MARCH 28TH, 2009
My gosh, it’s been so long since I wrote about Boris! I’m sure most of you are aware that we sold Boris to Scott Allen of Pettit Creek Farms. It wasn’t an easy decision but it was the best decision for Boris. February 11th we brought Boris to Scott as we had planned for his stint at Camel Boot Camp. However, when we saw how happy Scott’s other camels were, we realized that Boris would be much happier there.
My husband covered the entire event in his blog and I invite you to read his rendition. He summed it up very well.
Pettit Creek Farms already has a dozen camels. Most of the “work” for a living – either working the property of being used for camel rides. Scott Allen is a master in camel training – I respectfully call him the “Camel Whisperer”.
If you want to see what I mean by working camels, watch the video below – you’ll see exactly what I mean. And trust me, these camels are happy and are doing what they were bred for.
I could never provide that kind of contentment for Boris. He was becoming very spoiled and unmanageable. All he wanted to do was eat and boss every other creature (including me), on the farm.
I learned another very important lesson from owning an animal of this type. Not all animals are meant to be pets. Even when they appear soft and needy, some creatures haven’t been domesticated in a way that responds to our human emotional need for that particular kind of bonding. It’s hard to keep in mind that we as humans need this – not our animals. None of them. Not even dogs! Dogs need pack leaders and farm animals need care takers.
I’d like to believe that when I pull in the driveway at the barn that my animals see me and think, “Yay, here comes damommy!” But I’m smart enough to know that all that they really think is, “Here’s the human with the food!”
In the end, this isn’t a problem with 60 lbs goats but it doesn’t work with a 900 lbs camel. When one of my goats gets in the way or tries to boss me, I can easily push her or walk around her but when Boris decided he wasn’t going to budge, it was not safe for me – because of how I treated him, he understood that I wasn’t the pack leader and that he could get his way. Not so at Pettit Creek Farms. He’s respected and well cared for but he doesn’t rule and he knows it! If I had any doubts that Boris wouldn’t be receiving proper care I would not have left him there. He’s totally happy, totally camel.
The story of Boris the camel ends here for me. He was a big part of my life for a very short time and I often think of him and his funny antics. Very few people have had the opportunity to have this kind of experience and I feel very privileged. Be happy Boris!
JANUARY 12TH, 2009
My “big” guy Boris is doing great, getting fat and just does nothing but eat all day. I’ve stopped working with him because I wasn’t getting anywhere with him. When I put the lead on him he usually just cushes. If I want to walk him around, he just puts his “brakes” on and I can’t get him to budge. I recently contacted Scott Allen of Pettit Creek Farms in Ga., to get his advice on our next step.
We met Scott while we were at the auction in Cookeville deciding on bidding on Boris. He gave us expert advice and was just a “nice guy”! After a few minutes chatting with Scott it was obvious the the problem with Boris was that he didn’t have a job and needed to do stuff! The second problem is that I don’t know how to train him to be a working animal.
So we decided that Boris was going to go to camel school at Scott’s farm. We’ll leave him there while we’re in Daytona working Bike Week. I trust Scott & know that Boris will get good care and will learn what it’s like to be a camel!
At this time Boris is really gentle & loving and just want’s us to rub, brush and scratch his head but there’s more to life than that for a camel. I’d love to be able to ride him or offer children rides on him. I think that would make a great addition to my menagerie!
He does have his weird moments as you’ll see in the video but those moments don’t last long – if whatever he’s doing doesn’t put him in any harm, I just let him do it and get it out of his system.
In these 2 short videos you’ll see Boris interacting with my Ranger. What I didn’t capture was the first part when I pulled in the yard about 20 feet from Boris’ pen. He went totally nuts! I thought he’d jump over his gate! When I saw this reaction (and he’s seen this vehicle many times), I brought it as close to him as I could so he could feel and smell it. Once he did that, he was fine. I don’t know if what I did was right or wrong but it worked!
Last night we brought home a new buddy for Boris. I was able to trade Princess the mare for a beautiful, gelded, show winning Llama! I’ll have pictures of Stormy up later today. Of course, he’s not going to be in the same pasture as Boris for a while but they’ll get to know each other slowly.
