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Espiritu Alpacas is a haven for animals and people alike

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By Deborah Swearingen

When Habib first came to Espiritu Alpacas, it took some time for him to settle in with the other animals.

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But in a month’s time, the alpaca frolicked freely without a care in the world save for the grass and grain he munched on.

Providing a safe and nurturing place for animals has always been Pamela Popp’s goal, and she’s done so officially for more than five years on her property, first in Evergreen and now in Conifer. Though she’s always been an animal lover, Popp’s foray into operating an alpaca rescue wasn’t exactly well thought out. She saw alpacas for sale in southeastern Colorado and realized it was less of a sale and more of a rescue.

“It was just 22 animals that looked like they were on the verge of death, and I just could not leave them there,” Popp said.

But everything quickly fell into place. Now, at her home off Richmond Hill in Conifer, Popp has dozens of alpacas, several llamas, chickens, goats, horses and more. She’s constantly bringing in new animals and finding forever homes for others.

Alpacas and llamas are both in the camelid family, but they’re different. Llamas are more protective and aggressive, and they’re guard animals for Popp. She loves to recount the story of the time her llama Lorenzo chased a mountain lion, and a couple found him strolling the streets some 6 miles away from her property.

The name of her rescue tells the story of Popp’s affinity for the shaggy-haired camelids. Espiritu means spirit in Spanish.

“I love that they are just peaceful and calm,” she said.

“You can’t interact with them like you would other livestock, and you can’t interact with them the way you would a horse. Their perspectives on life are so different that you have to always be very calm, quiet with them,” Popp added.

An animal’s dream

With 20 acres in the mountains of Jefferson County, Espiritu Alpacas is the perfect spot for animals of all kinds. The alpacas and llamas have tons of space to roam, and there are several pens so Popp can separate animals that don’t get along — particularly the intact males.

Last month, when Michelle Blake brought Habib to his new home in Conifer, she had no fear that she’d found a place where he could thrive. After finding Popp online and speaking with her about Espiritu, Blake, a Trinidad resident, felt at ease with her decision.

“She was so knowledgeable and really supportive when I talked to her,” Blake said.

“He’s going to be so happy here,” she said watching Habib get to know the other alpacas and llamas.

Popp’s alpaca rescue is a safe haven for animals, but it’s a therapeutic place for humans, too.

On a sunny June afternoon, a white bus pulled up on Popp’s property, and a handful of residents from Elk Run Assisted Living in Evergreen spilled out.

“Oh my! Habib!” Libby Sztukowski exclaimed with a wide-faced smile as the white alpaca came up to greet the van.

The Elk Run residents fed grain to the animals and spent time basking in the sun and soaking up the animals’ energy.

“It feels cool,” Sztukowski said while petting Habib’s recently sheared body.

Sztukowski said she loves to give alpaca gloves and socks as gifts, and people always marvel at the fact that she lives so close to such beautiful animals.

“This is an amazing place,” she said.