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Guardian Donkey
Like Father Like Son

Peacock in Flight Peacock in Flight

Johnathan Guardian LlamaJohnathan Llama enjoying a hot summer day

Llamas are interesting animals.  They are quiet gentle animals, with a keen sense of observation the are always watching and observing, and they indistinctly know what do when the sense danger.  This story is about one particular Llama, Johnathan was a key part of our farm.

Johnathan and Libby LlamaWe purchased Jonathan at the age of five from a local animal farm Misty Creek Ranch.  In a prior life Johnathan, whose official name was "Sweet Thang", was used as a pack animal carry camping equipment as he accompanied people on hikes.  I suspect his was a good pack animal as he was strong and very gentle.  One he first came to live with us, he wouldn't come when called, which was very odd given his age and disposition. 

 Very quickly, my wife Cindy discovered that "Sweet Thang" didn't like his name.  His ears would perk up when we called the other animals by name, but the mere mention of "Sweet Thang" would make his ears go back and sometimes he'd turn around and walk away.  Cindy knew that "Sweet Thang" needed a new name, so she made it her mission to find this big guy a new name.  One by one she mentioned names to him..."Bob, Bill, Frank..." nothing seemed to get a reaction from him.  Cindy is not one to give up, so she decided to move to formal male names..."Thomas, Michael, Douglas..." he began to react positively, finally she got to "Johnathan."  He ears when up, he stood a little taller and that was it, his name was Johnathan.   From that day forward he was Johnathan.   We will never know why he wanted to be called Johnathan, I suspect his original owner was named Johnathan, however that is just a hunch that I was never able to verify this.

Johnathan quickly developed into a strong guardian animal guarding the free range chickens.  We would put him in the pasture with the free range chickensJohnathan Llama with Free Range Chicken and he would keep an eye on the birds day and night, herding them into their shelter at the first sign of danger.   His calming presence had a positive effect on the chickens and often you would see the birds sitting on him as he keep watch.   Johnathan, also was a guardian for the sheep, making sure everyone made it to the barn each night.  If the sheep where in the pasture so was Johnathan, keep watch, making sure his sheep were all accounted for.

In addition to taking care of the sheep and chickens, Johnathan spent some of his time doing volunteer work.  For many years he participated in the living nativity, enjoying working with the children and visiting with the adults.  

Johnathan at Living NativityJohnathan at Vacation Bible SchoolJohnathan at VBS Posing for pictures

He also participated in vacation bible school and enjoyed coming into the church to hear the children sing.

Johnathan Llama enjoying a treatWe spent many years trying to figure out what type of treats Johnathan would eat.  All the other animals have favorites and many visitors to the farm tried to temp Johnathan with different treats, he wouldn't take any.  One of our friends was particularly bothered by this and made it her mission to find Johnathan a treat that he would eat.  She tried all kinds of fruit and vegetables nothing worked, until one day  she brought over a pail that had a mixture of dry cereal and I believe pretzels...basically a trail type mix without nuts.  She was planning on giving this mixture to the donkeys, when Johnathan walk over, stuck his head in the pail and proceeded to enjoy his treat.   When I think about this it makes sense.  Johnathan was a pack animal before he came to live with us.  I suspect his owner would share what he was eating on the trail, which is typically dry salty food.   Perhaps another mystery solved.

Jonathan lived a long and productive life at Rivers Critters Ranch and continued to do his job right up to end taking care of the young sheep; helping them to transition from their mothers.  As with many of our animals, Johnathan died early in the morning, just after I finished the morning chores.   Rest in peace Johnathan, you will be missed.

Died May 21, 2015

By:  Tom Rivers

Rivers Critters Ranch, LLC

We own and operate Rivers Critters Ranch, LLC, which was founded in 1997.  As the name suggests the farm belongs to the animals we seem to be just the caretakers.

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This site is dedicated to those of us who have dream to farm.   Inside you will find information, stories, pictures and advice outlining the experiences of a city born family who acted upon the dream to move to the country and  live on a farm.  Join us as we share our adventures! 

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