If This Llama Doesn't Make You Smile...
"After working with a llama through my 4-H youth program," says Shannon Hendrickson, 26, "my mom and I decided to buy one of our own, Rojo, in 2002. When I showed him at a county fair four years later, I was told his gentle nature would make him a great therapy animal, so my mom and I decided to enroll in a training program with him. After a series of tests, the three of us were certified, and we adopted and certified a second llama, Smokey. For many people, there's nothing more joyful than playing with a cuddly, shaggy animal with big round eyes."
On Making New Friends
"Llamas are golden retriever soft, and they have no upper front teeth, so biting isn't a major concern," says Hendrickson's mom, Lori Gregory, 58. "We visit a school for the blind and visually impaired, and the kids run their fingers through Rojo's and Smokey's fur. It's like hugging a gigantic stuffed animal. No one can resist a llama's charms. At one assisted-living community, there was a man the nurses called Mr. Grumpy. But when he was greeted by 400-pound Rojo in a red boa, his face lit up."
On Livin' La Vida Llama
"We now have five llamas and four alpacas on our farm," says Gregory. "I manage the day-to-day activities like scheduling and grooming. We use Pantene Pro-V to keep their hair silky. Shannon oversees social media—Rojo has more than 6,000 likes on Facebook. We've done nearly 1,000 therapeutic visits throughout the Vancouver, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, area, and even charity fashion shows. Turns out llamas are cuddly and charismatic."