Llama's visit makes Valpo library story time a breed apart

2012-03-01T20:02:00Z 2012-03-01T21:10:34Z Llama's visit makes Valpo library story time a breed apartBy Susan O'Leary Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
March 01, 2012 8:02 pm  • 

VALPARAISO |With one bat of her long eyelashes, Fanny captivated the room. The brown and white llama rode the elevator Wednesday to the second floor of the Porter County Public Library in Valparaiso as the special guest at the Toddler Time reading program.

Rusty and Leann Benninger, of O-Aces llama farm in Hebron, escorted Fanny to the library to bring to life the Anna Dewdney picture book "Llama Llama Red Pajama."

Before the start of the program, the Benningers loaded Fanny into the elevator, and Leann Benninger told her husband to press the number two on the elevator's panel.

"Whoops, don't say ‘number two,'" joked Leann Benninger.

Benninger reassured Fanny, who faced the back of the elevator car. "You're going to be fine. We'll turn you around when we get there."

Kate Lambert, youth services program director, said she was thrilled to have Fanny and the Benningers, the superintendents of the 4-H llama project at the Porter County Fair.

"They were more than happy to help out and make the program special," said Lambert.

In the story time room, more than 25 toddlers, with their moms and grandmothers, sat on the floor as Lambert read the picture book and the Benningers explained the history and care of llamas.

"We purchase them in pairs so they don't get lonely," said Rusty Benninger. "They are very intelligent. It only takes them about three times before they learn something."

Leann Benninger said Fanny knows the words stand, back, turn, jump, hold and trot.

"She understands a lot," said Benninger. "They can easily learn about 50 voice commands."

The Benningers also displayed ribbons Fanny has won in competition, photos of her in the show ring, and gloves and hats made from llama wool.

Fanny recently placed first in all her classes in an international competition in Louisville, Ky., said Leann Benninger.

"That's the number one llama in the U.S. right now," said Benninger, to audience applause.

Jocelyn Byers, 3, was transfixed as she petted Fanny's fluffy white wool.

"She's pretty excited," said Joyce Steinhilber, Jocelyn's grandmother.

Annabella Sroczynski, 3, jumped up and down in front of Fanny, while her grandmother, Eve Koselke, tried to get her to stand still.

"She's trying to see what Fanny will do," said Koselke. "She does this with the pets at home."

Steinhilber brings her granddaughter to Toddler Time every week.

"It's the best $3 you can spend anywhere," said Steinhilber.

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