Goats, llamas, and ponies -- Every animal is a champ


Danna Webster, KP News

The love of fantasy has taught Carolyn Willis that, with a little bit of magic, all things are possible. Her imagination led her to perform at the Renaissance Faire as a faerie personality riding in a cart pulled by a unicorn. After faire hours, the unicorn assumed a llama disguise. It must have been a disguise because llamas don’t pull carts. You can’t train a llama like a horse, Willis was told. This, of course, inspired her to do exactly that. According to Willis, training a llama just takes a little longer than training a horse. “Only the rhythm is different,” she says.

Extraordinary training abilities, a love of animals and a belief that all things arepossible have led to  her latest endeavor, the creation of an animal competition that includes all species. In this event, it doesn’t matter whether the animal is a feline, canine, reptile, rodent, flying bird or flying pig. They can all go away as champions. The “Inter-Specie Competition” premiers this September at the All Critters’ Fair at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds.

The Key Pen resident has observed that people who work with their pets learn to love their animals more. She has seen too many people get an animal and then lose interest. She believes that getting ready for a trail ride, a parade, a fair or any form of competition can keep that interest.

“The happiest animals are the ones worked with. They are the most cared for animals,” she says. This conviction inspired the interspecies competition idea. Willis’ experience of being excluded from a cart-pulling event, because a llama instead of a horse pulled her, is the reason why animals of every species are invited to compete. Any trained pet may become the Champion Over All. When she was asked what if the grand champion were a gecko, her reply was, “I would love it.”

Animals have always been a necessary ingredient in her life. After Willis spent third grade in an iron lung fighting polio, her mother thought getting a horse would be good physical therapy. The big black stallion they bought made it a habit to rub her off at the nearest tree. Young Carolyn had to walk home. That physical therapy program worked very well. She grew to have many favorite physical activities like swimming, hiking, belly dancing and training horses.

Turning away from a career in belly dancing, Willis went off to Everett Community College wanting to be a veterinarian. She took her horses and dogs along as roommates. She switched her major to visual communications and worked her way through as a horse trainer and dog groomer.

These days, the joy of her life is to present the talents and skills of her animals and to encourage others to do the same. She lives and writes on her Key Pen farm among a menagerie of angora goats, one llama, one Welsh-Arab pony, a cat known as Mischief Kitty, and a stout little amber dog known as Keisha, the Royal Service Dog. “We all belong to Keisha,” Willis confides.

These animals all have costumes made by Willis for special occasions. In the interspecies event, costume is part of the competition. Carolyn Willis loves the art of costume construction. Her current project is the construction of a pair of collapsible fairy wings. Wings, beaded gowns, turbans and glamorous Arabian regalia are included in her sewing credits.

“From the minute I could sew, I never made anything practical,” she admits. In recent years, the Arabian outfit has become the unicorn costume for El Duende the llama at the Renaissance Faire when Willis performs as Sahaja, the Apple Tree Diva.

Her many talents and interests have merged in her latest effort to develop the interspecies competition for fairs. Great care has been taken to insure that a little friendly competition will produce a fun time for all participants.

“I absolutely like people to do something with their animals,” she says. “My little part is to give them something to do with their pet.” The challenges are set, the judges are ready. Medals and ribbons await the new champions.