We call him Captain Jack because he needed a strong name, a name that reflected his mental strength and will to live. You see, Captain Jack came into our lives in a very unusual and disarming way. Here is his story.
If you know Anne and Merl Foss, then you know two people who genuinely care about and care for animals. They have a long history of helping, including Llama rescues and taking in strays of various species. Fosses have Emus, dogs, cats, Llamas, alpacas and parrots at their place near Athol, Idaho. The tranquility is evident by the way all of those animals and their humans live together.
Anne saw a little alpaca one day and just couldn't get him out of her mind. He was small and very sad looking with a badly damaged right eye. Anne contacted me and we talked about it, looking for ways to get this poor creature away from his situation. We finally decided to just offer to buy him, knowing we were not spending money for a valuable male alpaca; rather, this was just the starting cost of the rescue. We offered and we got the little bugger.
I was a little nervous driving out to pick up the injured boy. After all, I had never seen him, but knew from Anne's and Merl's descriptions that it would difficult to see him and control my emotions. When I first laid eyes on him, it was worse than I imagined, but in one way I was insulated a bit from reality because I didn't know anything about him.
When I first saw the alpaca stand, I thought he was a cria, maybe about seven months old. He was so weak, he couldn't hold his neck and head up straight and he had no spirit at all. There was no sparkle in his eye. He didn't fight, he didn't try to run and he didn't seem to have enough strength to even walk very well. And, he was 14-month old. He was not a cria at all. He was a yearling and when I got him home and weighed him, he was only 57 lbs. We had a small male cria at the time who weighed more.
The little guy had been kicked in the side of the head, just behind his right ear and it caused facial paralysis. He could not blink his right eye, move his right ear or use the upper and lower lips on the right side of his face. His right eye was a distressing color of red with yellow puss and mucus. The right side of his badly damaged face was caked and matted with what appeared to be old fluids that had leaked out.
Here is a photo of the boy on the third day we had him. We were simply too busy keeping
him alive before t
hat to take photos.
Note his right nostril is collapsed from paralysis.
We started calling him Captain Jack because we figured he would lose his right eye (bringing to mind pirates) and we could see that even having been nearly starved to death, he was willing to fight. So, Captain Jack went to the vet. Bob Stoll is our local vet and we are lucky to have him for three reasons, among others: First, he has tons of camelid experience; second, he's not a quitter and genuinely cares about the animals; and third (probably most important), Bob's wife Heidi who is his scheduler, assistant, x-ray tech, vet tech, bookkeeper and a very caring woman.
Bob's first question was whether we had called the Sheriff: "This alpaca," he said, "is starving to death." Bob examined him and spent a great deal of time with the right eye. He drew blood for a blood test and I had provided a fecal sample. We put Captain Jack on a strict diet to get him used to good food of grass, grass hay and 1 lb of Equine Senior per day, fed in small increments. And, we did a triple-antibiotic treatment to his right eye three times daily, plus I had given him vitamin A, D and E injections the first day.
Our friend Renee came over and we examined the Captain together. He was so starved that we could feel where his ribs attached to his spine. His shoulders and thighs had so little muscle that we could feel the curve of the bone. And, poor Captain Jack, just couldn't fight us or run away. He could barely hold his head up.
Our friend Genie is a massage therapist and she came over (she even cancelled a human, paying patient to see Captain Jack) and did therapuetic massages on his face, neck and spine. Then, she taught Anne and me how to keep this going. The theory, which we had seen work before, is to keep stimulating the damages nerves in his face, hoping that they will repair themselves and allow him to gain use of his eyelids, ear and facial muscles. Anne and Merl do these massages daily.
We stuck with the feeding plan and treatment. On a return visit to the vet, Bob said he was amazed at how well the alpaca was recovering. He ended up suturing the right eye closed to allow it heal better and gave us a new regime for applying eye ointment. Then, Jack (that's Captain Jack) moved to Anne and Merl's place where he would get more consistent daily care and someone would be there to watch him during the day.
I stopped by their place to visit the Captain on the 21st day after we got him. He had been getting good food, some medication, massage stimulation and lots of personal care for only three weeks. He pronked around his pasture. Then, he ran from us and when we tricked him with an offer of food, he put up a good fight trying to break away and run. He was a different animal.
I was amazed at the difference and I offer you photos to show the change. The first photo below is him on the third day. The other two photos are Captain Jack on Day 21.
Below: at Day 3: Weak and stressed
And, so, this is really the beginning of Captain Jack's story. More will follow.
Anne with Captain Jack, day 21--
One of the biggest differences in Captain Jack is his spirit has returned, with a sparkle in his good eye. He will not only make it, he will thrive. I will probably never get him back to my place. Anne has fallen in love again.
All my best,