Cotacachi / Cotacachi / Retirement in Ecuador

Cotacachi, Ecuador: Retired Couple Adopts Dolly Llama

In tracking down the rumor that the Dalai Lama was living in Cotacachi, a very reliable source told me that the venerable one was living in the home of a retired couple in Tierra Firme, a residential development.  The minute Gary and I heard this tidbit of news, we jumped into our Toyota and raced out to Tierra Firme. 

Both of us were fervently praying that we’d get a glimpse of the enlightened master and perhaps receive a Tibetan blessing.

Knocking on the couple’s front door, we quickly discovered a case of mistaken identity.  The name was correct but this Dolly Llama is tri-colored and very furry with long spindly legs.  She bears no resemblance to the balding one who wears glasses and an orange robe and gazes into eternal realms with equanimity.

Dolly was born June 12, 2012.  Tim and Mari found her a few days after her birth, lying alone on the ground near a fence at Tierra Firme.   For some reason she was totally rejected by her mother; in fact, by all the other llamas, male and female.

She would go to the adult llamas, crying pitifully, but none of the cold-hearted beasts would pay her any attention at all. Finally she collapsed and would have died if her new surrogate parents, the kind with only two legs and very little fur, hadn’t felt a tug at their hearts and rescued her.

They started feeding her when she was two days old.  She weighed only six pounds.  A local vet told them that in one more day she would have been dead.

The vet kept her at his clinic for four days and became very attached to her.  In fact, he wanted very much to keep her for himself.

When he noticed that the baby llama cried a lot and would only stand upright, he had to teach her to lie down.  Now she kneads her bed like a cat before lying in it.  She also wags her tail when she’s feeling welcoming.

The vet told them that baby llamas typically nurse for three months before starting to graze.  “But because this is such a dysfunctional arrangement, she may eat grass sooner,” he remarked.

Mari and Tim brought her to their new home in Tierra Firme where she has taken up residence in their living room.  Thank goodness the floor is tile and not carpet.

They tried to get another female llama on the property to nurse Dolly.  The mamma llama was lactating but her baby had died.  She would let Dolly hang out with her and they would squeak at each other, a kind of llama communication.  But no nursing was allowed.

Tim and Mari very rapidly became expert at feeding a baby llama.  She drinks 1-2 bottles of skim milk every two hours, no cream.  The milk must be warmed for 15 seconds in the microwave.

Newborn human baby nipples were not suitable. They found that nipples for a six-month old would work for Dolly.  Now she can suck up a bottle of milk in only a few minutes.

Mari is on the lookout for a special instrument, one that she will stab into the belly of the baby if certain conditions take place.  No, she is not a sadistic murderer, just a mamma concerned for the life of her infant.

When the other baby llama was born at Tierra Firme three weeks before Dolly’s birth, Tim and Mari watched the entire process in the field.  During the birth and after, all the other llamas circled about, protecting and watching the birthing mother and her baby.

The newborn later died, it’s tiny stomach hugely bloated.  It had colic, a common cause of death among llamas and cows. The wicked-looking tool will quickly release the gas from Dolly’s stomach and save her life should she develop colic.

I was shown the proper way to feed Dolly.  At first I thought Tim was pulling my leg when he told me I had to straddle Dolly, but turns out he was serious.

She feels safer when she is underneath someone warm and has her head turned up in a nursing position.

I was rewarded with a kiss.

Right now, Dolly is a very healthy young animal thanks to the loving care she has received.  She has the run of the house, along with Cloe the dog.

Dolly and Cloe have bonded and may not know whether they are dogs or llamas.  Mari says that she came home one day to find Cloe and Dolly waiting for her at the dining room window, both their heads peeking out over the window sill.

They love to run circles around the house at night, setting off the light sensors. Tim says that sometimes Cloe is in the lead . . . sometimes, Dolly.

Cloe, who is an excellent mouser, ensconces herself at the edge of the tall grass in the meadow, patiently waiting for hours.  When she hears or sees a field mouse, she bolts upright into the air and dives straight down, feet first and toes pointing downward, before triumphantly coming up with a mouse.

Dolly is already learning the same movements, diving for mice but probably not really knowing what she is doing or why.  She may end up a very confused animal. I wonder if she will also learn to bark.

She has spent her first months of life living indoors with both two-legged and four-legged creatures.  Sometimes she wears a neck scarf or a bow.  It’s easy to understand why she may not know if she is a llama, a dog or a person.

A case of mistaken identity in the making if I’ve ever heard of one.  As for Tim and Mari, they’re quite clear about Dolly’s identity.   She is an official member of their family.

Tim and Mari are supposed to be retired.  Tim has been planning a trip to Ireland but now realizes that it would be hard to fit a llama into a rental car.
So it’s possible that the adorable Dolly might need a llama sitter before too long. If you are interested, leave a response to this blog, letting us know what your qualifications are for such a position.

For certain, you must be able to tell the difference between Dolly Llama and the Dalai Lama.

Dolly has huge eyes and eyelashes that a model would die for.

In conclusion, if any of you readers are still confused by this blog, let me state un-categorically that this Dolly Llama is not the reincarnation of a Tibetan master. Therefore you needn’t make a pilgrimage to Tierra Firme in hopes of attaining enlightenment at Dolly’s feet.

However, if you’d like to learn how to catch field mice . . .



  1. Barbara Rattenborg says:

    Such a great story! I will be in Ecuador from Nov 6 – 20,2012 and will visit Cotacachi for a few days during that time. My fervent hope is to settle in Cotacachi with my 2 kind, gentle dogs in early 2013. I used to have a wonderful Llama, Sky, who was the guardian of my sheep and goats when I lived in Oregon. If I am living in Cotacachi when you decide to travel abroad, keep me in mind as nursemaid to the lovely little one et al.
    I look forward to meeting folks when I am there! Looks like a fun, beautiful place.

  2. Mari, you are an achieved writer. What a wonderful story ! Let this tale of mistaken identity among animals of different breeds growing together as one family be an example of tolerance and love to us humans who sometimes cannot even tolerate one another just because of some words that come out of our mouth. Signed : A new Cuencano

    • Thanks for the kind words, Mitri. However, we have yet another case of mistaken identity on our hands.

      It wasn’t Mari who wrote the Dolly Llama blog. It was I, Linda McFarlin, Pro-Ecuador blogger.

  3. Pingback: Morning Update – Thursday, September 6, 2012 « South of Zero