Valley llama, alpaca bring home national titles

Three days a week, Ellen Goldsmith's neighbors are treated to the sight of her walking her llamas and alpacas through her Gardnerville neighborhood.

"I walk them throughout the year through the neighborhood, three or four miles, two or three times a week to keep them in shape," Ellen said. "The neighbors love it."

Two of Ellen's animals, Legend the llama and Carson Valley Caesar the alpaca, received national titles from the Alpaca Llama Show Association awards in Lincoln, Neb., the weekend of Oct. 24-25.

"They won the grand national awards," she said. "It takes all summer to qualify. The show season is all year and qualifying is an ongoing process."

Legend's official name is RDTwister's Spats Domino and he was born in Carson Valley.

Both animals had to work to win their positions.

"To win they have to enter three separate events, obstacle, public relations and pack," she said.

Both Legend and Caesar were judged on their ability to negotiate an obstacle course.

"They have to get through anything they set up," Ellen said. "They have to back through some places. It's about maneuverability and their willingness to trust the handler without spooking."

In the public relations competition, the animal has to visit a simulated school or hospital.

"When you have 100 kids run up to your animal and it doesn't flinch, you know you have a good animal," she said.

In the third part of the competition, the llama has to be able to pack 40 pounds. Caesar only has to carry 10 pounds.

As part of his training, 13-year-old Legend walked the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail in 2005.

"It's great training to go out in the woods," Ellen said. "We also bring them into the house and they see themselves in the mirror. They don't freak out at anything."

Llamas and to a lesser degree alpacas are the only beasts of burden native to the western hemisphere. Both are sheared for their fibers.

"They're fiber animals," Ellen said. "We shear them once a year and send the material to a fiber co-op. We can order wonderful blankets and scarves made from the material."

Ellen and husband Ron Hamilton have lived in Carson Valley for 12 years. In that time they've accumulated four llamas and 11 alpacas.

Legend was born at the Rafter D Llama Ranch, while Caesar was born on Ellen's property.

Most people who breed llamas participate in the halter show because they are selling the fiber.

"My interest is in performance because I enjoy working with them," Ellen said. "It takes five years to train a llama. I started training Caesar when he was about 2 years old."

Legend has made several visits to Carson Valley Residential Care Center and visited Merrill Gardens on Nov. 22.

Ellen's animals also participated in Ag in the Classroom, this year at Pinon Hills Elementary School.

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As it turns out, Ellen and her husband are former neighbors of mine from the Las Vegas Valley.

Ron was a firefighter until his retirement.

Ellen was a medical social worker for 15 years until 1984 when she became the first female firefighter for the City of Las Vegas.

They lived on Fisher Avenue about a half-mile down the hill from where I grew up on Ann Road.

She's a part-time employee at the Carson Valley Swim Center.

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A note just crossed my desk that the state is planning on permitting fishing in Boulder Bay on Lake Mead.

The bay was home to the Lake Mead Marina until the lake level dropped so low that they had to move it.

The marina was home to these monster carp we would feed popcorn to when I was a kid.

I don't know if the carp moved with the marina, but soon boaters will get to drop a line where they once ruled.

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I was at the Genoa Town Board on Tuesday flanked by former board members Ron Funk and Sue Knight as they broke out the cake for soon-to-be former board member Bill Donohoe.

According to the old R-Cs, Bill was appointed in December 1999 along with Steve Hollister. He is the first Genoan to be term-limited out. Outgoing Gardnerville Town Board member Randy Slater will be participating in the Parade of Lights on Saturday. He also said farewell on Tuesday.


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