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Tuesday, March 31 2009

It is a sad day at Double 8 Alpaca Ranch.  This morning we lost more than an alpaca.  We lost a teacher, mentor, leader and a mother.  Time has expired for Elvira (Dewey Meadows Elvira). 

Elvira was a true black, 15 year old female alpaca.  Elvira was part of the first group of five alpacas to set foot in Double 8's paddocks.  Since she had been breeding for far more years than we, she taught us much by example.  Her cria often reached 80lbs by the time they were 5 months old (a testament to her milk production) which was amazing since Elvira was the smallest alpaca on the farm at 124lbs.  She also took others under her udder, including the 11 day old orphan, and current herdsire Reign.  That same year she gave birth to daughter, Hearts on Fire, effectively making her a milk bar for three crias in one year at the age of 11.  With extra nutrition, she actually put on weight during that period.  We put her on leave of duty for a year to make sure she could bounce back from that job and she did so beautifully.  Although, as leader of the herd, I think she was kind of offended that others were pregnant and she wasn't. 

Elvira had a bit of an attitude toward the rest of her herd when she wasn't  pregnant.  She was the leader of the herd and demanded the respect of every alpaca out there, and she got it.  Her diminutive size didn't affect her ability to lead the herd.  If any of the other girls stepped out of line they could expect Elvira to walk up under their chin and give them a nice air balling.  If that didn't work, spit would fly and the little momma would not give in until she had made her point clear.  Same would go for the young crias pronking around the pastures.  If the play got too rough, she would step in and stop it, no matter who the cria belonged to.

While Elvira's attitude toward the herd was one of dominance, her attitude toward me and Bonnie was one of patience.  Elvira was the easiest alpaca to give oral meds (she would literally open her mouth when she saw the syringe coming) or shots.  If a baby needed some extra milk, or her own newborn baby was having difficulty grasping the concept of nursing, Bonnie could milk Elvira out, with no assistance required to hold this gal.  She just stood and waited for us to finish.  In that first year, she must have wondered how long it would take these newbies to learn the ropes.  (We did Elvira.  Thanks for being patient with us.)

Once Elvira had taught us how to manage the herd and take care of crias, it was time for her to select her breeding mate.  We offered her a new and up and comer, MG Command.  At the time he was unproven and no where near as dominating as his pen mate and our lead stud, Panther.  Elvira seemed to want someone fit for the queen of the herd, so she would not allow Command to breed her.  Instead she would run to Panther's gate.  This time we were not so slow to catch on to the demanding little girl's ways.  We swapped Command for Panther.  Panther, as he usually does, was quick and efficient.  Mounting her quickly and doing his thing for approximately 20 minutes.  Apparently that was not long enough for the Queen.  When Panther went to trot away from his latest conquest, Elvira got up and chased after him (and as if to say, "Come back here young man, I'm not through with you yet!").  She stopped him in his tracks and nearly forced him to continue.  That is the only time that has ever happened to Panther.  Once again showing that Elvira not only ruled the girls, but also demanded the respect of the boys as well.

Elvira must have known what she was doing, because 336 days later, Double 8 Panther's Madagascar (Maddie) was born on October 28, 2008.  Another true black offspring for Elvira.  In fact, Elvira has probably had more influence on our breeding program than any other alpaca.  She was the first to produce 1/2 accoyo black crias for us(Hearts on Fire).  Which is what made us shift our program from quality of any color, to quality in black.  And, now that MG Command was proven, she accepted him for her last breeding.  At the time of breeding, Elvira was a fit and healthy gal.  Yes, we contimplated to retire her, but "she" preferred to be pregnant.  

As the days wound down for Elvira, she never relinquished her position in the herd.  Even when she was to the point where she needed to sleep for most of the day, she would still trot out to the pasture at least once during the day and straighten some yearling out.  Most likely, just for show.  But on her last day, the group knew it was time for them to go on without their leader, an us without our respected mentor.  Each of the alpacas came up to her before they went off to pasture and gave her a nuzzle in the face.  Something we had never seen from them, especially with their demanding dictator.  Elvy wasn't able to tell them what to do any longer, they were on their own from here on out.  Maddie had already said her goodbyes over the last few nights when she requested (Elvira and her daughter Heart and Maddie have a funny way of scratching at the bottom of the gates when they want to go to the other side) to come back in from the paddock and sleep beside her mother.  On this day, Maddie didn't look back to see if mom was coming.

Having said her goodbyes it was time for Elvira to move on.  A few minutes later, with help from our vet, Elvira could finally let down her guard and give up the power she had wielded for so long.  Her fight with liver cancer had ended.

We will miss you very much Elvira.  You were much more than just a foundation girl to us.  You taught us how to understand you and your herd and we will be forever grateful. :(

If anyone else has any memories of Elvira or stories of her offspring, we would love to hear about them.  Elvira was born under the Dewey Meadows breeder identifier and spent many years at Fleecy Dale Alpacas before we acquired her via Meadowgate farm. Click on "Comments" below to post your story.

As a side note, Elvira was carrying a true black little boy when she passed.  This time from Command.  I guess he had earned her respect after all. 


Posted by: Doug Kittrell AT 06:47 pm   |  Permalink   |  7 Comments  |  Email
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    Double 8 Alpaca & Llama Ranch
    13374 SR 671

    Purcellville, Va 20132

    Phone: (571) 577-8579