A Friendship in Balance & By Chance
Anyone who has ever stood by our alpacas’ paddock and observed Onyx and Ezra, would know that to write about one without the other would merely be telling half the tale.
Where one goes, the other follows.
Their gentleness, beauty and grace accentuated by their mirrored movements and juxtaposing shades of black and white, has brought a quiet elegance to the Lewis Oliver Farm since their arrival here two years ago.
Yin & Yang
Seeing them side by side, we’re reminded of the well-known black and white ‘Yin Yang’ symbol depicting the Chinese philosophies that opposite energies (ie lightness and darkness, life and death) are actually dependent upon and connected to one another.
Different and distinct energies, yet one could not exist without the other-so true, too of Onyx and Ezra!
Just try to separate them even for a moment, as we occasionally must do when locking them in their stalls for vet visits or during bad weather and they’ll break your heart
with their desperate, frantic hums until they can once again see and be near each other .
Interestingly, the black swirl within the symbol represents the “Yin” which is believed to be the soft yielding, more mysterious and passive energy. This would be Onyx with his black fleece and shy demeanor and who’s always a step behind Ezra, like a shadow following it’s lead.
By contrast, the white swirl represents the “Yang” energy described as fast, solid, focused and more aggressive. Anyone who has seen Ezra at feeding time knows this couldn’t be more true!
Onyx’s meekness and Ezra’s more bold, confident disposition are often captured in the pictures we take in which Onyx shyly looks away from the camera while Ezra looks directly into the lens.
And the winner is….
As natural as their bond may be, Onyx and Ezra’s pairing was quite literally “by chance”.
You see, Ezra, the first of the two alpacas to arrive at the Lewis Oliver Farm, found his way to us by way of a Chinese Auction which took place at a community fundraiser in upstate NY.
A local alpaca farm had donated Ezra to be raffled off as a prize to the lucky winner, who, presumably, would turn out to be a fellow alpaca farmer from the area or at best, someone with the land and experience for owning such an animal.
…or so they thought!
As it turned out, a family from East Northport who happened to attend this fundraiser while visiting a relative in the area, wound up winning the raffle. This was definitely an odd situation for them. After all, people from our neck of the woods who attend fundraisers are more accustomed to winning raffle prizes along the lines of gift certificates to local restaurants, artwork or household appliances…certainly not a big, fuzzy alpaca!
As we have since learned, there is often an over-abundance of male alpacas in need of homes since only a select few are used for breeding at farms where they harvest and sell their fiber. Many of these male alpacas wind up getting adopted by other farms or by people who take them in as pets. As a whole, it seems, those who own alpaca farms as well as those who keep them as pets have one thing in common- they love their animals and in fact, many would be considered fanatics when it comes to caring for them.
Ezra, our prize alpaca!
Unsure of what to do with their ‘good fortune’, the family had asked the alpaca farm who donated Ezra for some time to think things over before claiming their prize. As animal lovers, they were determined not to let this opportunity pass them by and more importantly, they wanted to come up with a plan to help find Ezra a good home.
Being equally concerned over Ezra’s well-being, the owners of the alpaca farm were happy to oblige. They not only gave the family several months to think things through, they educated and advised them on everything they would need to know about caring for an alpaca. To this day, they remain a reliable resource for us. They are always happy to offer advice and answer any questions that we have about caring for both Ezra and Onyx.
As it turned out, around the time Ezra was raffled off, we had just set up a new paddock for our miniature horse, Lady and were in the middle of constructing a New barn for her. It was a generous piece of property and the barn was plenty big so when we were approached about the possibility of taking Ezra in, it seemed like it was meant to be. We were also concerned about Lady being all alone and figured she could use the company.
Alpaca barn during construction
Luckily, as we had confirmed with Ezra’s owners, it was perfectly safe to house him with a mini horse. Not so, however, of some of the other animals we have at the farm such as our sheep, cow and pig since they could potentially cross contaminate an alpaca with certain diseases and parasites which could seriously compromise the alpaca’s health and in some cases, be fatal.
As long as Ezra’s living space was a safe distance away from the other animals and as long we were careful to keep feeding equipment and other such items separate, the arrangement would work out fine. One other important rule which Ezra’s former owners stressed to us was to always carefully monitor and control his diet. This meant not allowing the public to feed him the way we allow visitors to feed our other animals on the premises.
Alpacas have very delicate digestive systems, many food aversions and due to the anatomy of their long necks, are prone to choking. Therefore, we diligently and strictly enforce the “No Feeding” rule through signage posted around the alpaca paddock. (Rest assured, the alpacas are well fed! Our volunteers feed them a small amount of high quality horse grain 2x/ day and they have unlimited access to grass hay and fresh water at all times.)
With all preparations and precautionary measures in check, we were on our way to getting an alpaca! Once the new barn was built, the lucky winners headed back upstate to retrieve Ezra and bring him to his new home at the Lewis Oliver Farm.
And in case you’re wondering, alpacas are surprisingly portable! They simply loaded him into the back of their SUV and began the journey back to Northport. (Easier said than done…it surely must have been an adventure to go through toll booths and rest stops with an alpaca in tow!)
An odd couple indeed, Lady and Ezra seemed to get along well enough to keep each other company. The split design of their barn gave them their own space at night. During the day, aside from Lady’s occasional feistiness, they happily shared the paddock with each other.
Sadly, however, only a couple of months after Ezra’s homecoming, Lady passed away from what turned out to be a chronic battle with colic. We were devastated as she was only two years old and was with us for less than a year but as the surgeon who tried to save her confirmed, she was a very sick animal who would have faced a short lifetime filled with pain and suffering had we not made the decision to humanely euthanize her.
The loss of Lady not only left us with a hole in our hearts , it left us with a very lonely alpaca in need of a friend.
By networking with the alpaca community in upstate NY, we were able to find another male alpaca in need of a home and one who would be the perfect companion for Ezra- a sweet, jet black alpaca named Onyx. As fate would have it, the farm who would be donating Onyx just so happened to know someone who would soon be heading out to Long Island to deliver another alpaca to the area . They were happy to take Onyx along for the ride and deliver him to us at the Lewis Oliver Farm.