Clark County’s most celebrated four-legged friend, Rojo the Llama, died Wednesday.
The fluffy ginger beast, who celebrated his retirement in October, apparently started showing signs of illness over the weekend, according to his Facebook feed.
But fret not, his handler Shannon Joy said in an Instagram stream Tuesday. His legacy will live on. Rojo will be stuffed and mounted in the Sensory Safari at the Washington State School for the Blind.
“Even when he passes, he’ll still be enriching lives,” Joy said in the video, speaking through tears.
Rojo, 17, and his people, Joy and her mother, Lori Gregory, have spent the last 12 years sharing his gentle temperament at children’s hospitals, assisted living communities and hundreds of public events.
The often fashionably attired camelid was a registered therapy animal through DoveLewis Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Hospital, earning Rojo and his family’s farm a place in livestock history. He’s been featured on National Geographic Wild’s show “Unlikely Animal Friends” and in O, The Oprah Magazine.
Rojo was slated to spend his retirement relaxing at Gregory and Joy’s Ridgefield farm, Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas. Llamas can live into their 20s.
But according to Rojo’s Facebook feed, he started having trouble eating on Saturday. His condition was looking up for a time, but on Monday he headed to Oregon State University for additional care. It was there that veterinarians discovered he appeared to have a genetic condition and was unlikely to survive.
“Considering all options, we came to the difficult conclusion to put him down,” his handlers posted on his Facebook page. “(Gregory) will be driving down first thing in the morning to be with him when he goes.”
On Wednesday, however, a Facebook post said that “the old man passed away peacefully this morning at 7:55 am on his own accord. … No anesthesia was necessary and he was made comfortable in his final hours.”
Rojo’s body will be stuffed and displayed at the Washington State School for the Blind’s Sensory Safari, a room filled with mounted animals, skins, skulls and horns. Students at the school are encouraged to touch the animals, offering an opportunity to experience nature in a unique way.
Joy said they’ve been in discussion with the school for years about donating his body to the program. On Facebook his handlers shared a photo of the living Rojo hanging out in the room, surrounded by a taxidermic cougar, bison and other animals.
“They want to do a celebration of life for Rojo and have him front and center,” Joy said. “I’m so excited. Rojo will live on and that’s really exciting.”
Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas is collecting money for veterinarian bills and the taxidermist fee through GoFundMe. Visit gf.me/u/whz8dd to donate.