By Matt Zucker, Contributor

Exclusive to The Charlotte News: We ask the questions on Charlotte residents’ minds.

Odyssey the Llama

Odyssey the Llama

He’s nearly six feet tall, 400 pounds and covered in soft wool. He’s got big, dark eyes the color of a deep Andean mountain lake. And he spits when he’s mad.

He’s Odyssey the Llama—the Charlotte celebrity and sheepherder extraordinaire who attracts fans and admirers from near and far. The Charlotte News was able to obtain—at great expense and investment of unflagging journalistic time and effort—an exclusive interview with the captivating camelid. (Yes, the domesticated llamas raised here in the U.S. of the genus lama glama are directly related to the dromedary native to Northern Africa and the camel of Asia.)

Despite his busy schedule—his day (and night) job is to stand guard over a herd of 40 ewes and their lambs in the pastures of Philo Ridge Farm—Odyssey consented to answer all our questions and held nothing back.

With the support of Philo Ridge Farm, land and livestock manager Ed Pitcavage and livestock manager Isabelle Lourie-Wisbaum, Odyssey shared his deepest ruminations on life here in Vermont, a hemisphere away from his native species’ natural habitat in South America, in a revealing question and answer session held on a sunny June day in a fenced pasture surrounded by grazing sheep.

The Charlotte News: Odyssey, it’s been three years now since you settled here in Charlotte from Mystic Moon Farm in Middletown Springs, VT, where you were raised. You obviously spend a lot of your time at Philo Ridge Farm hard at work. Ed Pitcavage describes you as a “world-class livestock guardian” and says you’re on the job 24/7. Pitcavage says you replaced Aldo, a fine shepherding dog who could unfortunately get “a little over-protective.” Your record is spotless. No coyotes or loose-running dogs have gotten by you. But what about your feelings? How do you like the job? Do you feel fulfilled and that you’re working at the top of your game?

Odyssey: [munches grass]

Odyssey takes a neck-scratching break from sheepherding with Philo Ridge Farm livestock manager Isabelle Lourie-Wisbaum. See full story on page 8. Photo by Matt Zucker

Odyssey takes a neck-scratching break from sheepherding with Philo Ridge Farm livestock manager Isabelle Lourie-Wisbaum.  Photo by Matt Zucker

The Charlotte News: You’re an attention magnet at the farm. We’ve all seen cars pulled over on Mt. Philo Road for rubberneckers and picture-takers. Cars slow down when drivers see you poke your head up out of the grazing field. But you have a job to do. Isabelle Lourie-Wisbaum says you’re all business. “He’s a working animal,” she says. “He guards, naps and eats. That’s about it.” Lourie-Wisbaum goes on to say the farm has never had an “incident” on your watch. Our question: How do you handle the pace and the grueling schedule? Do you ever have moments where you just want to take a spa day or indulge in some self-care?

Odyssey: [munches grass]

The Charlotte News: Let’s talk about the sheep. The farm’s herd—a mix of Romney and Border Leicester breeds, producing 40-80 lambs a year—relies on your watchful eye. Forty ewes—that’s a lot of livestock to guard and an awesome responsibility. Your job is to ensure that nearly 3,000 pounds of meat and 600 pounds of wool get safely into the Philo Ridge Farm Market. If you fall asleep on the job and a coyote were to escape your notice, that puts a lot of the farm’s business at risk. Does the responsibility and pressure that comes with the herd’s safekeeping ever get to you?

Odyssey: [munches grass]

The Charlotte News: It must get lonely sometimes. While there are more than seven million llamas in South America, estimates are that there are less than 200,000 here in the U.S., most of them raised as livestock guardians like you. But you’re the only llama on this farm and you basically cohabitate with the sheep. According to Ed Pitcavage, you’re with the herd all the time … you eat the same food as the sheep, you have the same schedule. “They think of you as one of them,” he says. Pitcavage says even the baby lambs within days of being born are jumping all over you when you lie down. But, still, when you look out at Camel’s Hump across the valley do you ever feel a pang of longing to join the herds of llamas climbing the snow-covered Andes that is your heritage?

Odyssey: [munches grass]

Despite the demands of his job, Odyssey still finds time to be fashion-forward. Here he sports his new summer haircut. Photo by Ed Pitcavage

Despite the demands of his job, Odyssey still finds time to be fashion-forward. Here he sports his new summer haircut.
Photo by Ed Pitcavage

The Charlotte News: Let’s lighten the mood, a bit. You’ve come to call Charlotte your home. You’re a grown-up— eleven years old. I’m sure you have opinions you’d like to share with our readers. What do you like best about Charlotte? What can be improved? What are your favorite nightspots?

Odyssey: [munches grass]

The Charlotte News: Thank you so much for relating your experience and your candor in sharing your point of view. Speaking for the town’s residents, we’re happy to have you here and wish you great success in your career here in Charlotte. We look forward to seeing you in Philo Ridge Farm’s fields this summer and in the years to come.

Odyssey: [munches grass]