Saturday, July 1, 2017

Bucky gets Buzzed

Two weeks ago, on the very afternoon before the first heat wave of the summer hit, a lovely woman named Amber came and sheared Bucky's heavy fleece.  And just in the nick of time -- the next day the temperatures rose to the 100's and the following days grew increasingly hot.

Bucky's wool had a formed a dense mat that was filled with stickers and dirt.  Last spring, when he was one year old, I called the vet to come and castrate him.  While he was still groggy from the anesthetic, Dorothea and I took scissors to his coat and cut off as much off it off as we could.  The result of unevenly hacked hair looked terrible (and my sewing scissors were never the same), but I'm sure that he was more comfortable.  This year I hoped to find someone to give him a proper shearing, but there are not many professional llama shearers in the area.  It was our great good fortune that we found Amber because she turned out to be the perfect person for Bucky -- patient, kind and knowledgable.  I think he could sense this because he immediately liked and trusted her.  It was a very good start.
Amber looking deep into Bucky's eyes for worms

Before she even began shearing, she told me she was going to check Bucky's eyes for eyeworms.  She explained that they had become a problem with other llamas in the area and she would be able to treat them.  I've lived a happy life never having heard of eyeworms and was very happy when, after careful inspection, Amber announced that Bucky was eyeworm free.

I thought that Amber was going to have to wrestle Bucky to the ground and then tie his feet in order to clip him (sort of like they do with sheep), but she didn't need to do anything that traumatic.  She simply looped his lead rope around the bars of the pen and snapped it back on his halter, and that was all the restraint he needed for the entire session.   She made a point of working slowly, but was firm in her expectation that he stand quietly.  Her calm attitude flowed right into him and he quickly became desensitized to the electric clippers sweeping between his skin and his pelt.  The clippers were large and made a strong buzzing sound -- the vibrations from them must have felt very strange.  He struggled from time to time, but she soothed him and he was quickly brought back to a more relaxed state.  She told me that most llamas are very smart and said that once he felt the cool air touch his skin where the fleece had been shorn off, he would probably be eager to have her continue.  I believe that this is exactly what ended up happening.

There was something hypnotic and strangely satisfying about watching Bucky's fleece just peel away from his body as she sheared him.  It must have felt wonderful to him as his body was liberated from all that matted wool.

After she was done clipping him, she decided that he was sensible enough that she was going to try to clip his toenails.  My job was to stand near his head and cradle it in my arms to keep him from seeing too much of what Amber was doing and also to control his movement.  I was a bit nervous about an explosion of kicking when she picked up his first front foot, but he accepted this with only a minor struggle.  She was able to clip the nails of  all four feet.
It's evident that Amber enjoys working with these animals and has stored up a great deal of knowledge about them which she was happy share.  I learned a lot in a few hours.  One thing I discovered is that Bucky would be considered a classic llama -- they were bred not for their wool, but to serve as pack animals.  Athletic, intelligent, and strong, they generally enjoy interacting with people.  The other main group are wooly llamas -- they function more like sheep and are shorn for their fleece.  Of course, there's been a lot of mixing of the two in this country, but Bucky has more of the classic llama characteristics.  Amber believes that he would make a fine pack llama and I'm enthusiastic to start training him.  She even has an extra pack that she's going to give me and we've been invited to visit the establishment where she used to work as a trail guide for people who wanted to pack with llamas.  Happy day!


Here's Bucky before clipping.


After clipping, he looked like a much smaller Bucky!  Amber usually doesn't clip the neck, but he was so matted that she decided that it would be best to strip him completely down (except for his lower legs, lower chest and tail).  She warned me that his neck was going to look very skinny.

Yes, I'll admit that Bucky's neck, along with his whole new look is startling -- but I couldn't be more pleased that now I have my very own Dr. Seuss creature.  I didn't even have to pay extra for that.


  1. How very happy your dear Bucky must be now! He is sooo adorable and it is amazing how thin his neck is without all that wool. He is a lucky fellow to have such a caring owner!

  2. I didn't seek to be a llama owner (he was a rescue), but I'm so glad that we have him as part of the family now.