Peruvian pets stop traffic in Shroove
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
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
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.
“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
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
And how does the Inishowen climate suit the alpacas?
“People tend to forget that the Andes mountains
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
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.