I am going to form an association. APPLE. The Association for the Positive Promotion of Llamas Everywhere. Llamas, mainly due to Tintin, have suffered from a lot of bad press. Yes, they spit, but only at other llamas. It is extremely rare for one to spit at a person, and if it does, you can believe me that it will have a jolly good reason to.
Many of our visitors are anxious that they’ll be spat at. It’s usually their first question. I patiently explain that no, they won’t. They’ve never spat at me or any of the family and we’ve loaded and unloaded them into and out of the horsebox, cut their nails, given them vaccinations, given them haircuts, halter trained them, treated cuts, pulled things out of their eyes, removed ticks off their noses, dealt with them in extremely stressful situations – I could go on for ages. They’re incredibly tolerant, gentle, trusting animals. We advise our trekkers that the llamas don’t like being stroked, it’s just the way our boys are. We tell them that they’ll have a chance later to make a fuss of the girls. (Katrina, Lulin and Windy are quite happy to be patted and stroked. Gabby doesn’t do the touchy feely thing at all, and Amélie the alpaca is still a little timid, although she’ll happily come up to the gate for a handful of grains.) But folk can’t resist trying to pat the boys. Bernard flinches but stoically tolerates it, and Denis rolls his eyes. That’s all. It wouldn’t cross their minds to spit, even though they’re not happy.
Our two trekking alpacas, Seamus and Brendan, are equally good-natured. They are also very, very happy to be petted. We’ve had them since they were six months old. The earlier you start handling a llama or alpaca the better. Lulin was born here and has had attention from us all from day one. She’s calm and confident around people and will come for cuddles if she’s in the mood. Katrina is the same. She arrived here with mum Gabby when she was two months old and was handled a lot as we walked them out to and from their field every day for the first year. She is always the first to come when she hears the grain bucket rattle and sees visitors at the gate. Gabby is five now. She’s less cuddly than her two daughters, but is easy to manage and comes up to us for some interaction on her terms! Our male llamas were all aged seven or more when we bought them. They soon got used to being handled regularly but have never really enjoyed too much physical contact. Oscar is the ‘friendliest’ in that respect, but all three of Bernard, Denis and Oscar are trusting and trustworthy animals and charm everyone who meets them.
So, support APPLE. Forget ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ ‘it’s ‘Join APPLE today, No spitting – no way!’