Llama Wrangling 101

If you find yourself puking due to the stench of a cud ball having coated your face at 20 mph, you may have just met your first llama.

If you have ever had the audacity to walk up to a llama and grab for its face and or ears just to find yourself knocked over backwards and being dry humped, you might have just met your first llama.

If you have ever run outside in your underwear in the middle of winter because you heard bloodcurdling screams and were sure that somebody was being tortured in your pasture and later discovered your llamas were just having another fight, you definitely have llamas.

I love llamas, not many of the folks I worked with liked them though or knew how to handle them. So typically when Denkai would get a llama call it would be to the point where the llama was going to be shot because they could not be caught and loaded and on top of that, where could they be housed?

One particular case I was called to involved a local sheriff’s department who was seizing a llama that had been abandoned on property with no water or food in the middle of winter.  I was running a bit behind not taking things too seriously, after all it was just another day in the field. Little did I know and little had they told me that we were dealing with a criminal who was very unpredictable and might show up at any moment.

I finally arrived on scene to three animal control vehicles, and at least a dozen detective and police officers.  All for a llama..Ya that should have been my first clue.  Not one of them had rounded up the llama lol I had to giggle to myself. So I walk up to this llama, halter him and hook the lead rope up.  He obviously had not be worked with much and was not a fan of being led to the trailer. It was a battle of my pulling, his resistance and then giant hops until we got to the trailer in which he hopped right in..go figure.

I was summoned to court to testify against this man and having arrived, learned that he had been threatening the lives of the individuals who had spoken up for the llama and saved its life. He was threatening the officers as well and had been showing up on doorsteps. He was armed and had friends who were backing him.  He did not know where the llama was being housed thankfully or we could have had a different outcome. Thankfully on this day he had had himself committed. I’m sure it was a tactic to avoid court.

Needless to say, the case did not go well and the county did not win against this man, yet another technicality that put yet another animal back into the hands of a criminal.  So I get the call that this in-tact male llama that I had so many plans for, including castrating him had to be returned.

The owner of the llama was now calling my facilities, threatening my employees and wanted to know where I was located so that he could have his llama back. So I talked with him and told him I would meet him at a local stockyard and return his llama. I arranged for the local sheriff to meet me as well so that I had back up.  One of my board members rode along as well.

I decided that the best thing I could do would be to get to the stockyard earlier, unload the llama and have him ready for pick up in one of the pens.  By now it was dark.  We unloaded the llama and I positioned my truck and trailer facing out so that we did not have to exit the vehicle and could gun it if we had to.  Did I mention the sheriff I had been speaking with decided to blow us off? YUP This llama dude had a record ten miles long, was a known criminal, scary as heck and the sheriff knew him and STILL didn’t show up for us.  I was PISSED.

Anyway, after a bit, here comes crazy llama dude with his posse of people. They pull up next to us with video cameras, guns and flashlights. I simply rolled down my window, told him that the llama was in the pen and we were leaving.  He then jumps in front of my rig as I started the truck. Like WTF was he thinking??  I just gunned it, figured he would move or he wouldn’t not my problem either way.  He moved pretty quickly actually, worked out well for both of us I’d say.

Needless to say I don’t think my board member will ever go out on another rescue adventure with me again lol.


Ever Seen a Volunteer Clear a Five Foot Fence?

I mentioned in a previous blog that we had a snake problem at the Nunn, CO location. To be honest it was almost as if the property and the snakes that inhabited it didn’t want anybody living there. That was my impression at least.

To make it even worse, we had a winter wheat field to the east of us and as soon as that field was cut and harvested, we were inundated with rattlesnakes seeking any crevice they could possibly find on our property.

I had some volunteers out to help one day. Karen and her son Elijah who would later become like family to me and are still close friends today.  Elijah had an incredible way with animals and at the age of nine when he started with us, he could handle any horse, chicken, you name it. He was very gifted and still is.  He also enjoyed snakes.  His mother did not find this amusing.

On one particular day, Elijah and Karen were out to help and came across a massive rattlesnake.  Now I have to say I have never seen a grown woman move so fast in my entire life. Karen managed to clear a five foot fence in a matter of a few seconds to get away from that creature.  Elijah on the other hand was trying to figure out exactly how to capture this thing as his mother was yelling at him hell no.   In the meantime I was working to convince them that we needed to spare the snake’s life, bag it, bucket it and relocate it.

