The fuzzy friend in the yard: a llama
People who keep llamas as pets will readily offer you any number of reasons: llamas are quiet, they’re gentle and affectionate, they don’t take a lot of work to maintain and they don’t smell bad.
But it’s more than that. Look at a llama and it’ll gaze back sympathetically with those huge, beguiling eyes, ears perked up, looking for all the world like it understands you and really cares.
As Katrina Capasso discovered, “They’re like potato chips.” It’s hard to stop at just a few. Ms. Capasso, 49, lives in Ballston Spa, about 260 kilometers north of New York City. She got her first llama as a wedding gift from her husband, Gary, in 1990. Now she has 55.
Used as pack animals in South America for centuries, llamas are now owned and bred throughout the world. A few decades ago, they were almost unheard-of in the United States. Today there are about 115,000, according to the International Lama Registry.
Llama breeders can pay as much as $30,000 for a top-quality male, but a regular pet llama can be had for less than $500. And given the demand for llama fiber among knitters, owners might be able to earn some of that back.
Pam Fink and her husband, Jerry, both 65, enjoy spending summer nights in Georgia sitting on their porch, watching the llamas graze. “I refer to them as our walking lawn ornaments,” he said fondly.
Mrs. Fink now breeds miniature llamas, a distinct breed about three-quarters the size of standard llamas. In the Finks’ immaculate suburban house, framed portraits of their pet llamas hang over the fireplace alongside photos of their grandchildren. Another wall is covered with ribbons won at llama shows, which are similar to dog shows.
One morning, Mrs. Fink showed a visitor around the house and then gave a tour of the barns where the llamas live, offering a running commentary on their quirks and
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Susan Morgan, who breeds miniature llamas in Hastings, Minnesota, says the animals bond among each other by humming.