• Carrie Kendon (Sanders)

Abandoned Newborn Alpaca

Our house on Sugar Maple Leaf Farm sat nearly a half mile off the road. I would trek to the school bus at quarter past six each morning. Down the small hill, around the corner and then straight past the garden, gas pumps, owner's house and alpaca field. One particularly cold winter morning, as I headed out the door, my father reminded me to check the pen on my way through as one of the babies were due any time. 

      A quick glance in the direction of the animals confirmed that one of the babies was indeed born, perhaps only minutes prior. As I moved in for a closer look, I could see steam rising from the snow. A cria (newborn alpaca) laid alone, abandoned by its mother. I quickly alerted my father and we scooped the baby from the freezing snow bed and hustled inside the nearby house. Unlike the mama alpaca, our instincts kicked in. Dad and I knew if the alpaca was to live he needed to be warmed. He would need to eat at some point, but his body temperature was the key concern at that time. I layered towels as blankets and vigorously rubbed the almost lifeless newborn's body all the while praying my efforts would coax him to his feet. Dad called for the veterinarian to come at once. By the tone of my father's voice, the vet knew this was no routine matter. He asked the obvious questions: how long had the cria had been in the snow? What was its exact body temperature? The time of birth was unknown, but the body temperature was below 95 degrees and we knew that was critical. And then the vet said. “put it in the oven”. He went on to explain that we were to put the animal in the kitchen oven in a roasting pan of warm water. The water surrounded it with warmth as if it were still in the womb. Then, we were to monitor the temperature and the activity of the cria in that makeshift incubator until the vet arrived. I sat vigil in front of that oven for what seemed like hours but was likely less than one. We heard the vet’s truck pull in the drive way, but just before the doc walked in the door the baby alpaca lifted his head on his own for the first time. He let out a hum and my Dad and I breathed a sigh of relief. We knew that little guy was going to be just fine and when the vet inspected him, he agreed. The mother never did take her baby back, but another alpaca who had her own baby just days prior became this one’s surrogate.

I do not recall what the farm owner officially named the baby alpaca that we put in the oven, but I named him Meringue, because what other name would fit a chocolate colored baked alpaca?!

Alternate ending, courtesy of my father.

In all my days, I have seen a lot. But this one was new. I had heard of baked Alaska before, but never once had I heard of baked alpaca! *cue the giggle and “OH Daaaaad”. 

Photo courtesy of ABC News.

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