Northwest Colorado camel to appear on Animal Planet
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A local animal celebrity is rising to national fame this weekend.
Larry, one of two camels that live near Steamboat Springs, will appear on an episode of Animal Planet at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 6, on the network’s most popular TV show, “Dr. Jeff: Rocky Mountain Vet.”
The episode centers around the camel’s castration last summer, conducted by Denver veterinarian Dr. Jeff Young.
Longtime Yampa Valley resident Bethany Aurin has owned Larry since he was 3 weeks old, keeping him alongside her horses on her farm north of town. At 15, he has already garnered a local fan base owing to his appearances at the town’s Fourth of July celebrations.
He even has his own blog.
Aurin had never planned to neuter Larry and even brought home Steamboat’s second camel, Camille, with the intent of having calves.
But as Aurin explained, it was not love at first sight — nor in the last seven years Camille and Larry have lived together.
“They tolerate each other,” she said of the animals’ relationship.
As Larry got older and his hormones flared, yearning for a suitable mate — sorry, Camille — Aurin noticed a dark change come over him.
“He started getting cranky all the time,” she said. “I could tell he wasn’t happy.”
Aurin has raised and trained horses for most of her life and seen firsthand how unruly males turn calmer and more amicable after castration. She knew Larry would see similar benefits.
Finding someone to do the job was not as easy as Aurin expected. She called officials at Colorado State University and the Denver Zoo, as well as a list of exotic animal veterinarians, but none of them had ever neutered a camel.
“I didn’t want Larry to be someone’s first camel castration,” Aurin said.
So, she called up Young, whose show often features unusual animals and quirky vet requests. It was Animal Planet’s most-watched series last year, with an average of more than 1.1 million viewers per episode.
Within hours, his team agreed to do the operation.
Last June, Young brought a team of helpers, including an anesthesiologist and a film crew, to document the surgery on Aurin’s farm. A preview of the episode shows Larry sedated in a field and Young leaning over him, armed with a pair of scissors.
“These are the biggest testicles I’ve taken off an animal,” he said in the video.
Steamboat’s 2018 Fourth of July celebration is also featured in the episode. After the operation, Aurin invited one of the show’s vet technicians, Hector Martinez, to ride Larry in the parade.
Exactly a year later, the surgery appears to have worked. After Thursday’s Fourth of July Parade through downtown Steamboat, Larry contentedly munched pellet treats from the hands of intrigued passersby, drooling heavily.
“If you hold the pellet in your fingertips, he’ll take it gently with his lips,” Aurin advised one young girl.
She shrieked as his loose jowls slurped the food out of her hand, a puddle of drool splatting onto the sidewalk.
For Aurin, the change is bittersweet.
“Part of me is sad because I was hoping we’d have calves, but I’m so much happier at the quality of his life now,” she said.
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When you hear an unholy shriek or a cacophony of chest-pounding hundreds of feet high, you know you’re about to see something fantastic.