DECEMBER 14TH, 2008
I hadn’t realized how many days had gone by since my last post about Boris! It seems like I’ve made so much progress since I last wrote. He’s close by, keeping an eye on me making sure I report my stories straight!
Let me say that the Dayton Christmas parade went well although I didn’t walk the parade with him. I did walk Boris around the courthouse several times and he had no negative reactions to either the pavement, sidewalk or grassy areas. He did fine but unfortunately some people have no fear of strange animals. Boris has no problem with strangers coming up to him but when they come screeching and waving their arms, THAT he has a problem with.
I’m amazed that folks can be rude that way. Here you are walking this large and very impressive animal – not to mention an unfamiliar one, yet some people come right up to his face. One couple wanted a picture with hubby holding the new born near Boris’ face – as if that wasn’t risky enough, he tried to sit the baby on Boris’ neck! Not only was that rude but also dangerous. The fellow seemed offended when I told him that wasn’t a good idea.
I didn’t want to risk one of Boris’ famous happy (or pissed off) dances so I just kept him in his corral for most of the day. Occasionally I took him out and walked him around and he did very well.
He DID NOT want to wear the beautiful Christmas cape I made him! Oh well, I’ll work a little bit more with him on that one.
In any case, I’ve had to work with Boris every day and although sometimes it was as little as half an hour, he’s done very well. He cooshes on command and I think he understands “Whoa” & “Move” We need more practice with this but I’m sure he’ll do fine.
He clearly sees me as “the boss” although he’ll sometimes try to get pushy. The secret is to NEVER let him get away with anything. If he gets out of a coosh command before I say so, I have to get him back down no matter what. He can never think that he can make that decision.
He doesn’t particularly like or dislike Scott. If Scott want’s to really piss him off, all he has to do is stand on one of the stall crossbars. That makes Scott a couple of feet taller than Boris and Boris REALLY hates that! But Scott always has treats so Boris doesn’t hold grudges.
A friend of ours was visiting and I’d have to qualify her as a very meek lady. Boris immediately sensed that and acted very “bullish”. He must still have some testosterone flowing! He was the very domineering bull when she came to see him. I had to keep a tight rein on him and keep Sue away from his area.
In the last few weeks I’ve search the “ENTIRE INTERNET” (I’m serious…), for camel information and came across a wonderful camel forum. I learned more from that one site in a few hours than I did from a variety of sites in several weeks. For some obscure reason, this site doesn’t come up under any search terms and I found it by accident.
NOVEMBER 30TH, 2008
Boris & I were invited to participate in the Dayton Christmas pageant and parade. Although Boris is very accustomed to being surrounded by crowds while in his portable coral, I don’t know how he’ll handle himself walking down a street. Of course it’s a non-motorized parade so there won’t be any vehicles to scare or spook him.
In any case, I have to get him ready for this event so I’ve been taking him out of his yard for the last few days. The first day it was quite the struggle because he didn’t want to leave the perimeter of the barn. If there’s one thing I learned when training a camel is to NEVER change your mind during a training process. It will only reinforce the camel that HE can control the situation.
So for about 20 minutes I just held pressure on the lead until he gave in and I did that once or twice before he realized I wasn’t going to give in. Then my neighbor Mary showed up and when he saw her walking on the side of the road, he just decided to go meet her. We then just walked up to Jim’s driveway and when Boris started to “brake” again, I just swiveled and headed back home. He followed nicely.
The second day he didn’t give me a hard time at all and just walked in the opposite direction to the other neighbors driveway. A car drove by and it didn’t faze Boris at all. We walked back home and I decided to try to “coosh” him.
I tied him to a fence post and began the “tickling” method as described by the expert Phil Gee. I must have tickled for half an hour & had help from Cody, my young “assistant”. Boris was getting very aggravated and he even started to “froth” at the mouth. The funny thing is that I doubt he realized I was the cause of his frustration. Eventually he figured out that this annoying thing wouldn’t stop so he just naturally cooshed. I gave him his favorite treat (an animal cracker), and encouraged him to get up. He did & I tickled him again. Within 2 minutes he was down again. We did this 3 times in a row and I was ecstatic! I named myself the Camel Whisperer! I was very proud of myself while Mary & Cody were quite amazed. I had been listening to Cody for the last 10 minutes saying, “This isn’t going to work Christine!”.
