From Sheep to Sweater in 12 Hours
(Originally published in the San Diego Reader April 24, 2013.)
Kelly Friedlen believes every home should have three alpacas in its backyard.
She’s so adamant that, in the two days we’ve known each other, she’s said it three times. The last time she’s moved to repeat the sentence, we’re about to enter a fenced-in lot next to the two-acre pasture where she keeps her sheep, horses, ponies, and alpacas of various colors, who bear names like Holly, Miranda, Stormy, Noir, and Tina.
Having never met an alpaca before, I’m surprised to hear them called by such…domestic…names. But when Friedlen opens the gate to introduce me to her “babies,” the alpacas immediately distinguish themselves from other animals.
The sheep stay curled on the ground in fluffy balls by the far fence, and the horses and ponies keep to themselves, grazing here and there in shady spots, but the alpacas respond to the metallic sound of the gate latch by running toward us, stumbling over each other like puppies.
It takes a moment for them to realize it isn’t just “mommy” entering the lot; when they do, the front line stops suddenly, about 25 yards away, causing those in the back to bump them from behind.
“It’s because they don’t know you,” Friedlen says. She reaches a hand toward them and lightly snaps her fingers. “Come here, Miranda. It’s okay. Come on, Holly.”
It’s Holly, a cream-colored fuzz ball, who first ventures forward. Within a minute and a half, we’re surrounded by big-eyed, big-toothed (they only have bottom teeth) wooly creatures with long necks. Friedlen assures me we’re safe just as Holly takes a bite of my notebook paper.