Paean to Alpacas

Most people do not know about alpacas. This must change.

Alpacas are effortlessly neotenous. Their small size and big eyes call for you to love them. Look at this wool-laden head that balances on a furry noodle neck. Their big eyes seem so guileless. Alpacas are smaller than you. You could beat one in a fight, if it came to it.

But you won’t need to. Llamas are as tall as a grown man and can be aggressive towards humans. I don’t know if you could beat a llama in a fight. Alpacas are smaller, cuter, and mostly unaggressive. They’re only quarrelsome with each other, especially if you have a carrot. There are always fewer carrots than alpaca.

(This is a llama, by the way. They might as well be mythical creatures straight out of Xanadu.)

The usual barnyard animals, goats, sheep, horses, and pigs, give away their presence with a familiar barnyard funk. If you close your eyes, you’d hardly know the alpacas were there. They’re quiet, too. I don’t remember them making a sound, even as they maniacally followed the carrot-bearers around the pen, leading with their funny soft fingerlips.

If you find yourself feeding an alpaca, it may comfort you to know they only have bottom teeth in the front of their mouth. The front teeth grind against their hard palate, while all the heavy chewing happens in the back. It would be a foolish act of will to get your fingertips all the way back to the crunchy molars.

I often wish I could want anything in life as much as an alpaca wants a carrot. At first I thought that I am special, because I have the carrot, but no, I simply hold the orange magic wand that controls their attention.

I tried a carrot. It was crunchy and a little dried out. It did not have the magic I’ve been looking for.

There’s a dream I’ve often seen of just getting away from it all. The dream usually features a modest house in a rural wooded area. This future has no city noises and sirens, just chickens and beehives and perhaps a child or three.

I’d like to incept into this dream a few alpaca grazing in the distance. They would graze gently, leaving the roots of plants intact unlike a goat would. And in exchange would give you wool that could be spun and woven into luxurious sweaters sold on Etsy for an egregious price.

This dream has some of the carrot-nature for me. Not with the same strength or obsession, but there’s a touch of yearning there. If I were seven, I could see myself writing about this every day for weeks, creating dramatic stories about a little red farmhouse with two peacocks, fifteen chickens, three goats, a small herd of alpaca, and a prowling mountain lion that the great dane keeps at bay.

What is going on inside this mind? I do not have flattering guesses.

So I will write to you as if this were elementary school, back when we wrote reports on things we loved like tigers and Christmas. I will inform you that alpacas are good. I will explain the best places to pet them: Avoid the ears. Scratch the sides of the head, the neck. Under their jaw, get the hay out of their chin. They are messy eaters, as I’d be if I were covered in thick velcro and had no hands.

I’ll admit, I’m no expert. I have never owned alpaca, and I did not have time to get to know the intricacies of their backstories and personality flaws. Like this curious bucktoothed alpaca, doomed to forever be dismissed as a serious intellectual. Having crooked teeth doesn’t mean the alpaca is dumb, but I can’t stop the judgements from flowing, as much as I want to pretend.

Perhaps that’s the same with their innocent looks. Maybe there is more darkness behind those doe-eyed looks than is visible on the surface.

I’ll take my chances.

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