A story about Erv — well, maybe a couple stories about Erv…

When we first got alpacas, we had three males: Sabre, Chad and Marc. Marc was a small yearling when he arrived, Sabre a beautiful white male, and Chad was a rescue animal due to his having been very sick which made him weak and a bit wobbly.

About six months after they arrived, Sabre died unexpectedly, and the vets could never explain his death. A week after his death, we heard a strange noise on the front porch, and I went to the door to find the biggest, whitest, fluffiest alpaca standing on my porch. The farm where we had originally gotten our alpacas brought this new guy, Erv, as a gift knowing how devastated we were by Sabre’s death. Erv is in the center of the picture below.

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Erv was a character. Huge, with a big head, he towered above the rest. His gene pool was spectacular, and he should have been a champion, but it was like the best genes in the world combined strangely, and he wasn’t the “perfect” alpaca. His teeth grew so quickly that they needed to be trimmed twice a year. But what a guy! Erv liked to cuddle, could jump fences when bored, and always wanted to see what was going on around our farm.

About two years or so after he arrived, he was struck down by a worm that alpacas can get from deer. Normally, it is fatal. But Erv fought day after day, and survived. A little wobbly after, he still was the alpha of the little herd.

When we went away to Canada for a vacation, a bear attacked, killing one of our boys (the black alpaca in the photo, Jack Frost). Erv and Marc both jumped a fence that was more than four feet tall to run away, and were found almost a mile from our house.

After that, Erv decided to enjoy life more. It was like the near-death experience made him appreciate life more. He loved to climb up into the water bucket hanging off the barn wall to soak his feet. He only liked to eat grain if it was hand-fed to him — none of that eating out of a bucket for him! And he made us laugh a lot.

One day, we got a call that the shearer was coming. When the shearer calls, you drop everything and get ready to shear. So Sam, Ben and I went down to the pen to snag the three alpacas and get them haltered. We got them ready, then waited, and waited, and waited. Almost an hour later, having walked them around the yard again and again, we heard the phone in the house. Paul answered it, and came out of the deck to announce that the shearer wasn’t coming after all. I don’t know if it was because he yelled so we could hear him at the bottom of the hill or not, or if something else spooked him, but Erv jumped, and whacked his gigantic, bony, rock-hard head directly into my head.

Now Sam and Ben were there too, both holding well-behaved alpacas, while I had Erv. Later, they would say that when our heads collided, we both staggered back, almost crashing to the ground.

I got a concussion from that encounter, one that left me with a nagging headache for almost a month. Erv, well he clearly had one too. For weeks, he kept his eyes half-closed, and was slow in moving around, and even soaking his feet didn’t seem to appeal to him. Eventually, he bounced back, but it took us both a while to get over that knock to the head.

All these years later, when I hear of someone getting a concussion, I think of Erv, the concussed alpaca.

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