Karen to this day looks at me as if I am crazy for wanting to save that damn snake.  It was only later in the year when I opened my back door to a HUGE rattlesnake curled up right on the step with its head pointed at me and rattles shaking that I got over wanting to save rattle snakes. I went in and out of the house through the window that day until all was clear.

Somehow we made it out of this place alive, nobody nailed by a snake and all animals in one piece.

The funniest rattlesnake story though would have to be the day I heard Tank, an old pit bull we had pulled from a local humane society barking the, “there’s a snake” bark from his yard.  This time I wasn’t messing around.  I grabbed my twelve gauge, hiked my happy ass outside and found that snake slithering next to an empty dog house (no animals were near).  I took aim and fired that gun right at that snake.  Blew a giant hole right into the side of that dog house. I swear the world went quiet and nothing made a sound for a split moment. I remember that snake paused and looked right at me.. He then slithered away shaking his head at what a bad shot that was. Haha! In the meantime I was trying to make sure my shoulder was still attached because I nearly blew it off backwards during the recoil of that gun and could no longer feel it.

Never shot that gun again  and thankfully I was the only one around when this incident occurred.  Bwahaahaa. Now the whole world knows omg..lol.


The Early Years

Perhaps the best article ever written and the one that brought me a Presidential Leadership Award was this one by Dan England. http://www.greeleytribune.com/news/local/home-on-the-plains/

The place was completely off the grid, windows broken out, there had been a fire in it at some point and walls were black. No heat existed, the windmill was broken and that was the only water source and the few solar panels that were there were haphazardly strewn and hanging, dead batteries to boot.  I thought to myself..I can totally make this work 😉

For me, saving animals was a calling that I had been taught to ignore throughout my entire childhood and young adult life. When I finally discovered who I was and the path that I was called to take, it rocked so many boats. Life turned inside out and upside down for me. I was in the middle of an ugly and very nasty divorce and facing losing my two wonderful boys who at the time were only one and four years old.

We had just lost everything in a bankruptcy, I had no vehicle and was getting by with a crummy work van and then later a truck I had managed to get donated by the skin of my teeth.  It was a FORD it had Ford problems..constantly.

I had already several horses and dogs that were in rescue with me and had to find a place to go all the while fighting through a vicious court battle for my children.  Today looking back I have no idea how I managed to pull off what I did. But I managed. I bartered and traded for pasture for my horses, I managed to find an incredibly generous farmer who rented his place to me and worked with me on payments, though his wife did not want to rent to me. He believed in me and gave me a chance.

There was no funding coming in yet other than the dog adoption fees and a little trickle of donations here and there. I had to become very creative as to how to get hay and feed for the animals and started calling horse boarding facilities asking for their bottom bales as they don’t normally feed those. I managed to drag in quite a bit in donations that way.  I wasn’t able to buy food for myself or the kids.  I had no idea about food stamps back then, so we scraped by with generous help from individuals who brought over canned food and trips to the food bank.

I rented rooms in this house out to individuals to help pay the rent and every cent that came in went into the animals and the landlord.  Eventually though, they didn’t want us there anymore and so began the struggle to find a new location.

We really didn’t have much if any money and with no credit were not going to be able to rent a traditional location, besides who would want to rent to an animal rescue and risk having so many animals on their property?  To say I was stressed and worried would be an understatement.

Luckily I cam across a man who had some property near Nunn. It wasn’t very livable and had been abandoned for many years.  I was not afraid..I went out to take a look at it. The reality that stood before me was a historic home built very early 1900’s with hand molded cement blocks. I could even see the hand prints in the block from the people who had built it.  The place was completely off the grid, windows broken out, there had been a fire in it at some point and walls were black. No heat existed, the windmill was broken and that was the only water source and the few solar panels that were there were haphazardly strewn and hanging, dead batteries to boot.  I thought to myself..I can totally make this work 😉

So we moved Denkai.  We put up fencing, cleaned out ten foot walls of tumbleweeds from pens, cleaned out decades worth of garbage from the barn, replaced broken windows, tried to get the wood stove working, cleaned walls, painted, fixed the solar the best we could, fixed the windmill and got the water system working again, ran pipe in the house so that we could have water inside as all pipes had at some point in time frozen and were never replaced.

