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Glorified billy goats valued for cuteness

November 27, 2007|By TIM ROWLAND

Looking back on it, I'm not entirely sure how we wound up with four alpacas. It was almost as if we woke up one morning and they were there.

True, we had been "testing the waters" for some time, visiting local alpaca ranches and signing up for alpaca newsletters.

Near as I can tell, alpacas -which resemble scaled-down, shaggy, humpless camels -have four solid attributes in their favor:

1. They are very cute.

2. They don't eat much.

3. They are very cute.

4. In many circles, they are seen as very cute.

They are also Very Valuable, for reasons I haven't quite gotten to the bottom of. Let me qualify that. They are Very Valuable if they are capable of breeding; if they are incapable of breeding, not so much. In that way, they are sort of like 1980s-era welfare programs.

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Being a journalist, it is unlikely that I will be laying out $20,000 on a female alpaca or $150,000 for a champion herd sire. Our new silver alpaca named Sterling would have been one of the latter, except that - and I describe this at the risk of agitating Del. LeRoy Myers - one of his testicles did not pop into place, so instead of selling for $150,000, he sold for $500.

This should be a sober lesson for males of every species. Without our reproductive proclivities, we would be viewed as so much useless protoplasm, barely worth cost of the hay it takes to keep us alive.

So with one exception, ours are pretty much pets - placeholder text, so to speak, to see if this is an enterprise we want to get into on a greater scale. And of course, when I say "we" I mean "Beth." Although I confess, they are tough critters not to get attached to with a quickness.

The exception that I mentioned is a high-quality herd sire named Copperfield that we bought from a farm in Kentucky for the standard $500 pet cost because the ranch had too many males - sort of the opposite problem of what they have in China, I take it.

But now it seems there was some kind of internal "misunderstanding" and he shouldn't have been let go at this price. So while they work it out - and being good people, I'm sure they will - the farm is temporarily withholding his paperwork, which, apparently, is more valuable than the animal itself.

It's much ado about a glorified billy goat, in my opinion, and we're pretty pleased with Copper, whether he comes with his own personal Magna Carta or not.

And the tall, elegant, coal-black Copperfield certainly doesn't care. He immediately made himself comfortable with his new, self-appointed role as the barnyard pope, lording over the donkeys, goats and dogs with a calm, regal benevolence that comes with the knowledge that everything on the 15 acres revolves around him.

The bouvier des Flandres named Opie had kind of served in this role up until last week - with the exception of the "calm, regal benevolence" part. Opie ruled with a scepter of enthusiasm and a crown of frenzy.

Using these tools, the only ones he knows, he immediately tried to bring Copper, Sterling and the other two members of the nativity scene under his paw with the usual sprints, dives, leaps and ostentatious head tossing.

He might have saved himself the swashbuckling, because King Copper, for one, clearly was not impressed.

Opie was used to large farm animals bolting away in submission, but what had worked in the past failed in the present. Copperfield merely strolled over to Opie with all the urgency of a highway worker and lowered his ample neck toward the dog with a bemused, "what have we hereness" that knocked Opie completely off stride.

Poor dog. He hasn't quite been the same since. He's taken to long, quiet bouts of meditation and introspection until he can figure out what this new turn of events means. When he finds out, I hope he lets me know.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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