You can tell a lot about what an organization stands for by taking a look at the kind of people behind it.
Canadian Alpaca Products is kind of a unique group for a lot of reasons. It's not just our many years of experience in the alpaca industry, or the fact that we can help with everything from buying an animal to shearing and processing fibre, that sets us apart - it's the people. There's no better example of this than a story from this past shearing season.
It was a few weeks into the season and we were at DL Farms with a full schedule of alpacas to shear. Both of our expert shearing teams - Dee and Adria Graham and Fred and Faye Glauser - would be kept busy that weekend getting all of the animals taken care of. We also had our expert fibre sorter Sheryl and her team, and my job was providing medical support and any injections or medications an animal might need.
That day we were making decent time and coming up on a much needed lunch break. I could tell the shearers were tired, and we had worked with some of the larger pregnant gals that morning so we were all looking forward to a snack and a cold drink. I spotted a truck pulling an older horse trailer coming down the laneway toward the shearing shed. We often have "drive-bys" when we shear at a farm - local people who may have an animal or two and drop by to have their animal tended to - and we are happy to do it. It doesn't usually take much time out of our schedule and it's sometimes the only way these animals have access to professional shearing or routine herd care. So we weren't too concerned as we cleaned off the tables to get ready for the next animals. That's when we saw him.
He was a recently rescued llama, and the kind folks that brought him had no idea of his age, past health or anything else. The animal seemed old and a little dazed, his posture was hunched, and he seemed to be stepping gingerly as he was led to the shearing area. Obviously he hadn't been shorn in some time - or as his new owner put it "He's in bad shape and I don't think he can wait much longer."
He was right about that. I immediately noticed the llama's rapid breathing and a quick listen to his heart confirmed that the poor guy was in trouble. It had been a very warm spring and *Brutus was already suffering from serious heat stress. This can happen quickly in unshorn heavier fleeced animals, and swelling around his testicles indicated the backup of fluid that comes with heart failure.
There was no doubt he needed immediate care, but we were wondering just where to start with such an overgrown animal in such precarious condition. His fleece was severely matted and since he was sweating, his skin would be as fragile as a baby's under all of that fibre. The weight of the fleece would need to be supported to avoid pulling the skin and causing the shears to nick or cut the animal. After a quick assessment, both shearing teams carefully got to work.
I prepared some vitamin shots and supplements to help keep Brutus as calm as possible - but considering what was happening, he was pretty still. While Fred worked on carefully parting the matted fibre and shearing, Dee worked on chipping away at his overgrown nails. It was long past break time but the crew stayed to assist in any way possible, even if just holding back fibre or helping to lift a foot.
It took awhile and there were many stops to sharpen blades or cool down the overworked shears, but slowly the prison of matted fibre was peeled away and Brutus seemed to revive before our eyes.
As his overgrown toenails were brought down to size he stood taller, and as the weight was pulled away from him he began to shake his head and take interest in his surroundings. I could already see his breathing becoming more regular and and his heart rate was closer to normal. Finally, Brutus was free.
It didn't take him long to notice the girls on the other side of the fence, and he pranced energetically towards them looking nothing like the stressed, worn llama that we started with. His new owners were grateful and amazed at what a handsome young stud he was under all of that fibre. After a final check to be sure he was recovering, Brutus was loaded back onto his trailer for the return home - without a scratch. He left behind a mountain of matted fibre and a weary and slightly bewildered shearing crew. We walked back to the house for an overdue break, and nobody said a whole lot about what we had just finished.
We had a short break and got on with the day, staying later into the evening to make up for the time spent on Brutus - but nobody seemed to mind. The crew didn't make a big deal about what they'd done and you won't hear any of them calling attention to the way they do their jobs. They give the same kind of care and attention to all of the animals they work with - and I've watched them shear hundreds of animals in all kinds of circumstances. They are the people that make CAP the kind of group it is. Whether you visit us at the market, drop in to an open house, or even visit us online, you are dealing with people who truly care about the animals we work with and the products we create.
We are getting ready for a new shearing season and we know it will bring its share of surprises and challenges. We are hoping it also brings us a chance to meet up with Brutus again and see how he's liking his new haircut.