WACONIA, Minn. (WCCO) — From therapy animals to 4H to yoga, over the past 20 years llamas have become global sensations.

At one Waconia farm, there is no such thing as llama drama.

“They’re friendly. They’re nice and they want to come up to you,” said visitor Jillyana Schroeder.

That out-going personality is the reason Rick Carlson fell in love with llamas back when they were a relative unknown in this part of the world.

“Sheep were all over. Horses were all over. Pigs were all over. So I wanted something different,” said Carlson, owner of Carlson’s Llovable Llamas.

Different is exactly what he got.

He started with 10 llamas. Now he’s up to 87. And like it often goes in a small town, word got around. Now people call for all kinds of different reasons.

“My answering machine is full. My email is full. I can’t keep up with the requests we have,” Carlson said. “People want to buy a llama for guarding. People want to buy a llama for a pet.”

So Carlson got an idea for a sort of “llamapalooza” on his farm. First came the 4-H kids, like Eddie Worm.

“This is my llama, Estraya,” said Eddie, showing off a 13-month-old female llama.

Eddie is one of more than 100 4-Hers involved in Carlson’s llama program.

Part of the fun is running through llama obstacle courses to show off their surprising agility.

And each year they add an average of 20 new 4-Hers to the program.

“The numbers have just skyrocketed,” Carlson said.

4-H is one thing. Llama yoga is another.

Better known as “llamaste,” it may be the only such yoga course in the Midwest.

“We thought it was going to be a onetime thing,” said volunteer Brenda Zachrison. “The first event was oversold and it was just an awesome event and then there’s been more demand to add more sessions so we’ve added more sessions.”

Despite their laid back persona, Carlson’s llamas know how to defend themselves.

After all, “spit happens.”

“I got caught in the crossfire between two llamas,” Eddie said. “They were mad at each other.”

Carlson says that if the llamas are put in a “guard situation,” they will protect whatever they’re guarding with their lives.

They’ve been known to chase after wolves and coyotes to protect sheep. And they aren’t camera shy. A couple of Carlson’s llamas have become celebrities.

“Zorro is in an eHarmony commercial,” Carlson said. “We put a hat on him and a tie on him.”

Still, it’s what they do with kids, namely therapy kids, that Carlson is most proud of.

“We’ve seen it many times, kids that are shy, quiet, they don’t want to lead a llama. They go on the trail walk and by the time they come back they want to buy a llama,” Carlson said. “I guess I like to see the rewards. The smiles on their faces. Just how they go out of here happy.”

Carlson’s llamas are also frequent visitors to nursing homes and have been known to make appearances at wedding receptions.

For more information on visiting Carlson’s Llovable Llamas, click here or call 952-442-4244.

You can also email Carlson at rick@carlsonsllovablellamas.com.

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