This is not a happy post full of frolicking chickens, cat antics or pronking alpacas. As every farmer knows, not every day on the farm is a happy one, although a good many usually are.
I watched a cria dying today. It was the first time I've seen one that close to death. I've seen a few dead crias, but never one still in the process of leaving.
It was a male, a multi-colored white and brown. The soft, curly fleece on its sides heaved with every rasping breath. The sound he made sounded almost like a human cry - it was difficult to listen to.
Of the two crias born last weekend, he was the bigger and stronger of the two, the other one being a little bit premature and therefore smaller and still struggling to figure out the nursing process. This little guy seemed to have it mostly figured out but his dam lacked a good milk supply, so we were supplementing him with a bottle twice a day.
This morning I held him between my knees as I gave him his bottle. It was easier than yesterday, he seemed more eager to take the milk. He seemed quite strong. The other cria seemed to be getting stronger, too. There was hope for both of them.
Shortly thereafter, a new baby was born, and attention was set to making sure the dam and cria were doing well. When we went to check on the little multi-colored male and his smaller pen-mate a bit later, we found him down on his side, rasping for breath.
My friend, the cria's owner, with twenty years of camelid raising experience under his belt, and I, the newbie, watched the struggling cria, both of us puzzled by his sudden down-turn. We took his temperature, it was normal. We were at a loss. It was clear he would not last long.
When I checked on him a bit later, he was still alive, barely, his cries coming weaker now. I would like to say I stayed there in the barn with him, that I held him as he took his last breaths.
I did not.
My presence in the stall would not be a comfort, to him or his dam. It was her place to be, not mine.
When I checked on him for the last time, he was quiet and still, appearing as if he had simply fallen asleep, never to wake up again.
A baby is born, a baby dies. The circle of life, and death, continues.