The winters were harsh in this location. I had to haul water from town for the horses when it got really bad as the water would freeze in the tanks as it pumped from the windmill and we would have no water in the house or for the animals. I broke ice every day four to five times a day for the animals and lived on canned food.  There was no heat, I was able to get a five gallon propane bottle and have it filled in town. The propane company would not fill the tank on site because of the piping to it. They said it was outdated and by then we were out of money for that repair.  There was just one small heat register in the house downstairs and it didn’t heat much, you had to be standing in front of it.  The wood stove was piped in poorly and would just smoke out the house so was not useable.

I remember bundling my kids up in our winter gear at night and we would all curl up under the covers and go to bed.  People were so used to this place having been abandoned I slept with a twelve gauge next to me.  Trucks would roll in with headlights blaring and stop at the house. I can only assume it used to be a drug or party house because it was not lived in.  Either way it was scary.

Rattlesnakes were thick at this location as well. I couldn’t step outside during the summer without seeing at least three in a day.  In the fall when the eggs hatched, babies were everywhere and the place was crawling with them. I will save those stories for another blog post here though.

It was living in this location that I became very ill with pneumonia. It started the first winter I lived there and continued for many years every winter after that.  I remember that my reality check and decision to get out of this location came when my seventy year old Grandmother came to visit. This woman who had made it through many rough times as a child and adult said to me, “Floss, none of us could have survived this place.”  I’ll never forget her words. It was then and there I decided to start looking for a better location.

I found it in Carr for a little while, that location gave us just enough time to raise a capital campaign for what would be Denkai’s very own home near Grover, CO.  I will get into those stories in another blog as well.

Years later I went back to visit this off the grid property, it had been purchased by a uranium mining company and it sat empty ever since I had moved out. As I drove by it I shuddered remembering how hard that part of my life was and how I was grateful to not be there anymore.  I have never gone back.

The Innocent Suffer

Just prior to the founding of Denkai, I took in a wonderful and adorable miniature horse that we named Sweet Pea. She quickly became a major reason for my founding Denkai.

I happened to be at a PetSmart Adoption event in Fort Collins which is where Sweet Pea’s owner found me. She was the daughter.. and by daughter I mean fifty something years old, a miniature human herself..of an elderly woman who was one of the nutrition representatives at the store.

This tiny woman came over to me and she says..she has a miniature horse and the poor thing can’t get up to walk she won’t eat and is no longer able to drink and she’s worried about her. Could I come take her and give her a new home?

Now really?? So many things made no sense to me so I asked a few questions and was able to get a bit more information out of this woman. Apparently Sweet Pea had not had a farrier in for freaking ever and she couldn’t get up because her hooves were in such bad shape she could not walk on them..It was painful!

OMG! I had to do something about this and so found myself out at this woman’s farm the next day.  What I saw when I found Sweet Pea was absolutely heart breaking. Her front hooves were curled up the back of her legs in the shape of a U.  Her bones were fused together from having been like this for so long that she no longer had any rotation and it was utterly painful for her.  Did I mention this super genius of a person paid $3,500 for her so that she could neglect her to the point of near death? SERIOUSLY!

Of course I took Sweet Pea home and thanks to the help of a then incredible farrier, we began to work on turning her life around so that she could walk comfortably again. Lots of massaging, pain meds, and trims to her hooves that would go on for more than a year to get her back to as good a place as we could were the future.

Sweet Pea was only 7 years old at the time. Visitors, volunteers and especially my boys loved her, she was a sanctuary favorite and lived a good life with us for another six years before we had to put her down due to the neglect she had suffered so many years before. It had caught up with her and her quality of life was diminished, there was no longer an ability to keep her comfortable.  This was one of the most heartbreaking decisions for me, she was our heart and soul.

Turning back time just a bit – after I took in Sweet Pea, I was contacted again in 2005 by this same woman. She had yet another miniature horse, same story, it wasn’t getting up to eat and drink and she was afraid it would starve to death.

