Kids and critters. Therapy, companionship and love
I see the results first hand with my children, the strong bonds between kids and critters. Critters have a way of showing how to love unconditionally, give confidence and teach gentleness to our children regardless of their abilities. Here is a cool article about llamas and their people who work with these amazing animals.
Llama project opens doors for exhibitor
Posted: Monday, July 16, 2012 1:15 am | Updated: 8:08 pm, Sun Jul 15, 2012.
Michael Tobias guides his llama Annie through the pack competition Saturday at the Montgomery County 4-H Fair with the help of Megan Fruits. Fruits showed the Montgomery County Best of Show llama.
For a long time, Kathy and Gil Tobias wondered if their son Michael, who was born with Down syndrome and autistic tendencies, would ever belong to groups, be involved in activities or make friends.
A chance encounter last year at the Montgomery County 4-H Fair petting zoo changed Michael’s world.
“We saw the llamas, and Michael just started becoming so attached to them,” said Michael’s mother Kathy. “Matt Fruits, who owned the llamas, asked me if I’d ever considered 4-H.”
Kathy decided to let her son, who is non-verbal, give the 4-H llama project a try. On Saturday, 15-year-old Michael took the show ring with Annie the llama — and beamed with pride as he earned ribbons and trophies in several classes.
“It makes me very emotional,” Kathy said, tears welling in her eyes. “Michael is my only child, and his father and I want the best for him ... it’s really all about Michael. I am so thankful for the people in the llama club — especially Matt Fruits — who have been so supportive.”
All the llama exhibitors cheered Michael on Sunday. He was assisted in the show ring by fellow exhibitor Megan Fruits, 10, who was the overall points winner in the llama show.
“Megan is just such a wonderful, special girl,” Kathy said.
Matt Fruits, llama club leader and Megan’s father, agreed.
“She always wants to help,” he said. “She is good at it.”
Megan was humble.
“I didn’t really do anything,” she said modestly. “(Michael) did it all. I just helped a little.”
The bond between Annie and Michael was obvious.
“That llama wasn’t show trained,” Matt said. “She only does what she does for Michael. Somehow, she just knows. They’re a great team.”
Matt has seen changes in Michael since he began working with his llama.
“He has made friends,” he said. “He smiles and he works hard.”
For Kathy, seeing her son in the 4-H show ring was almost overwhelming, as it was something she never thought could happen.
“He’s making eye contact, and even though he doesn’t speak he’s communicating,” she said with a smile. “These kids and the leaders have been so good to him and for him. And for me, it’s a wonderful thing to see him having fun and just being included.”
Megan Fruits also showed the Grand Champion Suri, Grand Champion Light Wool, Grand Champion Medium Wool and the Montgomery County Best of Show.
Isaac Fruits showed the Grand and Reserve Grand Champion Heavy Wool llamas and the Reserve Grand Champion Medium Wool llama.
Alora Goldsby showed the Montgomery County Reserve Best of Show llama, and the Grand Champion Non-Breeder.
Logan Slovacek showed the Reserve Grand Champion Suri.
Emily Neal showed the Reserve Grand Champion Light Wool llama.
There was a three-way tie for Overall Performance winner: Slovacek, Neal and Megan Fruits. Reserve Overall Performance was a tie between Isaac Fruits and Hunter Stevens.
Overall Showmanship went to Neal with reserve going to Isaac Fruits.