There have only been a few times in my life when I haven't had a pet in my life. I've come to realize how much I -- and many others -- consider their pets when planning a vacation, choosing a home or even a spouse. It's a question of 'love me, love my dog!
Here's an excerpt from If Llamas Could Talk . . . (A Jaswinder Mystery) that considers an atypical, but still loved pet, a llama named Henrietta.
For a moment nothing seemed to register for Jaswinder. Henrietta ears lay back on her head and her head itself began darting up and down as though she was stretching her neck. Jaswinder held tight to the halter and tried to figure out what was the best thing to do. Much as she disliked Kyle, she couldn’t just walk away.
What could have happened? She studied him closely for a moment. He wasn’t dead, was he? Drunk, most likely. She noticed blood on the front of his head where his hair met his forehead. Could he have fallen from somewhere? She looked up. There was a half hayloft above under the roof beams at the top of the barn but how would anyone get up there? Looking around, Jaswinder saw a steep wooden ladder over by the side wall. Why would Kyle have climbed up there?
It came to her all of a sudden. He was the one who had put the earbuds in Henrietta’s ears. He was always walking around listening to music and a rich kid like him probably had several ipods, replacing older technology with newer. The mp3 player was last year’s product. But why? Why would he do something like that? It was just plain mean. Henrietta was no competition to Frederick III. It wasn’t even the same type of camelid. While Jaswinder stood frozen, Henrietta started making a strange noise, first groaning and then gurgling. Wasn’t that what the llama expert this morning had said that they did just before they spit their stomach contents and bile at you? Should she duck?
Jaswinder started to back up and led Henrietta back into her stall. Why didn’t someone else come in? After a few meters of walking backwards, Henrietta suddenly let go of a huge spitball in the direction of Kyle or was that Kyle’s body, landing on one of his jean clad knees and splashing up onto his shirt. Kyle showed no reaction. Jaswinder could feel her heart pounding under her sweater. If ever there was a time to scream, this was it. If someone didn’t come into the barn within the next two minutes, she was going to start yelling. Now that she thought of it, she decided not to wait.
“Help! Help! I need help in here. Somebody, please!” Jaswinder waited for a few seconds, feeling the sweat rolling down her back. Henrietta had gone back to her position at the back of the stall, as far as possible from where Kyle was lying. Jaswinder noticed, without thinking about it really, that her ears had come back to a more normal position. She reached out and patted her a few times.
She decided to try it one more time, then, she would have to leave Henrietta and go for help.
“Help, help! In the barn! I need help. Right now!” Finally, Jaswinder heard boots approaching.
“Is that you, Jaswinder?” What’s happened?” Bev strode into the barn, followed by her friend from the knitting booth. She took one look at Henrietta and moved quickly into the stall. “Jaswinder, are you all right? You look like you’re going to pass out. Here, sit down on the bale of hay here.” She led Jaswinder over by the arm. Her friend, Beth, stood just outside, looking anxiously in.
They had no idea, Jaswinder realized, and she took a couple of deep breaths. “Bev, Beth, go out and check on the floor over there.” She gestured towards the middle of the barn. “Something’s happened. You need to call an ambulance . . . or something.”
Craning her neck to look in the direction Jaswinder had gestured, Beth took the few steps to where Kyle was lying. “Oh, my God. What’s happened? Who is this? Is he . . . is he dead?”
Bev turned from trying to console Henrietta and looked up, a shocked expression on her face. “Dead? One of the llamas is dead? What has been going on here? Where’s Ernie? He’s supposed to be here to keep an eye on things.”
Her friend crouched over Kyle and placed her hand on the side of his neck for a few seconds. “He’s dead, Bev, but not for long. His body is still warm.” She looked up with a puzzled expression. “Do you know him, Bev? He doesn’t look very old. It looks like there’s been some sort of injury to his forehead, see where there’s some blood?”
Bev looked over the stall railing and reached for the cell phone in her pocket two seconds later. Jaswinder leaned back on the bale of hay and took another deep breath. Someone else was here to help, that was the main thing. The way her legs were shaking she didn’t think she could do anything right at the moment. She certainly wasn’t going to be able to present Henrietta in the show ring even if Henrietta was in any kind of condition to be shown.
Beth got up and walked over to Henrietta's stall. Bev had headed outside; something about getting better reception. Jaswinder felt a hand on her should and opened her eyes and looked up into Beth’s sympathetic eyes.
“It’s a shock, I know. At the hospital you get used to death but it still gives you a start when it’s unexpected and in someone so young.”
Jaswinder felt grateful that someone understood. Her head felt like it was stuffed with tissue and she couldn’t think straight. What had Henrietta seen? Or what had she done? Was it possible that she . . . Jaswinder choked off that thought.
“Did you see the mp3 player on his chest, Beth?”
“Yeah, it must have fallen out of his ears when he fell backwards.”
Jaswinder started to explain and stopped. She felt like she couldn’t say anything to anyone and hoped no one would press her. Just outside the barn, Bev still explaining on her cell phone.
“It’s called a holding barn.” Bev appeared to be listening for a few seconds. “That’s right. You can’t miss it. No, no, it’s the large building at the south end of the field.” Silence again. “There’s a lot of livestock here, maybe turn off the sirens before you pull in or they might start to stampede. Okay, okay, I’ll wait out here at the entrance to the barn.” She clicked off her cellphone and turned into where Jaswinder and Beth were watching her.
Jaswinder stood up as she approached, her legs steadier now. She avoided looking over at Kyle’s body. “I was thinking . . . do you think . . . should we take Henrietta back to Camelot. There are going to be a lot of strangers and a lot of noise in here soon and she’s not very happy.” She looked over at Beth. “I don’t know if you noticed, Beth, but Henrietta spit or threw up onto Kyle. It happened so quickly before I realized what was going on.”
“Yeah, I noticed something slimy and smelly on his stomach. I wondered what that was,” Beth said. “Why would she have done that? I mean, are llamas sensitive to the smell of death? Bev, what do you think?”
“I don’t know, I just don’t know. She’s never done that before.” The sound of sirens approaching became increasingly loud. A couple started to enter the barn but Bev walked back to the entrance and told them that the barn was closed for the time being. Jaswinder felt a sudden urgency to explain about the mp3 player. She walked over to barn entrance and saw the ambulance turning into the driveway. “Bev . . . Bev, someone had put mp3 earphones into Henrietta’s ears just . . . just . . . sometime this afternoon. The music was blasting really loud into her ears. I . . . I just yanked it out . . . I was so shocked. I threw it over the railing before . . . before I knew Kyle was lying there.”
Bev turned from watching the approaching ambulance. “What? What are you saying, Jaswinder?”
Jaswinder took a deep breath to launch into the explanation again but the ambulance had turned in and the paramedics got out of the ambulance as Bev waved them towards her. The repetition of the explanation could wait.
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