The fuzzy friend in the yard: a llama

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SUNDAY LIFE - By JENNIFER A. KINGSON

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

ON PAGE 10

CARO­LINE YANG FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Su­san Mor­gan, who breeds minia­ture lla­mas in Hast­ings, Min­nesota, says the an­i­mals bond among each other by hum­ming.

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