Llamas take spotlight at Clark County Fair

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It doesn’t matter if you just scarfed down one of those giant Walla Walla onion burgers, Regal still wants to smell your breath.

That’s how the 13-year-old llama, and first-time visitor to the Clark County Fair, says hello.

You breathe in his face, he breathes in your face, maybe you share an alfalfa cube or two and before you know it, he’s your best friend.

Regal and his fellow llamas — and their alpaca cousins — are the featured animals at the fair this year.

And Regal’s longtime friend (shhh … she says nobody really “owns” a llama), Cathy Wooldridge, says there’s a lot to learn when it comes to the quirky, shaggy, sweet-tempered animals.

“People always ask if they spit,” Wooldridge said.

“And all llamas can spit, just like all dogs can bite and all cats can scratch. But they don’t usually do that unless threatened. If you get between a mother and her baby and threaten the baby, you’ll probably get spit on. But if you’re just saying hello, it’s pretty unlikely.”

Once you’ve been around them for a while, it’s easy to tell the difference between alpacas and llamas. But newcomers often ask about the differences, she said.

“As a rule, alpacas are shorter than llamas,” she told an inquisitive visitor while sitting in the empty pen next to Regal. “Alpacas’ faces are smooshier. Llamas have banana-shaped ears, and alpacas have straighter ones.”

Llamas are often used as pack animals, show jumpers and for their wool.

“They also pull carts, they go in parades, and there are therapy llamas,” said Cathy’s husband, Bob Wooldridge, the llama superintendent.

“There’s a place in San Diego and you can hire a string of llamas, and they’ll take your wedding cake and everything up to a mountain top for your wedding.”

The couple, who own the Wishful Thinking llama farm in Battle Ground, are both retired from the military.

They’ve had the farm since 1991 and have been showing their llamas at the fair for about 21 years.

Right now, they have six male llamas living with them, including Regal and Speckles, the two they’re showing at the fair.

People use llamas for many different purposes, but for the couple, the animals are pretty much just beloved pets, Cathy Wooldridge said.

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