This time, it was the dead of winter. Below zero temperatures and snow had fallen 72 hours prior to her call.  She wanted us to take this little horse in also.  So I did what any curious animal rescue folk would do on a cold winter day.. I told her I would head on over to check it out.

The scene that Denkai’s then farrier and I walked into was unbelievable to say the least.  The miniature horse this woman had called about was dead and a baby.  It had laid down in its tiny igloo of a shelter and starved to death all alone.  In the new-fallen snow it was obvious that nobody had been out to feed this baby or any of the other animals, four more mini horses, llama ,and goats in several days. None had any water, the troughs were all frozen solid ice and had been obviously for days. The animals were all starving to death and there was no feed on the property.

And that baby mini horse?  That baby had been dead for more than a day. This woman knew that when she talked to me. I truly believe that she was trying to get us to clean up her mess so that she wouldn’t get in trouble with animal control.

We left the property and I called animal control immediately to file a report and send photos.  Once this woman figured out it was me who had turned her in she was of course furious and I was called so many names I lost count.  In the end, she agreed to surrender all of the animals to us.  We picked them up, brought them to Denkai, recovered every one of them and found homes for them all.

As for the owner? Nothing was ever completed on her case, she didn’t get so much as a slap on the hand. The photos below were taken long after they had arrived with us, their condition had improved tremendously by this point sadly.


You Did WHAT?!

What crazy person in their right mind takes in a Boar Hog?

I do you betcha. lol What was I thinking?!! I had a phone call come in back in 2007 from a man who must have by the luck of happy days caught me in a good  mood because somehow he convinced me to take in this really nice raised by a child boar hog.

My first question to our vet was..Can he be castrated?  The look on his face..priceless. I took that as a no.  Regardless of all of the warnings of caution I was given, Charles was a wonderful hog. He was never aggressive, LOVED his giant mud hole and was able to roam the Sanctuary at will.

I remember one day I was under the truck trying to do an oil change and just happened to roll myself out to grab a tool. There I lay, face to face with Charles the pig. I think I may have needed to change my underwear. That is not a position you want to be in with a 900 lb hog in the history of ever!!  Couple of deep breathing exercises later and some feed, he was safely locked back into his pen!

Our first winter in Grover was a rough one and I was still getting to know the layout of the facility. We had a HUGE dumper of a storm in April that literally buried Charle’s pen and him in 6′ drifts.  This was back before we had a tractor that was operational or any way to dig anything out.  So some of our wonderful volunteers and I geared up, donned our shovels and went to digging him out.  Thanks to the help of a dog named hunter, we found Charles snuggled safely in his shelter completely buried in snow.  He was nice and warm, talk about insulation!

I started digging from the top and managed to get a hole in the snow for him. All I remember after that is him barreling out of that shelter like his rear end was on fire and my yelling RUN!! RUN!! to the volunteers as we scattered to get out of his way. HA!

Charles lived his life out with Denkai and passed away several years later due to kidney failure.

Kill Buyers and Fuzzy Slippers

Kill buyers, as we call them, frequent the local auction houses and are the ones who mainly purchase horses that run through. Those horses are then typically sorted and sent one of three directions:

  1. The horse is handle-able, healthy and has papers – this horse is lucky and will be resold back into the public at to dollar by the Kill buyer.
  2. The horse is lucky enough to get purchased from the Kill buyer by a rescuer or organization (thus feeding more money into the Kill buyer’s pocket and allowing him to purchase two to three times the stock off of what rescue just paid him for one horse.)
  3. The horse is shipped to slaughter in either Mexico or Canada, though I do believe the US has re-opened slaughter plants again lately.

I just happened to be driving towards Fort Collins on a Wednesday (sale day for the local horse auction).  This was one of those occasions where my I have a feeling I need to be there instinct kicked up. I didn’t normally frequent the kill sales and sure didn’t like setting foot at this particular sale barn.. They had a bad taste in their mouths already for rescue.  I’m pretty sure that was after a knife fight by two gals in their parking lot over the love of a Kill buyer..One of the girls ran a horse rescue and had managed to fall in love with the bastard. That’s another story for another time lol.