Today was a rainy day but I went down to play with Boris (mostly I went down to check on the baby goats), and tried to coosh him again. I tied him to a post and got out my whip and tickled him. Lo & behold, within a minute he was down! Again I did this 3 times and 3 times he immediately went down!
Now that I’m confident with this part of the training, I’ve got to watch my training DVD to see how to incorporate vocal commands. Not to mention that I also have to teach Boris to stay down once he’s down. Trust me, it’s not as easy as it is with a dog. I just can’t step on the leash to hold him down!
As for the parade, I’ve bought odds & ends of different fabric & bells and dingdong thingys to make Boris a Christmas attire. I think he’ll look pretty sharp walking down Main Street, Dayton, TN. Did I mention that I would have a custume also? Stay tuned for pics!
OCTOBER 9TH, 2008
It took a while but we finally got the story straight.
It appears that the people whom we bought him from at the auction only had him about 6 months. He was originaly from MO, where he served on a petting zoo. Hence his love of people and his mild manners.
I spoke at length with Jerry, his original owner and was told only good things. Boris’ main duties was to entertain kids of all ages. Apparently he loved his job and did very well with the petting zoo. However, because of his large size and that he wasn’t getting any smaller, Jerry decided to sell him.
Boris has never kicked, spit or hurt anyone but he can be quite obnoxious and will try to intimidate. However, we’ve brought him twice to public places and probably because he’s in an enclosure, he’s never scared anyone away. Quite the contrary, he just wants to rub against you and smell your breath. He’s quite the lover! Young & old are fascinated by his articulate neck, his large dreamy eyes and his prehensile lips!
Ever wonder what a camel feels & smells like? His fur feels like a tightly woven woolen carpet and he actually smells like an expensive carpet. His breath is something else. It usually smells like cigarette butts! Maybe that’s why they named that brand “Camels”? Also, you want to stand clear of his face when he burps.. now that’s stinky!
I love to brush him and let him nuzzle. He loves to sort of chew on my hair… he doesn’t really chew it but tugs on it and plays with it with his lips that move like fingers. When he sees my rinsing water buckets he’ll come around and stand and wait for me to present him with it. He just loves to drink directly from the hose!
He knows his name and recognizes the sound of all of our vehicles. When Scott calls him from the porch of the house, you can see Boris trying to figure out where Scott is – he hears him but just can’t seem to locate him – must be too far for him to see clearly.
I think Boris is a happy camel. He often does his cute but dangerous “happy dance”. That’s when he gets excited and all four of his feet seem to bounce in different directions. I can’t let him do that around me because he could easily step on me or hurt me unintentionally.
We had Boris gelded (castrated), last week and it was time. He was coming into age where testosterone runs freely – just like teenage boys! I think if we had waited, we could have lost control of him. A few times he acted very strangely and scared me. However you must never let him see you fear him. He always has to respect you as the leader – if he senses that you’re weaker than he is, he may try to take over. Right now he only weighs 650 lbs and will probably reach 1000 to 1200 when he is full grown in about a year or so.
Right now and for the next 4 weeks will be a very busy time for us. Between running our business, visiting our grandchildren in WI and a much deserved week on vacation in Mexico, we will not have much quality time to spend with any of our critters. When all the busyness is behind us, I will spend more and more time with Boris and the rest of my farm friends. Besides training Boris, we also have a beautiful and gentle pregnant miniature mare and her filly. Both are very gentle but have not had much contact with people.
On another note, there is very little information out in cyberworld on camels. I’ve spent hours surfing trying to find training tips, feeding & behavior information, etc., but there is very little out there for us novices. I know there are experts out there but somehow they’re not accessible via the internet. That being said, if you have information that I could use, please email me or use the comments section of this post.