Martin the abandoned alpaca I foster on my back four acres has had little human contact over the past five years or so. Although he has been feeding for several weeks from a bowl in my hand (and sometimes directly from my palm), he is still quite aloof and very nervous if I so much as twitch my arm while he is eating or move too abruptly while he is nearby.
Usually he is waiting for me at the gate to the back pasture around dinner time. Sometimes if I'm a little early, he will be watching from the distance and casually meander down for his treats when I call - after just a little delay to make sure I don't get the impression that he can be domesticated.
And sometimes he totally forgets he is an aloof, abandoned, undersocialized alpaca and gallops down the path to greet me.
There are few things that make me smile as broadly as watching this comical, short-legged, dirty-blond camelid come galloping at full speed down the path, his curly brown mop-top bobbing along with eyes fixated on the food in my hands.
Of course, he comes to his senses about four or five feet away and skids to a stop. He puts on a show of being very laissez-faire about the whole process by turning his head and his body sideways as if to say "Oh, it's youâ€¦I suppose I could use a little nibble of somethingâ€¦I'll be there in a moment."
And then he crowds into the bowl held against my body and chows down, as I grin at the mop of curls brushing my hands while he shovels the food into his eager mouth.
Oh Martin, you may think you are aloof but I've got you pegged! The way to an alpaca's heart, appparently, is through his stomach. And the path to llama-tex and alfalfa pellets is run at full tilt on a sunny evening just before the sun sets. And the smile stays on my face for the rest of the evening. Thanks Martin.