Passion for alpacas
Kruzicki shares experiences at farm
By Erik Buchinger
Dennis Kruzicki’s passion for alpacas has continued to grow into a large community event in the Bear Creek area.
The third annual Alpaca Shearing Day will be held at the Kruzicki farm in Bear Creek on Saturday, May 6.
Kruzicki said there were roughly 500 people at last year’s event with an expectation for approximately 700 this year with 18 volunteers, as word gets out and people become more interested.
“We have to shear the animals anyway, so what we do is we open it up to the public,” Kruzicki said. “We want people to see what these animals are all about because these are wonderful, wonderful animals.”
The alpaca farm is known as Kruzicki’s Kemo Kritters because Kruzicki began his fascination with alpacas roughly 4 ½ years ago when going through chemotherapy after being diagnosed with leukemia and lymphoma.
“On my way home from chemo in Appleton one day, I stopped at this alpaca and llama farm,” Kruzicki said. “The owner wasn’t there, but I was raised on a farm, so I know what not to do. I was watching and watching, and I went back into my truck to get home, and all of a sudden I realize I was there for two hours. I said, ‘Oh my gosh’ and called my wife and said, ‘We need alpacas.’ She said, ‘Are you nuts? You may need a bone marrow transplant.’”
As a result of the aggressive chemotherapy, Kruzicki said his diaphragm is paralyzed on his right side and essentially has just one functioning lung.
Kruzicki’s cancer is currently in remission, and he is able to spend his mornings with the animals or other projects while his wife works full time.
“I haven’t set an alarm clock in 35 years, and I’m up every morning around 4:30,” Kruzicki said. “I go get coffee, and my wife leaves for work at 6, and I come out here or do a project in the house till about noon, and then I’m done. In the afternoon, I lay down and rest, and then I get up and make supper for my wife. She hasn’t made supper in three years, and I clean the house, and that’s our world. It works well.”
Dennis said he was lucky to meet his wife Josie after losing his first wife of 30 years.
Kruzicki had been living in Illinois and owned a roofing business and moved to Bear Creek with his wife Rosella “Sally” Kruzicki. The two had built a new home and had been living in it for about six months before Sally died following a massive heart attack on March 24, 2006 at the age of 50.
“Then I was lucky enough to find Josie,” Kruzicki said. “She’s my angel I tell ya.”
Josie has joined Kruzicki with the fascination with alpacas, and the two have enjoyed learning and sharing their experiences.
Kruzicki’s sister purchased six alpacas for him to get started, and the number of alpacas at his farm has grown ever since. Kruzicki has purchased several of the animals and rescued a few as well.
“My wife and I didn’t know anything about these animals at first, so we had to learn all this stuff and it was so much fun,” Kruzicki said. “We spoke with other alpaca owners, researched on the internet and found literature to teach us what to do.”
Kruzicki hopes to publish a book about alpacas to help continue teaching others who share his same passion.
“I’ve got about 40 pages done already on it,” Kruzicki said. “I want to continue to do this and someday, I’ll publish it and when people get into this sort of thing, they can get this book and understand what to do.”
Kruzicki and Josie bring their alpacas to different events in the area throughout the year and try to sell products, including socks, mittens, hats and others from their “Kritter Kloset” to help cover costs and enjoy telling stories about their animals.
One of Kruzicki’s favorite stories of his alpacas includes a trip to Clintonville when one of the boy alpacas, Tanner Bananer, went up to one of the ladies at a nursing home and touched her on the side of her cheek, forcing a smile on her face.
“Her caretaker said, ‘For 16 years, I have been watching this lady, and she has never smiled,’ so that’s some of the effects these animals can have on people,” Kruzicki said.
Kruzicki names all 35 alpacas that live at the farm, and the origin of each name usually provides unique story.
“On Dec. 15, here comes the baby, and [Marlene’s 82-year-old husband Gordy] said he would be right there,” Kruzicki said. “When he comes in the barn, Josie had the little fart cleaned up, and Gordy said, ‘How can you not love something like that?’ And I said, ‘How can you not love Marlene?’ And a tear came down because that was the name of his deceased wife.”
Gordy and Marlene had just begun their interest in alpacas because of Marlene, but she passed away as soon as they got into it.
With other alpaca owners providing an extra nine alpacas for the event, there will be 44 alpacas at the farm for the event at W9813 Cherry Rd. in Bear Creek.
Grace Lutheran Church will be providing food and beverages throughout the day or until everything is gone. All proceeds will be donated to the Grace building fund, and Kruzicki said the church made approximately $1,200 at last year’s event.
Dr. Jammie VerGiesen from the Seymour Veterinary Hospital will be on site for wellness checks and open forums regarding veterinary care for alpacas.
Kruzicki said in addition to being with his alpacas every day, he stays busy with projects in and out of the house.
“I’ve got to stop being retired because I’m working so much on my projects,” Kruzicki said with a laugh. “But I love every minute of it because there’s always something different I can work on.”
About a decade ago, Kruzicki said his group of alpacas would have been worth about $1 million, but for him, it’s not about the money.
“We are not out to make money,” Kruzicki said. “We are out to cover our expenses. This keeps me busy in the barn during the day, and they are so satisfying to me.”