numb

Expect the unexpected? What happened today is not what anyone could have ever expected.

Earlier today, I witnessed the tortoises fighting. They are both males so I suppose it is to be expected. Only, this time, they were fighting close to their pool. The pool is shallow, however, should one tortoise push another and turn it upside down in the pool… there could be potential drowning. Naturally, I separated them, but now I have a new problem to think about…. What if they fight next to the pool and no one is there to see it if one accidently gets pushed in upside down. 

I had been busy all morning. It was just a few minutes after noon. I wanted to settle down for lunch, but I couldn’t without checking on the tortoises. Sure enough, they were pushing each other around but all is safe…. but in the distance I hear the camel groaning. 

I look over at her, she’s laying on her side and the alpaca is jumping on her. This is normal. When the camel actually takes a moment to lay down and enjoy the sun, the alpaca likes to pester her by jumping and leaning against her. At first I thought she was just complaining like she usually does, but there was something different about how she sounded. As I watched her from the distance, I noticed her attempt to get up and couldn’t. I started walking towards her, again, she tried and again she couldn’t get up. I didn’t know what was wrong and had no idea how long she had been down, but I don’t think it was very long. 

I got into the pasture and waited for her to try again and stepped in and tried to push her over. We did this several times. I stopped to look at her and could see no visible signs of injury. I started touching her front legs and she complained a bit, but again, I could not see anything wrong. 

Again, she tried to get up and this time I was able to heave her over. She couldn’t stay up and instead, flopped over to her other side. And that’s when I was finally able to see what was wrong. 

Her left front leg was clearly broken… and badly. Though it did not break skin, it was clearly broken all the way through. Her leg was also abnormally twisted. I was unable to see her leg before because she was laying on top of it before I flipped her over. 

Quickly, the necessary phone calls were made. Co workers came to join me. The doctor seemed to take forever to get there. We consoled the camel. Tried to make her more comfortable. 

At one point she fought so hard and actually did get up. She hobbled around on her 3 legs… the 4th swaying back and forth. A co worker grabbed me and pulled me back, concerned that I would be dumb enough to try to help and 1400 lb animal that could fall over at any second and crush me. But still, I needed to be there, our biggest concern was for her to go down on her right side so the broken leg would be easy to get too and not buried underneath her weight. 

Lucky for us, she landed just right. 

My co worker approached me and decided to tell me that because the break was so high (near her shoulder) there is probably nothing the doctor can do. In horses, this is an immediate “put down”. 

The doctor finally arrived, took one look at the leg and grabbed her supplies. She brought out large syringes and needles. I thought she was going to be sedating the camel a bit to take away some of the pain, but then I saw that fluid. I saw that strawberry kool aid colored fluid being drawn up into the syringe and all I could say was, “You’re going to put her down now?” 

Yes, there was no other choice. A break that severe and that high up is just impossible to treat and immobilize with an animal that large. 

I cried, sobbing, clutching the camel’s head closely. The fluid had to be administered intravenous. I knew that the process of sticking her with the needles would be hard. It was. The camel was unhappy. She began regurgitating and groaning. Her thick hair made it hard for the doctor to find the vein. 

Finally, however, the process began. Slowly the fluid was given to her. She got everything the doctor had that was 1000 lbs over the usual dosage she would have gotten. But still, our camel would not let go. It was painful to watch her, lay there, breathing, but not letting go. The doctor assured us she was not in any pain. 

Too much time had passed and a second doctor, a more experienced doctor came into the picture. It was time to take some better action. They put a 5 inch long needle, directly into her heart and finally…. our camel passed. 

The experience was much different than when our alpaca was put down. Co workers gathered around and cried along with me. Hugs were a plenty. Even co workers I didn’t think would care, or realize just how much the camel means to me, came over and embraced me tightly as I sobbed into their shoulders. 

“you were a good mother”

“I’m sorry” 

All words of caring and appreciation. You see, the camel came to us when she was 4 months old and just 211 lbs. Today she was over 1400 lbs and 6 1/2 years old… in fact she was getting pretty close to being 7. I raised her. I have been her daily care taker. I’m the one who taught her how to circle, how to lay down on command, how to crawl, how to bow, how to accept having her feet picked up, how to accept being groomed every day and stand still. I even got her to wear her saddle, but the day never came to ride her. 

Every day she and I took a walk around the facility. Every day I would have to call the horse barn and let them know we were on our walk. Horses for some reason, think camels are alien beings and really get frightened at first. 

So yes, she was my baby and I was her mother. We created a strong bond. We trusted each other. We respected each other and yes I think we loved each other very much. 

I was there to watch her take her final breath as I cradled her head and whispered in her ear. 

A co worker told me that things happen for a reason. Of course the 1st time she said this I cried and asked what the reason for this was. This was before the camel had passed. She had not answered my question. As she held me and we walked side by side out of the pasture, she said those words to me again… only this time she said: “Perhaps someone ‘up there’ knew that she would be unhappy. Maybe someone knew that she would be lonely the day you lose your job and leave this place. Perhaps, she has left this world now, because there would not be a better day once you left hers.”

I smiled and took comfort in her words and want to believe them completely. 

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One Response to “numb”

  1. Dave Says:

    I knew you and your camel, and I saw the two of you together enough to know how mutual the love between you two is. I will miss that goofy, awkward, but amazingly photogenic beast, but not like you will. I know I can’t take all the hurt away, but I am here for you. She was a wonderful animal, and was lucky to have you in her life, as I am.

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