifter and balance, and then added in the butt straps. We researched acupressure and had help with that, we had help from healers we trust, we talked to my physical therapist and adapted techniques from that, adding massage, light therapy, heat therapy, music therapy. When this settles, I will provide a resource page on the blog for people who might have to deal with this dreaded worm, in the hope it will help them and their animal.

We feel we are doing the right thing and that Birdie is still with us 100%. I know this animal. She is working with us. She has had a couple days out of the 5 weeks where I felt she was down. We have worked with our vet to adjust the anti inflammatories and we have the back up of a stronger one when needed. She is eating well, and is getting some supplements like Turmeric and oxygenated water. While nobody can say if any of it will help, we are doing it and we are going forward with the mindset that it is helping.

I don't know what will happen in a week or months. We are seeing improvements in her strength when she is up in the sling. She took some steps, she is applying more weight to her feet, she is stretching on her own more. But she still can't walk or stand without us. Her legs are still bent. She eats like a hungry lioness and drinks well.

A big challenge is to keep the bed sores away. We pad her with hay, and we are wrapping her legs which is working. In the beginning we weren't, and a couple of sores started but we caught them early. that is why I put a call out for a different kind of wrap, which I had on hand from a long time ago. The vet wrap works great for certain areas, but this other wrap is wider and important for certain part of her body-like the upper thigh. When she is down, she can squiggle around at night and the smaller vet wrap seems to loosen and move. I'm terrified of the bed sores. It is a daily double check of all her body areas to make sure we aren't missing any.

This week we finally could open the front of her barn to give her sun. I know she liked this. The music is so nice too. When I arrive in the morning I present myself with optimism. It is one day at a time. It is really hard. And yes, at times, it is just so damn sad. I have a hard time seeing photos of her just 5 weeks ago standing. What is perplexing to both us and our vet is we began treatment for the Meningeal Worm in November, she was only down for two days, and could stand if I helped her up those two days. She rebounded quickly. Two weeks later she was down again and we retreated her to make sure. She rebounded again, and then out of the blue, two months later, she was down. This time, she could only get up about three days with my help, then she was completely down. Three days before that she slipped in mire and got stuck/down and I had trouble getting her up, but she was walking and seemed okay. We wonder if she tore something or slipped a disk. We don't know. The vet thought it so odd she went down suddenly after responding to the past treatments. [And our vet and us have ruled out other things like lames, tick paralysis and a couple other things because her symptoms didn't match those] That is another reason I'm not giving up. If it is something related to the fall, it will take time to heal.Or it could be a combination of things.

It takes time. This takes time. My time, Martyn's time, the llama's time. Today I'm finally going to get her Birdie Wall of Hope painted so I can start some drawing out there and post encouragement on the wall for her, and me. I ned to bring art back for my own heart and life, and I figure there is a project in this somehow, and I can still be there with her.

I thank so many of you who have sent love and other things, donations, support of materials to us. It takes a village to help a llama.

This is one hell of a llama.