Just What I Kneeded

What happens after a life-altering knee injury?

More than meets the eye

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Though this blog would have you believe otherwise, my life does not always revolve around my knee. It’s been taking up more time than I care to admit lately, but I still have an awful lot of awesome in my life. Sometimes, when I’m being grumpy, I need to stop and take in all that I have to be thankful for. Plus, even I’m getting bored with posts about my knee, so it’s time for something new.

I have an appointment with a new physician in about two weeks, and I’ll post an update after that about the ol’ knee. But between now and then, I’m going to share a bit more about the things in my life that don’t involve my knee. Starting with this guy.

My llama, Tango.

This is Tango. He’s kind of a rock star.

I’ve shown llamas for more than 2o years; I first started in the local 4-H program because I just had to show livestock. Had to. I lamented to my parents for weeks about how my life wouldn’t be worth living if I couldn’t show an animal in 4-H. Llamas were the best option for me because we didn’t live on a farm, and you didn’t have to own the animal that you showed at the fair. You also did not have to see your animal carted off after the auction, which would have been devastating for me. I have a rather mushy heart when it comes to animals.

Tango is a bit of a special case. He was purchased by one of the 4-H kids in our club (after I graduated out of the program, I returned as an assistant leader), and they didn’t get along all that well. Tango was very strong-willed, and the kid was… not as strong-willed. He let Tango push him around, and eventually, this turned into a bit of a disaster as Tango grew older/bigger. There was screaming and spitting (yes, llamas can and do spit) any time that they would go practice. I stepped in a few times to try and help, and I inevitably fell in love with the mangy llama. I brokered a deal that led to my ownership of the craziest llama I’d ever laid eyes on.

He was completely unruly by the time I started working with him in earnest. He had been able to run right over his last handler, so the first thing he had to learn were manners. It took a lot, a LOT, of time and effort with this guy. We would go around and around, both of us trying to prove we were boss. He also hated, and I mean HATED, being groomed. Most llamas don’t mind it, or if they do, at least tolerate it. Not Tango. No sir. He would kick and scream and spit the entire time I was trying to groom him. He was the first llama I’d ever seen pee out of sheer anger while I was trying to groom him. My sister told me I was wasting my time on him, that he’d never be good for anything. But, as I’ve mentioned here before, I’m stubborn. I wasn’t going to let him make a fool of me. Besides that, he was one of the prettiest llamas I’d seen, and I was completely taken with him.

I couldn’t pick up Tango’s feet for the longest time. Being able to pick up and hold the animal’s feet is necessary so that we can trim their toenails. Though we are usually very careful about not teaching the llamas to eat out of our hands (because then they’re always looking for a treat), I finally gave in and tried to train Tango with treats. I’d wrestle with him until I could pick up a foot, and then I’d immediately give him a treat right out of my hand. The dude is seriously treat motivated. It took what seemed like forever until I was able to pick up a foot easily, and then it took even longer before I could do it without first proving that there were treats in it for him. It was during this phase that I learned Tango could kick like lightening, if he even thought someone was remotely close to his legs and might be thinking about touching him.

Because Tango was so unruly at the farm, I didn’t take him anywhere for the first few months. We take the llamas all over the place; we show all over the country, participate in parades, visit schools and nursing homes, and raise awareness for the many opportunities 4-H provides. I’d take my trusty, well-trained llamas whenever we would go on a community service outing because people always want to run right up to the animals and pet them. Sometimes, especially kids, don’t think before they reach out and start petting the animals, and they will pet them directly on their faces (ok with most of ours, but a few don’t like that) or their bellies or their legs. I didn’t think any of that would go over well with my maniac. When I finally decided Tango was ready for some public relations work, I was incredibly nervous to take him out among the masses.

We started with a parade because I could walk with him down the middle of the road, safely away from the reaching hands of children lining the way. I don’t recall how we ended up on the edge, but a child suddenly rushed out to pet Tango. I drew in my breath and held it because I didn’t have time to do anything else. The llama just stood there. Stood there like he’d been doing this all his life. He leaned in to sniff the kid’s hair, and that was about it. I was incredulous (and extremely thankful).

Tango has now walked in countless parades, has visited pre-schools where the kids climb all over him, and has walked right up to the bedside of elderly people in nursing homes. My sister, the one who said he wouldn’t amount to anything, regularly takes him on public relations outings. He’s also done spectacularly well in the show ring, winning a number of different championships over the last six years. He has been shown in 4-H by two different kids and did extremely well with both. He’s definitely one of a kind.

Last year, my five-year-old niece laid claim to Tango. Ask her; he’s her llama. And now it’s time for him to help train the next generation.

p.s. I’m happy to report that he no longer pees when he is being groomed. He’s calmed down a bit.

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Author: Laura

I have a fern I named Frankenstein. I like leprechauns, practicing kung fu moves on my dining room furniture, and pretending that one day I will move to Fiji. I dislike my neighbors' kids, anything that is chartreuse, and Ben Roethlisberger.

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