REAL LIFE

Unlikely friendship: My best mate’s an alpaca!

'He's just like a long-necked puppy!'

Growing up on a farm, Shandelle Peters always adored animals of all shapes and sizes.

Then, two years ago, she found a best mate in the unlikeliest of places – with her pet alpaca!

Here she tells the story of their unique friendship in her own words…

Strolling down the street with my kids, Ellouise, then five, and Edson, three, I felt all eyes on me.

Though I’m sure it seemed strange to see someone walking an alpaca along a suburban road, it was just a normal day for our family!

As a child, I adored animals. I was always bringing home stray dogs or lizards that I thought needed rescuing, which I’m sure drove my mum mad.

Then, around two years ago, when I was living on a rural property in the Hunter Valley, I decided it was time to get a pet.

After a chance meeting with a woman who owned alpacas, I was fascinated.

They were so cute! Better yet, they’d be able to help keep down the grass.

What’s not to love? I thought.

In December 2018, six-month-old Strudel joined
our family.

My new baby was only the size of a big dog and I could carry him in my arms.

‘He’s so soft,’ Ellouise beamed, stroking his fur.

Supplied
He was the size of a big dog (Credit: Supplied)

Sadly though, I soon needed to move from my rural property.

Strudel looked slightly out of place in our new suburban backyard. But there was still plenty of room for him and our border collie cross Pomeranian puppy, Panda, to roam around together.

Still, I wanted to make sure Strudel was getting enough exercise, so the kids and I attached a lead to his halter and took him for a stroll through our neighbourhood.

Unsurprisingly, Strudel turned heads everywhere we went.

‘Can I pat him?’ people would ask as we passed by.

He was very well-behaved and he never kicked up a fuss about the attention he was receiving.

In fact, he seemed to really love it!

Supplied
Our strudel (Credit: Supplied)

Before long, he became a local celebrity in our town.

Dressing him up in different hats and scarves depending on the weather, I’d take him out and he’d bring a smile to the face of everyone that he met along the way.

So I decided to set up his own Instagram account, @strudel_alpaca.

When the kids were at preschool during the week, I’d take Strudel for coffee dates at my local cafe.

While I sipped on my iced latte, he’d be busy munching on grated carrot.

Laughing, I looked on as he gobbled down his morning tea and
I realised my alpaca had become my best mate!

He loved cuddles too, and would nestle his face into the crook of my arm.

‘You’re just like a long-necked puppy,’ I’d laugh, kissing his nose.

Supplied
Grabbing a bite to eat together (Credit: Supplied)

Though he was usually on his best behaviour when we were out and about, Strudel could sometimes get up to mischief at home.

If our back door was ever left open, Strudel would waltz inside to eat the house plants or raid the pantry.

One time when he snuck in, he jumped straight onto the kids’ beds while he was covered in mud.

‘Strudel!’ I cried, directing him back outside.

It took me hours to clean up the mess but I couldn’t stay mad at him for long – he was just too cute!

Supplied
I couldn’t stay mad at that face for long (Credit: Supplied)

As his popularity increased in our community, Strudel would make regular appearances at schools and local playgrounds.

During book week last year, I was even asked to bring Strudel into a local school for a reading of the kids’ books, A Stack of Alpacas and Alpacas with Maracas.

‘Can you ride it?’ the kids wanted to know.

‘No,’ I laughed.

Instead, I explained he loved to eat vegies and grass and he slept outside.

I even took him to meet my nan, Alice, for her 95th birthday at the nursing home where she lived.

Afterwards, I took Strudel for his first walk along the beach.

Back at home, the kids begged me to let him stay inside so they could watch TV together.

‘Just for a little while,’ they pleaded.

Supplied
Meeting my beloved Nan (Credit: Supplied)

Sadly, Strudel was getting far too big to stay in the house.

The following month, when Strudel was almost a year old, I noticed he seemed to be quite lonely.

After doing some research, I learned that alpacas are happiest when in pairs. So we adopted his brother, Noodle, to keep Strudel company.

By now, the boys were fully grown at 1.5 metres tall and the yard didn’t seem big enough anymore.

So we had them agisted at a farm just down the road from our home.

Now aged almost two, the alpaca boys are inseparable.

Ellouise, now seven, Edson five, and I visit them every second day and take them for regular strolls around the town.

Supplied
Strudel and Noodle ready for a car ride (Credit: Supplied)

With almost 15,000 followers on Instagram, I never imagined just how popular they would become.

Seeing photos of Strudel makes my day, one person commented.

One day, I received a message from a lady who was a huge alpaca fan. I couldn’t believe it when she said she was going to get a picture of one tattooed on her leg and she wanted my permission to use a photo ofStrudel!

I felt flattered she was going to have an image of my boy on her body for the rest of her life.

When it was finished, she sent me a photo.

Incredibly, it looked just like the real thing.

I’m going to get one of Noodle too, she wrote. I don’t want him feeling 
left out!

I’m so glad Strudel and Noodle can bring smiles to people’s faces.

It’s what the world needs right now.

For more, see this week’s that’s life! – out now!

Related stories