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La Cañada couple raises alpacas for the love of animals -- and future profits

January 16, 2013|By Peter Day
  • La Canada Flintridge residents Sandra Wallace and Michael Frankel, both physicians, visit an Agua Dulce ranch where they raise alpacas.
La Canada Flintridge residents Sandra Wallace and Michael… (Photo by Peter Day )

If things go as planned by La Cañada Flintridge investor Dr. Sandra Wallace, there will be a run on shoulder-high, two-toed, furry camelids.

“This is a business,” said Wallace, a neurologist who owns 51 alpacas of various hues and two varieties with her husband, Dr. Michael Frankel, a psychiatrist. “We really want to develop this industry.”

In fact, said Wallace, an infectious disease specialist at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, good alpaca buys are out there. For example, one of Wallace’s show animals was previously purchased for $80,000, but she bought it “for a fraction of that.”

Like others who have discovered the satisfaction of raising and breeding alpacas, the couple are banking on an increased demand for the animal’s fleece, which is known for being silky, soft and durable. Similar in structure to sheep’s wool, the fine fleece is often made into men’s and women’s suits by high-fashion designers. Alpaca fleece also contains no lanolin, making it hypoallergenic.

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“It’s a luxury fiber, and we want to keep it a luxury fiber,” Wallace said.

While Wallace and Frankel tend to their busy medical practices during the week, the couple’s alpacas are well-cared for at Tanglewood Suri Alpacas, an eight-acre ranch in Agua Dulce. The ranch, which is located across from several scenic vineyards, is owned by L.A.-area transplants Sonia and Glen Marygold.

“[Alpacas are] friendly in their own way, like cats,” said Sonia Marygold as she gingerly pet one of the more genial ones. “They don’t spit at you, but you can get caught in the crossfire.”

During a recent Saturday visit, Wallace extolled the Marygolds’ boarding services.

“We learn from Sonia, and she takes care of our alpacas,” Wallace said. “Alpaca people are the nicest people.”

As Wallace affectionately pets Carlotta, a light fawn alpaca, her words defy her expression. “Oh, I don’t have a favorite,” she said with a smile.

Wallace and Frankel board other alpaca at ranches near Sacramento and in Marin County, where they expect to retire next year.

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