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June 30, 2017

By: Phil Devitt/Editor

Standard Times - May 2015

Alpaca's Birth Gives Hope to Dartmouth Woman


May 12, 2015

DARTMOUTH — Shirley Lanouette has made an alpaca’s paradise behind her Old Fall River Road home, a place for the sweet, big-eyed creatures to graze and play and roll around in the dirt. She loves all 27 of them, but Tiki — one of the new additions at 10 months old — holds a special place in her heart.
“He has quite the attitude,” she said, peering through her fence in search of the baby with black fur. “He wants to be the stud of the farm.”
Tiki was near the house with his pals, enjoying the warmest day of the season. Lanouette approached quietly but the spry little guy bolted for the gate before she could wrap her arms around him. She caught up to him several yards downhill, where she took his fluffy face in her hands and gazed into his eyes with the adoration of a mother.
Tiki can be a handful, but that’s OK. At least he’s alive.
And Lanouette knows the value of living.
She grew up on Dartmouth’s Chase Road, surrounded by the sights and sounds and scents of a farm.
She raised her son, Keith, with the same appreciation for nature.
“He just loved the outdoors,” she said with a smile. “He’d come home with frogs in his pockets and snakes around his neck.” In 1996, Keith died in a car accident. He was 21.
“It’s probably the worst thing a mother could go through,” Lanouette said. “He had his life to live. Why him? You never get an answer. The pain never goes away, never gets better. It just becomes something that’s always there to deal with.”
Tired from three decades working in retail, Lanouette decided to change her life, to return to nature. She saw alpacas in a television ad, found a farm on Old Fall River Road with husband Roger and learned how to care for the animals. “Alpacas brought me through the tough times,” Lanouette said. “They were my comfort.” Hill Crest Alpacas opened in 2003. Lanouette shears the creatures and uses their fiber — hypoallergenic, water-resistant, soft and odorless — to make socks, mittens, blankets and other items she sells out of a homey, cabin-like shed.
In addition to her husband and the alpacas, she shares the land with Buddy and Snookie, her Great Pyrenees dogs. Another child lives next-door.
This place is Lanouette’s paradise, too.
“They’re the best thing you can have,” she said of alpacas. “They never question you. They take your love without hesitation.”
The newest member of the family was in danger. Birthed by Tanya, a brown, 10-year-old alpaca, the baby emerged last summer with part of the placenta or umbilical cord wrapped tightly around its neck.
“It was a difficult birth,” said Lanouette, who removed the obstruction so the baby — known as a cria — could breathe. Lanouette’s grandson, Keith, named for the father he never got to know, was by his grandmother’s side to help bring new life into the world. The date was July 10, what would have been the elder Keith’s birthday.
Lanouette said she believes her son somehow gave the newborn the will to live and, in the process, gave his family a gift from beyond. “I know he’s looking down on me,” Lanouette said. At Hill Crest, it’s tradition to name a cria based on the same first letter in his or her mother’s name. Lanouette learned that Tiki means “one who is fetched,” as in a spirit after death.
“All I could think was that it just fit,” she said. “It had to be.”
Lanouette said she believes her son somehow gave the newborn the will to live and, in the process, gave his family a gift from beyond.
“I know he’s looking down on me,” Lanouette said. At Hill Crest, it’s tradition to name a cria based on the same first letter in his or her mother’s name. Lanouette learned that Tiki means “one who is fetched,” as in a spirit after death. “All I could think was that it just fit,” she said. “It had to be.”