Back to my story. I had a strong feeling that there was  a horse at that auction that was not supposed to be there and I had to get it out just HAD to.  So I pull into the lot, look through all the pens and nope wasn’t getting a feeling from any of those poor souls. Just as I was getting ready to head out, here comes a truck and trailer. They offload the most adorable hafflinger I have ever seen and I knew it was him, he was not supposed to be there that day.

I could not get to the man fast enough, he had already checked the horse in to sale and was starting to walk away when I was able to pull him aside. Turns out he was the son of a famous trainer in our area who had passed away due to a brain aneurysm a couple years back.  He told me that this horse had been trained to drive and ride, it was one his father had trained and that the woman who owned the horse didn’t want him anymore.  This kid didn’t want him either and so he “figured he’d bring a good meat price with how fat the horse is and all”.  BAHHHHH! WHAT are you kidding me right now????  I was pretty sure his father had to be rolling in his grave right then.

Calmly I said, well..I’ll just buy him from  you instead, what do you want for him. We agree on $300. Awesome I say, so he swaggers on over to get the horse back out that he had just checked in..This is where shit starts to fly.  Apparently ahem…you can’t do that according to their rules, god forbid they lose some money.

It was like auction house people came out of the wood works. A once desolate, good luck if you can find anyone to help you place was crawling with big ugly pissed off auction folk. I apologized and said ok I will go get a number and bid on him, my bad.

So I end up spending all of my day at the auction house waiting for this horse to run through.  In the meantime, the owner manages to corner me, yell and threaten me in front of the entire place and his employees. Well.. that just pissed me off even more and the more pissed I am the more stubborn I get so there I sat.  In the end, I got the horse and with a big fat “you’re still number one” (middle finger) to the owner, though I think he won this battle because I ended up paying like $700 for a horse that should have cost like $200 at this friggin auction.  Whatever. Horse Wins. I win.  We hauled ass home and never looked back. ❤

One of our earlier videos of Bubba the hafflinger: http://denkaisanctuary.blogspot.com/2010/01/bubba-haflinger.html

What do fuzzy slippers have to do with any of this? Kill buyers love fuzzy man slippers, they don’t seem to leave home without them. Just saying 😉


Of Bunny Slippers, Goats and Hoes

One of my rescue adventures involves an elderly couple located near Loveland, CO. Because of health reasons they were headed for greener pasture and had a herd of small goats that needed to find placement.

Now speaking to them on the phone, it all seemed like a pretty easy adventure. Get in, get paperwork done, load goats and leave.  NOPE that would have been way too easy.  They failed to mention the adult daughter who would later go a bit mental on us because she was convinced the goats were hers and she was not letting them go hell or high water.

So I arrive with a giant ass horse trailer which I had to oh so carefully back into the smallest space ever without hitting equipment, vehicle and other shit in the meantime. I mean seriously, it took a bit of skill and was not fun the first time.  The seemingly normal folks who had called me in the first place appeared out of a camper that they had been living in on the property and proceed to show me the goats that need to be loaded. We make a plan to get them onto the trailer and I had them paperwork to fill out.

Just as I thought again that this was going to be sooo easy, enter sandman..Ahem I mean adult child in a pink bathrob, bunny slippers and a lil bit o cray cray.  At this point and I quote, “we are stealing her goats”, “we will not be leaving with her goats” the fun went on and on.  She then moves the pickup truck in front of my rig and proceeds to take away the key from her parents so that the truck is blocking us in and we can’t get out..YUP here goes crazy.

She then proceeds to pick up a hoe..yes a gardening hoe and walk up to my side of the truck in an effort to beat the crap out of me..with a gardening hoe.  At this point I am literally trying not to laugh and manage to get my shit together enough to talk her off a ledge and make peace ish.

Now her parents are trying to talk to her and explain that she will not be able to care for the goats on her own, there is no money to feed them, they can’t starve.  Bathrob bunny slipper lady doesn’t care, she just needs to hhhaaavvveee them to looooooooooove them.  Her level of agitation is growing.  So I ask..”who does the property belong to?” The parents say it is in their name I say ok well I would feel better with the Sheriff’s dept here,  so until they get here, we are going to drive back out onto the dirt road and wait for them.

