Kruzickis currently own 37
By Bert Lehman
Four years ago Dennis Kruzicki didn’t know a thing about alpacas, now he and his wife Josie own 37 of the animals that are native to South America.
There is a good reason why the Kruzickis fell in love with alphacas — they were therapeutic for Dennis after he was diagnosed with cancer three years ago.
One day after his diagnosis Dennis stopped at an alpaca farm.
“When I decided to leave I realized I was there for two hours and I got attached to these animals,” Dennis said. “There are medications to help you fight cancer but there is nothing mental for you. These animals sure do it to me.”
Dennis admitted that he didn’t know anything about alpacas before that.
“I saw them and I thought, ‘What the heck are these animals?’” he said.
That one day spending time with alpacas changed Dennis’ life.
“It was so phenomenal. I called my wife that day, I said, ‘Let’s get into alpacas.’ She said, ‘Are you nuts? You may need a bone marrow transplant,’” Dennis said.
The Kruzicki’s alpaca herd started with six, which were previously owned by a neighbor. They were purchased for the Kruzickis by Dennis’ sister.
“He (neighbor) said your guardian angel came and paid for them,” Dennis said.
Josie said it was easy to convert the barn on the property to an alpaca barn.
Since the original six alpacas were purchased, Dennis and Josie have added to the herd by buying out some alpaca owners, and rescuing other alpacas.
“We didn’t want to see them go to the slaughter house,” Dennis said.
Josie said the alpacas have been beneficial to Dennis, especially since he had to stop working because of his battle with cancer.
“He has owned multiple businesses and has always needed to stay busy,” Josie said. “As any cancer patient knows, you need to keep busy. You need to keep your mind going. The alpacas have given him his drive.”
Knowing how alpacas helped him, Dennis and Josie have dubbed their alpacas — Kruzickis Kemo Kritters.
They give farm tours to those who request them. They’ve had residents from nursing homes and assisted living groups come visit the alpaca on the farm.
Josie said they want people to become aware of and familiar with alpacas.
“You can go to the county fairs and see the horses, the pigs, and the cows, but they don’t show alpacas at your county fair,” Josie said.
Each year the Kruzickis host an alpaca shearing day that the public is invited to. On this day each alpaca is sheared to remove their fiber coat. Josie said it is necessary to shear alpacas, otherwise they get too hot during Wisconsin’s summers.
She said since alpacas are native to South America, they normally populate the Andes Mountains.
“There, as the temperatures rise, they just run in the mountains, but they can’t do that here,” Josie said.
Since alpaca need to be sheared, the Kruzickis decided to make an event out of it, and allow the public to learn more about alpacas and get up close and personal to them.
“It’s not something you see every day,” Josie said.
She added, “This is our third one and it keeps getting bigger and bigger, which is fine because that’s what we want. As long as we have the alpacas we’re going to keep doing it.”
“It’s giving back to the community, letting them have the opportunity to see these animals,” Dennis added.
Those attending the event are often amazed at how soft the fiber coat is on alpacas, Josie said.
“Once you shear them, then the reaction is “Look at that thin neck. Look how tiny they are under there because that fiber is so deceiving,’” Josie said.
The fiber that is sheared from the alpacas is divided into three sections, depending on the part of the body it came from. Josie said she then cleans it and removes any organic matter before shipping it to a mill in Massachusetts, where it is added to other alpaca fiber.
“From there I’m able to purchase back socks, hats, gloves, trivets, yarn and a variety of different things that we can sell in our Kritter Kloset,” Josie said.
The Kritter Kloset is located at the Kruzicki farm in Bear Creek.
“We just want to share these wonderful animals with people,” said Dennis, who is currently in remission from cancer.
Josie added, “We love what we’re doing. We’re glad to share the knowledge and the excitement.”