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Passion leads to petting farm

Mon., June 16, 2008

To discipline a llama, just send it on “timeout.” At least that’s the method Monica Phillipy applies when her llama Little Dude begins to show a bit too much attitude.

Not that Little Dude seems to listen.

“He’s just being a llama,” said Phillipy, shaking a finger in the general direction of the fluffy fellow.

Phillipy runs a small petting farm where children and families can get close to pigs, goats, sheep, llamas, ponies, and an assortment of fowl and rabbits.

“It all began because when my children got new animals, I’d take them to school for show and tell,” said Phillipy, mother of eight. “And then I’d ask, ‘Where do eggs come from?’ and someone would say, ‘The store,’ and I realized that so many children, even when they live out here, have no concept of animals.”

Phillipy’s menagerie has grown steadily since 2004. That’s when she got struck by lightning during her son’s soccer tournament at Plantes Ferry Park. Many serious health problems followed, but she said she feels like she was given extra time on earth.

“I wanted to do something that I really love to do. I guess this is my way of trying to give back to the community.”

Groups of schoolchildren are frequent visitors, and so are adults going on trail rides.

Her children and young people from neighboring farms help out during the day, watering, feeding and mucking.

“The work never ends,” said Phillipy, taking a break at one of the picnic tables.

The animals are friendly and approachable. There’s a chicken that likes to sit on a child’s head and a bunny that likes to ride on a pony. Mostly, of course, the animals are in it for the treats.

“We take good care of them; they know that,” Phillipy said.

Phillipy’s business started in 2001 as Animal Care Services, which took care of pets when people were on vacation. Soon she took in boarders, and people started calling her with rescue cases.

“It’s just magic when you get children and animals together,” she said. “They open up about their lives. You can tell a lot about what’s going on in a child’s life by looking at how that child is around animals.”

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