It has been almost a month since Vanilla passed and very slowly I am putting in place those parts of his life that he left behind. His old colorful blanket we all enjoyed is all washed and ready to pack and put away. Flowers that my friend Kris Moss sent to honor his memory have faded and fallen but are not forgotten. I often wonder why it seems so hard to part with animals. As it is with humans, but in the case of the animal, I have felt more responsibility in caring for them and bringing them to a peaceful end to their long and (I believe) happy lives.

When Vanilla first came to me as a simple llama who was close to nine years old at the time, he was quite an aggressive fellow, but used to living with horses where he was not really the boss. When he arrived at my home, he became the King of the hill and strutted around proudly, ready to guard the house and protect his favorite cow.

It was not all romance after that first kiss. He could be pretty snotty and I was unable to look him in the eye without getting a bad reaction for three years, after which we had gone through a lot and we could look in each other’s eye and have some calmness to us. There were days that I walked away from him back in the house thinking, “Oh, that stinking llama! I guess I will just have to put up with him.” And he probably thought the same thing about me. But we moved on and as time passed, we became closer and closer.

He could look so cute but he was never a cuddly llama. There was no hugging with him. I think he was too macho for that, or wanted me to think he was. But he did manage to show affection and definitely would come when I had an apple treat for him for his supper. He loved the cow Steppin and when she passed, I watched him get old.

Slowly, both of us got older and I’m glad that Vanilla had his last autumn happily spending time in the pastures grazing and even cantering in his hilly pasture. But age had gotten into his joints. His pasterns were giving out. The pastern is the section between the leg and the hoof, which is at a slight slant and his slant had gotten so severe that he had actually shortened in height. He was at least 21 years old.

As the new year arrived, he weakened and it was easy to see he was having a hard time walking and getting up in his stall even became a problem. I am grateful for all the help I had in dealing with his final days and he will always be remembered and I’m so grateful for the people that I was able to share his life with.