Sunday, June 13, 2021
June 13, 2021

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Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Rojo the llama ready for his close-up on TV

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7 and 10 p.m. tonight, National Geographic Wild.

Rojo the llama’s distant cousins may have made headlines in late February for their daring escapes in Arizona and here in Vancouver, but Rojo’s fame isn’t nearly as fleeting.

Clark County’s most famous llama, who lives at Vancouver’s Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas, has already won numerous awards at the Clark County Fair. But now his fame is spreading nationwide, said Lori Gregory, who, with her daughter, Shannon Hendrickson, owns Rojo and a handful of other therapy llamas and alpacas at Mountain Peaks.

“It’s been almost a year of crazy requests,” Gregory said. “He was in the book ‘Unlikely Heroes,’ which came out in October, and he got some attention from that. He’s also in a scholastic book about animals helping people heal.”

And tonight, Rojo will strut through an even larger venue — television — when he appears on National Geographic Wild’s show “Unlikely Animal Friends.”

Rojo will be in the “Doggie Dearest” episode, which airs at 7 and 10 p.m. tonight and re-airs at 6 and 9 p.m. Monday.

7 and 10 p.m. tonight, National Geographic Wild.

“He also was just featured in an article in the April edition of ‘The Oprah Magazine,’ ” Gregory said. “And he did some filming in October for a documentary called ‘Llama Nation,’ which should be out soon.”

Gregory got Rojo nearly 13 years ago, when he was 4 months old, as a 4H project animal for Hendrickson. But as he grew and the family realized how sweet his temperament was, they decided to transform him into a therapy llama.

“He’s really just as mellow as they come,” Gregory said. “He’s the only llama I can go up to and just wrap my arms around. He loves the attention.”

When the family first saw him, Rojo was following his original owner around the yard with interest as she did chores and worked with her other animals.

“We thought, that’s a perfect one for our daughter,” Gregory said.

In 2007, after Hendrickson had worked with him for several years, someone at the Clark County Fair suggested that she and Gregory get Rojo certified for therapy, Gregory said.

“After we did that, we had so many requests to take him out; that’s why we got a second Llama, Smokey,” Gregory said.

Since then, Mountain Peaks has added three other llamas and four alpacas, she said.

The animals tend to live 20 to 25 years, she added.

“We got Napoleon the Alpaca about three years ago and he’s amazing,” Gregory said. “Llamas are more independent, whereas alpacas tend to get stressed if they’re not in the herd, but Napoleon, he does great alone.”

Rojo and the other animals are very popular in senior communities, where they help residents re-engage with their environment.

“They can go up in elevators and walk into rooms,” Gregory said. “They’re huggable, pettable. They’re a real strong motivation for getting people to move when they don’t want to. Sometimes people will talk when they haven’t talked in a long time, or they’ll sit up when they haven’t sat up in a while.”

Rojo also works with special needs children and other groups. The nonprofit therapy group funds its activities through donations and through going to events such as birthday parties or weddings, Gregory said.

“I never dreamed we’d get this much attention,” she said. “We started out as just doing a few things a couple times a month, but it’s become a full-time job. Rojo just lives to bring love and joy to everybody — and he loves all the attention he gets back.”

For more about Rojo, visit www.rojothellama.com.


Bits ‘n’ Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you’d like to share, email bits@columbian.com.

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