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Peruvian pets stop traffic in Shroove 23.03.07

THEY’RE CUTE and cuddly and come running when they’re called. But Domino and Twinkle are no ordinary pets.
Standing at more than 5 ft tall and with a deep soft fleece, the two alpacas are such an unusual sight, they’re stopping traffic in Shroove.
They belong to Irene and Larry McLaughlin and their four children, Blair (19), Dara (15), Joe (13) and Iona (5).
“We used to live in rural Dorset in England and we loved going to the country fairs. In 1999 we were at one of these fairs when we saw this beautiful big white fluffy alpaca called Daisy. She was so cute we all fell in love with her,” explained Scottish-born Irene.
The family moved back to Larry’s native Shroove nearly four years ago but didn’t encounter the animals again until they were furnishing their new house and looking to buy…a fireplace.
“We were looking in The Dealer for fireplaces when we saw alpacas for sale in Draperstown,” laughed Irene. “We got Domino and Twinkle when they were only seven months old. They ate everything in sight for about a year and did a fair bit of fighting with each other but they eventually settled down.”
Inishowen’s fluffy duo have unwittingly become an
Joe, Twinkle, Domino, Iona and Irene
attraction for tourists and local schoolchildren. “In the summer, you can have up to five or six cars at a time pulling up to look at them,” explains Irene, who works part time as an intensive care nurse at Altnagelvin Hospital.
Alpacas are herd animals of the camelid species. They are native to South American including Peru and are prized for their ultra soft fleece used in the fashion industry to create top quality knitwear and clothing. They are a common enough sight in some parts of southwest England and can also be found around Northern Ireland.
Irene tells some hilarious stories about the two fluffiest family pets (the McLaughlins also have two dogs, Maisie and Billy) including the time a neighbour kindly organised for local sheep shearers to relieve the pets of their luxurious coats.
Iona with Twinkle “It was hilarious. The two sheep shearers arrived from Drung and couldn’t believe it when they were presented with Domino and Twinkle to shear. You should have seen their faces. Alpacas’ coats couldn’t be more different from sheep’s. Sheep’s wool has oil in it but alpaca’s don’t so the shears were smoking at times.” Then there was the time a neighbour’s chicken went missing only to be found taking a piggyback ride on Domino’s back, much to the feisty alpaca’s amusement.
While Domino and Twinkle, both male, are friendly with humans and love children they don’t take kindly to strange dogs or cats, which they chase from their paddock.
And how does the Inishowen climate suit the alpacas?
“People tend to forget that the Andes mountains
are very cold and sometimes have snow, so really, Inishowen is quite a nice temperate climate for them. They don’t like the rain though and will stay in the shed if it’s too wet.”
As for their feedstuff, the much-loved McLaughlin pets are thriving on hay and calf nuts!
While they have been sheared twice, Domino and Twinkle’s fleece remains unspun at the McLaughlin home.
“I would love someone to spin their fleece for me. Even if I only got two scarves out of it…one for me and my sister, I’d be delighted,” laughs Irene.
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