New Mexico becomes home for two Summit County regulars
Llamas have an expected lifecycle of about 15-30 years but can easily make it into their mid-30s if properly cared for, according to Lynda Liptak of the Southwest Llama Rescue, a nonprofit group, based out of New Mexico, that specializes in finding llama and alpaca new homes.
She estimated the rescue has seen thousands of llamas in its 20 years of existence, and described them as incredible social animals that form deep bonds with other members of their herd. For that reason, Liptak said, they won’t ever separate bonded llamas at the rescue.
“Llamas are trending,” she added, explaining she’s seen llamas growing in popularity in recent years. That comes as a benefit and a burden for the rescue, according to Liptak, as there are more potential homes for the animals, but with the expanded popularity, also comes more breeding, and unfortunately, many of “those animals end up in our files.”
A poster-board sign went up alongside Highway 6 in Dillon in late June, alerting people that a pair of longtime locals, ever curious and always friendly, had packed it in for the Southwest, relocating to New Mexico.
They go by Carlos and Sombra. Many people who take the highly traveled route between Dillon and Keystone might, at some point along the way, have noticed the pair, known simply as “the llamas.”
“The llamas were there when I moved here 20 years ago,” one woman wrote to the Summit Daily shortly after seeing the sign. She was curious about what had become of the landmark llamas, which have been on the property for at least three decades.
“Oh no,” wrote another man who saw the sign and remembered seeing the llamas during his visits back in high school. “They’re always a welcomed sight now that I’m a resident,” he added. “Farewell, llamas.”
It seems that for many people, Carlos and Sombra were a familiar fun sight along the heavily traveled highway. Their late owners, Jim and Pat Dover, had even put up a carved-wooden sign on the fence letting everyone know this was the llamas’ home.
Linda Dover, daughter-in-law to Jim and Pat, recalled that every once in a while the two llamas would escape Jim and Pat’s backyard, and “Pat was out in the driveway going, ‘Aren’t they having a grand time,’” before the jailbreak duo could be corralled again.
More often, Linda said, the llamas were as friendly as could be, and would lovingly nuzzle at her face and curiously watch everything she did around them.
They never seemed to spit at her though, as llamas are said to do.
The llamas were well cared for, too.
Pat and Jim Dover put out hay every night, Linda said, remembering the llamas used to get daily rations of grain and pellets, too, until a veterinarian determined they were overweight and put them on a diet.
“So after that, they only got grain on Wednesdays and Sundays,” Linda said. She is certain the llamas always seemed to “know when it was one of those days of the week.”
Whether it was dogs, cats or bucktooth camelids originally from South America, Pat loved her animals, and she loved them deeply.
She was credited for creating the “Broomfield Zoo,” and she owned and managed two pet shops before moving to Summit County, where she would become the “Momma Llama,” a nickname that was referenced in her obituary.
To house the llamas, the Dovers built two stalls beneath their home on Oro Grande Drive in Dillon with their backyard overlooking the busy highway and Lake Dillon. Still, Carlos and Sombra weren’t the first llamas to chew that lawn.
The Dovers actually started with another pair, Nathan and Bartholomew. They became well known throughout the county in their own right, even strutting their stuff in several local parades.
After Nathan and Bartholomew died — not at the same time, but not too far apart — Pat bought Carlos and Sombra, when they were just over a year old.
That was about 15 years ago, Linda said, adding that all of the llamas the Dovers owned quickly became accustomed to people and were quite tame. Going through Jim and Pat Dover’s documents, the family discovered a pile of thank-yous written by children whom they had let see the llamas. Sometimes Jim and Pat would even let people into the backyard to enjoy the friendly llamas.
But Jim died on Dec. 27, 2013, at age 82, after a long battle with emphysema. Then last summer, at 85 years old, Pat Dover succumbed to a brief illness, and her passing sparked the need to find her beloved llamas a new home.
Unprepared to care for the llamas themselves, the family turned to Southwest Llama Rescue, a nonprofit group based in New Mexico that takes in abused and neglected llamas or animals whose owners are in failing health, aging or facing a lifestyle change. The rescue arranges foster care for the animals while they await placement in permanent homes, and according to director Lynda Liptak the rescue thoroughly vets anyone who wants to adopt any llamas.
Speaking about Carlos and Sombra, Liptak said last week that they came to the rescue as “very, very sweet” llamas and really didn’t need much training.
On Sunday, she offered this update: Carlos and Sombra have just recently been transitioned into a “new forever home” in Los Lunas, New Mexico, where they will have a new companion in a female llama that’s about the same age, roughly 15-16 years old.
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