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The next morning, Kelly went out to feed the llamas. A minute later, he was back. “Rosana, Renaissance is dead,” he said.

My mind couldn’t process the words. I stared at him blankly. Dead. Somebody’s dead. Who did he say? Renny? No, that doesn’t make any sense. Maybe it’s a chicken or a peacock. That’s pretty normal. Maybe Renny is lying so still, he thinks she’s dead.

He burst into tears. I reached to hug him. We stood like that. “Are you sure? Could we maybe save her with CPR or artificial respiration?” I looked for my shoes.

“No, she’s dead.”

“I have to go see to believe it,” I said. I was flooded with love for this sweet, inquisitive llama. What on earth could have happened? We went outside hand in hand.

There she was, in the corner, at the gate by the garden. Already bloated, and with the eyes glazed over. She was dead all right.

“There’s not really any sign of struggle,” Kelly observed. The earth wasn’t disturbed; the body looked peaceful enough. Our Renny wasn’t there at all, our little llama whose curiosity toward people was so sweet, who radiated such a delight in life. Everyone loved her. She wasn’t pushy like Lally, in fact she could often be skittish in true llama fashion. But she was much friendlier than Posey, her mother.

It hit me. I cried and cried, holding on to Kelly. Then we went in and phoned the vet, making arrangements for an autopsy later in the morning. We phoned a taxidermist about having a rug made, but since the llama had been dead for a while, they were dubious. Kelly suggested we just shear her wool, so we did that together.
He kept giving me stricken looks. I was feeling very shaken. We both felt a sense of unreality.

The vet’s autopsy showed that her rumen and stomach were full of food but her small intestines were empty. There was a slight twist at the place the food was backed up. Her trachea was abnormally red with blood. I had been afraid that the autopsy would make me queasy, but it didn’t. I was moved by the delicate beauty of her internal organs.

She had died of torsion. A breeder friend later explained that it was not very common. She would probably not have suffered much. When things backed up in the rumen, there would have been an increase of toxins in the blood. Because of this, the blood would not have been able to absorb oxygen. She would have gasped for breath for a while, no more than an hour, he estimated. Even if we’d been home, he thought it would have been too late to save her by the time she showed any symptoms.

We buried Renaissance near the field where she had been born. Kelly dug a deep hole and arranged the body in it. She looked quite dead but still very graceful. I had two purple quartz crystals that I’d kept together. I took them down, and placed one of them in her chest cavity, opened by the autopsy. The other one I would give to Linda and Nelson. They had been looking forward to Renny coming to Elk Hill, but all they would get was this memento.

Then we shovelled the dirt over her. We held hands together over the grave, and I put a little wildflower bouquet on it. I couldn’t keep from crying again. Then I left the other crystal there for a while. After we gave it to Linda and Nelson, they put it in a crevice in an ancient madrone tree, where it still sits.

Still in shock, we went about the things we had to do. We were cleaning up the house, in preparation for a realtors’ open house the next day. Every now and then, one of us would stop our cleaning and go find the other one for a long hug. Kelly really let me see his suffering; the closeness we felt eased our pain a little.

We didn’t even think about the financial loss; it was the loss of this favorite little soul that cut so deeply. Where was she? Did llamas live on in consciousness, as Penelope believed? Could Penelope link up with her? Could we?

A few days later, Kelly and I went up to the ridge and ruminated. Kelly spoke of feeling a kind of cosmicity to the death of Renaissance. He mentioned the traditions of the South American Indians to sacrifice a beautiful, pure llama at times of transition. We were certainly in transition, and Renny had died within hours of when we put Juniper Ridge up for sale. Could there be any kind of parallel meaning for us in the loss of our fine young llama?

Renny’s death had become a focal point for our own emotions about change. I wondered if sacrificing to the gods was for the Indians an act of gratitude. Because paradoxically, with Renny’s loss, we were both at times experiencing a luminous gratitude for all that the llamas had been to us, for all that Juniper Ridge had meant to us.

As we talked, we were gazing down at a meadow below the ridge. Out from a thicket came a mother deer and her baby.

“Look!” Kelly said. They looked like Posey and Renny. Renaissance was dead. And Renaissance was, by her very name, reborn.

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