From city life to La Dolce Vita and alpacas in Ramona

Alpacas lounge on the back porch of La Dolce Vita Alpacas near San Diego Country Estates in Ramona.
Alpacas lounge on the back porch of La Dolce Vita Alpacas near San Diego Country Estates in Ramona.

By Marta Zarrella

Nestled on 10 acres in the Ramona foothills, accessed via Pappas Road in San Diego Country Estates, Joe and Susan Attili live the sweet life with their two Great Pyrenees dogs and a herd of 37 Alpacas over which the dogs — and the Attilis keep a watchful eye. They call their ranch and their business La Dolce Vita Alpacas.

La dolce vita is Italian for “the sweet life” or “the good life.”

Eight years ago Joe, an electrical engineer, and Susan, an occupational therapist, lived in University City. Susan worked at Sharpe Healthcare. Now she is ranch manager at La Dolce Vita Alpacas. Joe helps her when he isn’t working “down the hill” at his engineering job.

She was a city girl before making the move to Ramona. He grew up on a cattle farm in upstate New York. One thing led to another and they fell in love with alpacas — eight of them.

In the early days, Susan and Joe boarded the alpacas and began the learning process. It would be three years before they found the perfect ranch in Ramona. During those years, they took seminars, read books and learned from mentors, all while searching for property on which to live their dream.

Eight years later, they have their “work in progress.” On their fully fenced property on Bareta Star Ranch Road, three layers of protection for their four-legged friends — white ranch fencing backed by chain link with hot wire along the bottom ­— keep predators from digging their way in.

The 37 alpacas who share the property are all ages, sizes and colors. Susan and Joe own 22 of the herd; the rest are boarded

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Susan and Joe Attili with their award-winning herdshire, Fabio.

on the property.

About 30 friends and fans joined them for their recent annual Shearing Day festivities.

“We have fun,” said Susan. “We have all of our and our boarders’ alpacas sheared. People come from all over with their animals also. We have an isolation pen where alpacas who don’t normally live here are held separately from our herd.”

It is an all-day affair. Volunteer helpers are invited to catch and hold the alpacas, do any number of chores around the ranch or watch and learn. There is food and fellowship as well. “It is wonderful fun for all of us, especially for people from the city,” said Joe.

La Dolce Vita Alpacas, a full-service ranch, sells, boards and breeds alpacas. Susan and Joe enjoy sharing the knowledge they’ve gained through years of study and hands-on experience. “We had mentors along the way, and we love to mentor others.”

Their website www.ldvalpacas.com is full of information as well.

They’ve learned from experience that orchard grass fed alpacas produce beautiful, thick award-winning coats, and a Dremel tool does a good job shaping teeth. Susan has techniques for trimming feet, too. They have many other tips they share.

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Sue Attili holds newborn Theresa, named after one of Sue's aunts, under the watchful eye of Theresa's mother, Josephina.

They pride themselves in the quality of their animals and the amenities on their ranch. They have a number of award-winning stud quality males called herdshires. They are most proud of an alpaca stud named Palladin of Stone Mist. He is tall, handsome and gentle.

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