|Ditto, as an older herdsire, after shearing, in his stall.|
Mr. Ditto Two came to us as a jet black young adult intended to be a herdsire. He came with a group of three to us from the Pacific Northwest in 1999. We had purchased him in a small starter herd of three when alpacas were perhaps not so plentiful in the East. When Ditto arrived, he came with one female, Noche Buena, and one gelding, Hot Reggae. I remember as they disembarked from the air conditioned transport truck affectionately called the "alpaca train", there was a lot of distressed humming. Ditto countered with a lower and shorter hum, as if he were telling them that it would all be okay. I can't blame them for being concerned. They had left the green, wet pastures with more than a hundred alpacas and taken a more than three thousand mile trip to Virginia, a hilly, dryer and decidedly less green environment at that time of year. Also, at the time, their species was almost unique in these rural hills. We were the first alpaca breeders in our county. Ditto had a nice and calm nature. He was generally cooperative for sheering, nail trimming and immunizations. All of our alpacas are loved, but Mr. Ditto II had a special place in the hearts of everyone.
In the beginning we were told that alpacas live about fifteen years, but that a bit more time was possible in captivity with good care. Mr. Ditto II has lived a good life. As our herd grew, he played soccer against half of them until the farm vet stopped the practice fearing that someone would break a leg. He listened to Irish whistle and fiddle music as our children needed an audience. He watched as a first barn was built on our first farm, and then he and his herd moved to a smaller temporary barn or run in, while our family built another farm and a much larger barn for his herd and his family. Over the years, Mr. Ditto II sired a dark brown female Shakria, who died as an infant. He sired Chocolat, a male who is at his side today, and a daughter with a jet black fleece like he once had, named Warrior Princess Camellia, or Cammie in these parts. Mr. Ditto Two was a devoted male partner first to Queen Isabelle, the mother of his crias, who died from astrocytoma, and later to jet black Noche Buena. Ditto's easy going nature never changed.
Mr. Ditto Two is now twenty years old. He was born on Valentine's Day just a few months before Daniel. When many of us die, whether we are human beings or animals, our bodies simply wear out and can no longer continue to house our souls. Eventually, our souls must escape and go home. This week, Mr. Ditto II's body is so well worn that he needs to sleep. Multiple systems are failing, even with good support and attention. Sadly, with time our herd has returned to being a small one, and the herd sire does not wish to go, and to leave his remaining family without him. He continues to fight to rally to remain, when he should simply just sleep. His herd takes turns cushing next to him in support. It's strange that they know. An apple horse gatorade bucket sits next to him and I lift his head every couple of hours for a sip, if just for comfort. Every once in awhile he falls into a deep sleep and his respirations are shallow. Then he moves his legs as if running, as if he sees the green field in the next place and can't wait to run free once again. My husband and I turn him side to side on sheets laid on the concrete stall floor. Part of us wants him to go so that he is spared any discomfort during these last hours, but part of us realizes that our children's childhoods and teen years were punctuated by the presence of this animal, and that his departure marks aging and a new era for our human family as well.
You owe us nothing, Ditto. It's time to go. We will make sure that the remaining alpaca members of this farm family are cared for well. Go home. Let Daniel and my father rejoice with you, as you will no longer be encumbered by your shell, as beautiful as that shell really was. Thank you for all the time spent with us. You brought a lot of joy, and you deserve to be set free.
|Ditto in his later years, when his black fleece turned gray.|
Ditto passed quietly, at nine am this morning, with his son Chocolat cushed by his side, while I penned most of this post. Hot Reggae who is also elderly and who has also been ill this week, seems to be moving well at the moment, and Ditto's daughter Cammie will receive extra attention today as well.