We Never Asked for Loretta

There are some people who come into your life unexpectedly — inexplicably. Their presence just doesn’t seem to make sense. At least not at first. But over time, the reasons they are with you starts to reveal themselves. We never asked for Loretta, but she belongs here. 

Loretta is our guardian llama. She protects the other livestock from predators. She’s missing part of her lip which is testament to her dedication to the task — we think.

Loretta the llama, Loretta, Fermes Leystone, Leystone Farms ,Pontiac, Nurture, Karri Munn-Venn, Trefor Munn-Venn, craft vinegar, city to country, sheep, Wool pellets, honey

We don’t actually know what happened to her but the stories we invent are increasingly dramatic. 

Loretta the llama, Loretta, Fermes Leystone, Leystone Farms ,Pontiac, Nurture, Karri Munn-Venn, Trefor Munn-Venn, craft vinegar, city to country, sheep, Wool pellets, honey

While we’ve seen Loretta get worried by what she sees going on around the flock (honestly, she always seems worried by what’s happening around her) we’ve never really seen her in action. 

We know llamas can be aggressive. They can spit and kick and stomp predators. Apparently they can let out a high-pitched scream that sounds like a rusty hinge, but we’ve never seen Loretta do any of those things. We kind of want to see her in action, but we’re certainly not going to be the ones to get her upset since we have to care for her every day and the last thing we want is for her to be more resistant or suspicious of us. 

We never actually asked for Loretta. In fact, never in our wildest dreams had we ever thought our lives would include a llama. But here we are. 

Loretta joined us as part of a package deal when we were buying a small flock of sheep. It was four sheep, two runner ducks, and one llama. We were just a few months into farming and, frankly, everything seemed so unfamiliar that this didn’t seem any different so we just shrugged and said, “OK, I guess we’re going to own a llama!”

For some reason we drew the line at the runner ducks. On reflection, keeping the ducks may have been the more reasonable option.

Loretta the llama, Loretta, Fermes Leystone, Leystone Farms ,Pontiac, Nurture, Karri Munn-Venn, Trefor Munn-Venn, craft vinegar, city to country, sheep, Wool pellets, honey

Loretta is always alert, suspicious, and we think largely full of disdain. She’s the least affectionate animal on the farm. She’s also the oldest by far. And over time we’ve come to realize that she’s been moved from farm to farm, flock to flock, in that same guardian role. She’s connected with the flock and takes her role of protector very seriously. 

Loretta will position herself between the sheep and anything she considers a threat. She’ll herd them away, stomp the ground with her ears back if she doesn’t like what’s going on around her. 

She does her job well. But it’s been most poignant to see her with our lambs. When our very first lamb was born in winter, we found the mother, the fresh, steaming lamb, and Loretta all standing together. Loretta was the most alert we’ve ever seen her and kept the lamb by her side as she scanned for threats. 

Later in the season, as more lambs joined the flock, we would find them curled up on Loretta’s back when she was lying down. They would climb on her, hop on her, and nuzzle up next to her. It’s the only time we’ve seen her demonstrate anything close to gentleness, and it was beautiful. 

We don’t know how much more time we’ll have with Loretta. While she actively protects the sheep and alpaca, she’s getting older and weaker — our vet referred to her as geriatric. She gets special meals to maintain her strength. She gets extra support to stay warm in the winter. We care for her and she cares for the flock. 

We’ve decided that Loretta’s not going to move any more and that this is her home now. That’s come with understanding that, one day, she will die here. That’s not a day we’re looking forward to. Losing any animal is tough. Losing Loretta is going to ache. 

Despite her aloofness, her lack of trust, and her disdain for all of us, she holds a special place in our hearts. Her silent, serious presence is a welcome one. 

When you visit the farm, be sure to find Loretta and say hello. She’ll ignore you. She won’t trust you. She’ll be wary of you. But this old, scarred, weary, wonderful animal is as lovable as the newest lamb. 

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