Enter Sheriff’s department twenty minutes later…Now apparently..they have been here before……a lot.  At this point bunny slipper bathrob lady is in the house with firearms. Ya parents failed to mention that little detail.  Sheriff dudes are positioned outside the house, guns in hand, behind cover.. HOLY HELL are you serious right now.  Why did I not just get in the truck and leave..??  Oh ya.. that’s right, because I was worried for the animals.

In the meantime, I proceed to help the parents load goats and I mean it was grab and toss (not literally) but we had to move quickly to get them into the trailer and make sure they weren’t running back out on us at the same time.  Pretty soon one of the Sheriff’s comes on back and says, you better get out of here, she’s getting agitated..I’m thinking to myself NOW she’s getting agitated? Should have seen her before you got here pfft. lol

Anyhow, goats in trailer successfully, my crew and I hauled our and the goats happy asses home.  Funny thing was that the trailer lights just so happened to not be working as we pulled out with the Sheriff behind us..Guess they had other things on their minds 🙂

Big Girls Don’t Cry…Oh Wait, Yes They Do..

You might have a doormat sign on your forehead if..

In the beginning, fifteen years ago, rainbows and butterflies adorned my image of rescue and all I wanted to do was save the world; animals and people. I loved to help, it made me feel good.  Thinking back on this today I just would rather barf..

Anyhoo on to my point with this blog.  Once upon a time I took in a mother and her daughter. They lived in the house with us for a short period of time until they could find a place to go and take their animals with them.  This means that along with them came their dogs and their horses.  Round one was successful, they did get back into a place to live and out of my house.  Cool Right?  For about a minute..

A year or so later, they landed on my doorstep again, same problem, they were kicked out with nowhere to go. Only THIS time they had dogs, goats, and horses. However, Denkai had just moved facilities to our 640 acre site and I was taking my dear sweet time in deciding whether I would take them in again or not.  Mom decided that maybe they should come out and help by volunteering their time for a day and that would surely seal the deal.  I went all day without mentioning any living situation to them and at the end of the day…Mom lost her shit.

Let me just preface this with, here is how manipulators manipulate…Mom decided to take a walk down the middle of the paved road out here in no man’s land and left daughter with me when she did this.  Yup…enter good Samaritan driving in a car who turns her in to the Sheriff, who drives her straight to the hospital and puts her on a mental hold..Then she calls me wanting me to come pick her up and bring daughter with me to do so.  I quote she was, “just so upset because they aren’t going to have a place to live.” BAHHHHHH!!! seriously.

So I go to the hospital to pick her happy ass up and leave daughter here, lord knows she has learned enough from Mom to last a lifetime.  Short story long, I let them live on site for a bit yet again until they could get back on their feet.  I gave them a small salary in exchange for helping to care take the animals here on a daily basis and keep things clean.

I think it was about the third time Mom went into and came out of my bathroom crying that I started to figure out she was full of shit and could cry on command.  What leads to this you say? Well…I happened to be double checking their work on behalf of the animals.  I should also preface this with the fact that we were going into winter, subzero temperatures and gale-force winds so I was extra worried about the animals in our care.

What I found pretty much put me through the roof, to this day I still get fired up about it.  Water troughs nearly all frozen solid with teeny tiny holes punched in the ice.  The holes were so small, in no world ever could an animal sip water out of them, ok maybe a cat but NOT a horse..Whewwww Floss no happy…What progresses is my confrontation of Mom, who proceeds to try to slam a 500 plus lb gate on me while yelling in my face that, “what I don’t think they are doing a good job?”

HAHAHAHAHAHA uhm quite frankly no and you may want to give me some space because yelling and proceeding to follow me is a VERY bad idea.  Some cooling off time later that day and Mom comes in to use the bathroom..She was fine when she went in..took her a little bit, but she managed to come out crying saying she’s sorry she has all this family stuff going on and blah blah blah bleh.

End of story…They moved on and we never talked again, it was awesome..That is until I ran into her yet again about a year ago due to an eviction issue with a home Mom was staying in with more animals than she can care for.  SIGH

The interesting thing with this woman is that she was able to manipulate people, especially men into letting her onto their property, use their vehicles, they gave her things, and then kicked her out when they figured out her game. I watched it happen so many times and hate to say that she got away with it for a little while with me too. Moral of the story.. don’t be afraid to have boundaries when it comes to shitty people.