Still looking for llamas sent to the Montana Large Animal Sanctuary
Empathy, no matter how well honed, doesn’t really put us in someone else’s shoes. And there are countless life experiences we don’t want to try envisioning to begin with.
In the darkest moments of the Montana Large Animal Sanctuary (MLAS) llama rescue, I found myself overwhelmed by imagining what it would be like to be one of the people who brought llamas to the sanctuary — believing the advertisements, promotional materials and especially the promises of the managers, that the animals would have a safe, caring haven for the rest of their lives, only to discover that adequate care was not offered and the entire operation ultimately became nothing more than a giant starvation-generating holding pen.
I haven’t heard from many of the people who sent animals to MLAS. It’s not hard to conjure up the internal struggle involved in stepping forward with such an admission. Regardless of what one thought one was doing in handing llamas over to the misrepresented and ultimately doomed sanctuary, exposing the process for public scrutiny is inherently risky.
All of which means I’m deeply touched when someone does contact me to share a story of personal loss at MLAS.
Karen Talmon-l’Armee is one of those people. I met Karen back when she was serving as an apprentice in the ALSA llama judging apprenticeship program. Over the years, our paths would cross sporadically as she apprenticed under me and other llama judges, or when she worked as a volunteer at one of the west coast llama shows I often judge. Eventually, I heard she had moved, then was sad to learn she no longer had llamas.
While I was working on the rescue in Montana in January, Karen contacted me. She had placed a number of her llamas at the sanctuary, and was desperately trying to find out what had happened to them. She hasn’t shared details of her personal thoughts and feelings regarding the road that led her and her llamas to become part of the tragic MLAS story. Instead, she continues to work tirelessly, searching for information on the whereabouts of her llamas by contacting me and the rescue organizations that coordinated evacuation and adoptions. A recent email from Karen to me says:
“In June or July of 2008, I took 15 llamas to MLAS. I went back in November 2009, while assisting in dropping off more llamas, and I saw two of mine — Red Baron and SirVivor. They looked thin, but I was so happy to see them, I didn’t think twice about it. When I heard about the disaster at MLAS in January 2011, I began looking for my 15 llamas. As of today, I have found four.
“Sir Raleigh is in Tennessee and now called Buick. He looks healthy and I know he’s got a good home. Caffe Latte is in Indiana, now called Natasha with a cria, Boris. Party All The Time is in Washington. And finally, Raggedy Andy is with Wes Laraway in New York [Northeast Llama Rescue]. I have seen pictures of all four and I’m sure they were part of my herd.
“Still missing is Bandit, Jolly Roger, Scooter, Racer, RedBaron, SirVivor, all males. The females are Posey, April, Ruby, Silver and Cody.
“I have been in contact with Viv Fulton in New York, as she has some sort of database she’s been working on. She confirmed the find [at Northeast Llama Rescue]. And I have an AVID reader that I will send her to use when she goes [back] to see the llamas there.
“Would you like me to send the pictures of the still missing llamas to you, along with their AVID numbers? I really care about my llamas and would like to know if there are any more out there, or did they die in Montana? Do you know anything about Kathryn or Brian [the managers/board members] from MLAS? Will they ever be held accountable?
“[It] makes me sad to think about what happened there and [I’m glad to know] how much good you and the other volunteers accomplished.
“Thanks for your help Gayle. And keep talking to the county attorney about the seriousness of the situation. I’m sure there are others out there that wonder about their llamas, too. — Karen”
Posted below are photos, names and microchip numbers for the llamas Karen placed at MLAS. She would love to hear from anyone who has information on the whereabouts and condition of them. (Contact me and I’ll be happy to pass the information on to Karen.)