Patrick Boddy was driving between job sites on Monday morning when something on the side of the road in Newburyport caught his eye.
There, sitting alone in an open field, was the furry outline of a strange-looking animal with a long neck, one typically seen at farms and petting zoos. Perplexed, he did an immediate double-take.
“I looked over and there was a llama,” said Boddy, who works for a utility company. “It was the most random thing I’ve ever seen.”
An animal lover who last year rescued two stray dogs he found wandering the streets, Boddy turned his truck around to check on the llama and make sure it was unharmed. He wound up bonding with the lost animal for two hours as he, the local animal control officer, and several others tried to track down its owner.
But so far, where the llama came from remains a mystery, despite media coverage and substantial public outreach.
“The llama is being held temporarily at a local farm until we can locate his owners,” Newburyport-West Newbury Animal Control officials said in a Facebook update Monday, not long after alerting residents that they had found the stray llama. “Thank you . . . to everyone who made calls to help try and reunite this guy with his family.”
Boddy said he found the male llama in an open area off Hale Street, near Interstate 95, around 10 a.m. After hopping the guardrail to get closer, he noticed a coyote about 30 paces from where it was resting.
“I clapped at the coyote and kind of yelled at it, and as soon as I started clapping it took off pretty quick,” he said.
Once the coast was clear, he walked slowly toward the llama, fully expecting it would get spooked and run away. But to his surprise the animal sat there stoically, seemingly unbothered by his presence. As he inched toward it, the llama stood up next him and began acting “really chill.”
“I had my arm around the thing, kind of calming him down. It was just really gentle and friendly. I knew it must’ve been some kind of pet or something,” said Boddy, who at 5 feet 9 inches was just a few inches taller than his new companion.
Boddy reached out to his nephew, Eric Andrukaitis, an officer with the Newburyport Police Department. In turn, police contacted Kayla Provencher, the animal control officer for both Newburyport and West Newbury.
It’s not odd to see barn animals in Newburyport, Provencher said. But a call about an unaccompanied llama was not how she expected to start off the New Year.
“I received a call around 10:50 in the morning from Newburyport dispatch saying a man was standing in a field with a lone llama,” Provencher said. “Lo and behold, I pulled up [to the field] and he was there, just hanging out with him . . . It was actually kind of funny — it’s a big open field and just one llama and one guy, just standing next to each other looking at me as I’m coming down the embankment.”
After her arrival and securing the llama, Provencher and Boddy spent the better part of an hour in the field calling around to local farms to find out if anyone was missing the animal, which they both described as calm and passive.
“We called so many people and nobody had a clue,” Boddy said. “We couldn’t figure out where the thing came from.”
“No luck there,” Provencher said.
Meanwhile, Provencher turned to social media to help solve the case.
“Recognize this pretty llama?” she wrote on Facebook Monday. “Please contact Animal Control. Thanks!”
Although her post and several pictures of the beige-and-white llama were fawned over and shared in various online groups, efforts to find its owner were unsuccessful.
While continuing to make calls, Provencher went back to Animal Control headquarters to get the llama some hay. In that time, Andrukaitis, the police officer, contacted his girlfriend Carly LeSage, whom he owns a farm with in Newton, N.H.
Without an immediate place to bring the llama — Provencher said she didn’t have any barn space for it — the group arranged to have a trailer come to the field so LeSage could drive the animal north to her property for safekeeping.
LeSage said the llama made it to New Hampshire without issue, further indicating that he is used to human contact. She said the “super, super friendly” llama immediately took to his new digs, happily eating hay and drinking water in the barn.
LeSage, who has goats, pigs, and chickens on her farm, called Tiny Acres, never expected to become acquainted with a llama. But as the hours passed she found herself falling for the funny-looking creature with the slight underbite.
When she first found out about the loose llama, her goal was to get him home. Now, a part of her hopes that if no one comes forward, that home will be hers.
“I did a night check with him last night and had a glass of wine with him,” she said. “I’m kind of a little attached to him at this point.”