If you've travelled through Mount Pearl you may have seen Dena Eales walking around the city. More importantly, you may have seen her pet.
Covie is an alpaca — and has become something of an icon in the city.
"I get a lot of waves, a lot of blowing the horns and a lot of people stopping to ask for pictures," said Eales .
Named after the disease at the heart of a worldwide pandemic, Covie is a big draw. Over the course of an hour-long walk, Eales will get stopped as much as a dozen times, by people who have questions, and others who want to snap a quick picture with the animal.
Alpacas are herd animals, says Eales, and aren't supposed to be pets. They're supposed to be with their own kind and live in a pasture. But Covie loves people, she said.
"He truly has adapted," she said.
"He has a herd with my other animals but he is my only alpaca. I started walking him so he could get that social aspect and he truly loves meeting new people."
Covie's "herd" includes chickens, ducks, roosters, geese, pigs, Newfoundland ponies, miniature horses and horses.
Eales actually bought two alpacas — Covie and Teeny — but the person who sold them to her didn't know Teeny was pregnant. The alpaca gave birth, and Eales couldn't afford to keep them all so she sold Teeny and her baby.
That's when the walks started.
"It is really good for them to socialize and get out there. Like any animal they need exercise but he doesn't need to go on this type of walk. It is the aspect of introducing and getting him used to people," said Eales.
"At this point, people have become so mesmerized by him, they just want to know all about him and those are the interactions he needs to get."
But it did take some work to get there.
"Well, just like any animal that uses a leash, I had to teach him how to walk on a leash," said Eales. "He was a lot wilder when I first got him. I had to do a lot of training to get him ready; he doesn't like to stay still so he'll walk in circles when we stop. I have taught him to stay still but out of all my farm animals, he took the most training."
Part of the community
Eales bought the alpaca because of a fox problem — she had a den on her property line.
"Unfortunately it or they ended up killing three animals of mine, she said "Alpacas are supposed to be protectors — they can kick, spit and charge. I never got to see it in action, though, as I managed to find the den and have it destroyed before he arrived. But the protection of my other animals was the main reason for purchasing."
Since then, Covie has become part of the community, making new friends and seeing new faces.
People have become so invested in the alpaca that walks around the city that a Facebook group has been created to share the images taken with the people he meets.
"My friend is the one who created the group," said Eales. "All these people who stopped us and took pictures — I mean, I never had a way to see them and I wanted to be able to. I wanted to be able to share the images of him and his friends."
The group has nearly 500 members, with daily posts by people who see Eales and Covie on their regular walks.
"Not only is Covie a member of the community, but he has created a community," said Eales. "So many share this mutual excitement towards him, and I am so happy to share a piece in that."