In the world of horse rescue, you never know what “tools” you’re going to have to pull out from under your hat to deal with daily surprises. This week – Jennifer Swanson and Brad Gaver, co-founders of Pure Thoughts Horse Rescue in Loxahatchee Groves, Florida had an unexpected bundle of joy on their hands – a miracle baby llama born with serious medical issues.
Brad (his hum sounds kind of like a distant fog horn) has been reading up on llama care. He says the moms communicate with their young and soothe them by humming. “She has a different hum for Baby Bruce,” he says, “and another one for his older brother, Macchiato.”
Brad cradles the 5-day old baby llama in his arms every four hours – including in the wee hours of the night — for feedings. “Bruce D. loves me and I love him,” Brad says. “Sometimes we all – me, Jennifer, Mamma Llama, and her older son Macchiato — just sit around and hum while I bottle feed.”
Jennifer (her hum sounds like a “peep peep”) mixes a special formula every four hours, washes a lot of bottles and backs Brad up so he can sleep through the night here and there. Her magic formula contains one part NurseAll powdered milk and three parts goat’s milk. Bruce D. loves the grassy-tasting stuff and drinks 11-20 ounces every four hours. On Sunday, he weighed in at 23.6 pounds, but he’s still super skinny.
This llama story started with a local rescue. Pure Thoughts took in Mamma Llama and Macchiato. Mamma was in recovery from a prolapsed uterus and in bad shape. After she recovered, both were adopted by Pure Thoughts supporter and well-known horseman Bruce Duchossois. But when he passed away last summer, the llamas returned to Pure Thoughts along with some horses and donkeys. Mamma showed no signs of being pregnant. Fast forward to last week, when Baby Bruce showed up with eye trauma and difficulty nursing.
His care is an expensive proposition, even with the vets working on a discount and volunteers helping – like the generous local Pure Thoughts supporter who breeds goats and has been donating goat’s milk for Bruce D.’s recovery. Still, the expenses (like for the little guy’s plasma transfusion) are eating away at the vet funds in reserve for the nurse mare foals arriving soon.
Expensive or not, “We can’t not care for him properly,” Brad says, “though he’s going to be the most spoiled llama on the planet.”
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