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Video: Pet camel gives girl a run for her money

  1. Transcript of: Pet camel gives girl a run for her money

    SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, anchor: And finally, an unusual race in Arizona , girl vs. camel. Check it out. Alex Komechak has raised her pet camel Nessie since it was just a few weeks old. They go for walks and then sometimes race each other and usually Nessie wins. Alex says mostly, though, she just tries to get out of the way.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 11/21/2011 8:56:34 AM ET 2011-11-21T13:56:34

You wouldn't be alone if you've watched this video of a young woman racing a camel — quite a few times.

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And you've likely wondered: Who is the girl running through the desert with this most unusual pet?

Video: Pet camel gives girl a run for her money (on this page)

Alex Komechak has loved animals her entire life, but it wasn’t until she moved from the Midwest to Arizona at 19 that she was able to begin living her dream of raising camels and other animals. Shortly after arriving in Arizona, Komechak purchased some land and, that same day, purchased her first newborn Dromedary (or Arabian) camel, who she named Baby. “It didn't take too long after meeting him for me to know what I wanted to do: Raise, breed and train camels with a long term goal of having a farm open to the public with an education center where students can come and learn more about animals and be inspired by nature like I was as a child,” Komechak told TODAY.com.

Alex Komechak
Alex Komechak, star of the popular YouTube video, owns two pet camels she races in the Arizona desert.
Video: Camel race sets world record

Komechack, who is currently in school to be an elementary school teacher and has rehabilitated all kinds of wildlife, now has nine animals: two Dromedary camels, Baby and Nessie (who appears in the video); five rescue dogs (a German Shepherd, an Australian Shepherd mix, two Borzoi, and a young Doberman Pinscher, a Von der Decken's Hornbill, and a Robovorski's hamster. But, of course, it’s the camels that get — and require — the most attention.

“They're very demanding and there's not one day that you can slack off or ignore them,” Komechak said, although it’s certainly easier now than when Baby and Nessie were calves and required proper bottle feeding every two hours, around the clock. “This is something I'm going to be doing every day for the rest of my life and it's a huge commitment. If I'm going somewhere or planning to do something I have to think, ‘But whose going to take care of my camels?’ It might be easy to find someone to come to your house to watch your dogs, but it's not so easy with camels.”

Slideshow: Awkward family pets

The joy these Dromedaries bring to Komechak make all the work worthwhile, though. “I feel very honored to be able to share my life with these wonderful animals. Nessie and Baby are both very sweet and very clever. Baby lays down on the ground, which is called cushing, just by saying the word to him. And Nessie knows to stand by me and wait until I say, ‘Go!’ before we run. They're both trained like this with many different vocal commands.”

Slideshow: Say cheese! Meet 21 animals who love smiling for the camera (on this page)
Alex Komechak
Baby, Komechak's first pet camel, gives her leash a chew.

Nessie’s been racing — and beating — Komechak from the very beginning. “She beat me right away!” she says. “I think it was only a few days after I got her, when we started running together in the fields behind my house. Even though she only weighed about a hundred pounds and was a skinny little hump-less thing, she was very fast. In school I ran in track for years, but even at two weeks old Nessie was beating me. They're actually really fast, despite their awkward appearance. Camels can easily run 25 mph and a trained fit racing camel can reach 40 mph.”

Story: To snag homes, shelter pets get glam makeovers

When not running or eating, Baby and Nessie both love to play — in fact, this winter, Komechak plans to teach them to fetch. “Baby loves to carry around orange plastic traffic cones and stick them up in tree branches. Nessie likes kicking and going after balls.”

Keep an eye on her Camels and Friends YouTube channel for more videos.

Want to learn more about Komechak and the animals? She regularly posts pictures, videos and news on her blog, Camels and Friends.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Photos: Say cheese! Meet 21 animals who love smiling for the camera

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  1. Hey!

    Humans aren't the only ones to put on a happy face. These animals also know how to grin, giggle and ham it up with the best of them.

    A giraffe gives visitors a distinctive look at the zoo in Duisburg, Germany. (Roland Weihrauch / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Starting out with a smile

    A zoo employee holds a 6-day-old white lion cub at the zoo in Tbilisi. Four white lion cubs were born on Dec. 10, and three survived at Tbilisi Zoo. The white lions, which are only found in the Timbavati nature reserve in South Africa, are not albinos but a genetic rarity, according to the zoo. (David Mdzinarishvili / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Fighting for fun

    Sea lions fight with each other on Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. The sea lions have become a favorite attraction for tourists who visit the area. (Don Emmert / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Just squawking

    A nandu bird appears as happy as can be at Zoo Krefeld in Germany. (Roland Weihrauch / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Boo!

    A ring-tailed lemur reacts in an enclosure at the Tierpark zoo in Straubing, southern Germany. The animals are native to the arid regions in the southwest of Madagascar. (Armin Weigel / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Saying hello

    This emu definitely isn't camera shy. Stephen Schmidt, from the Try It Emu Farm in Marburg, Australia, must be doing something right to generate such a big smile from one of his residents. (Jamie Hanson / Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Give us a smile

    This cheeky chameleon looks pleased about having his photo taken at Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Along with his happy grin, he ensured he was an eye-catching green and yellow color for the picture. (Dave Stevenson / Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. No worries

    This meerkat decided to befriend the plush toy version of himself that was accidently dropped into his enclosure by an excited child. From the goofy grin on his face, it looks like this meerkat might have a new pal! (Solent News via Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Hamming it up

    This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed at home, and this little piggy smiled for a closeup! (Richard Austin / Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Let it snow

    This swan is having a laugh in its winter wonderland in West Berkshire, Britain. (David Hartley / Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. I laugh in the face of danger!

    Hope the otter has every reason to be smiling after cheating death. The underweight 8-week-old cub was found wandering alone along the road until she was rescued by a kind-hearted human. She then recovered made some new friends, like this teddy bear. (Richard Austin / Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Ray of sunshine

    With it's alien-like smiling face, this baby thornback ray attracted a lot of attention at an aquarium in Hampshire, Britain. (Solent News via Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Laugh it up, fuzzball

    This young fox couldn't conceal its happiness at getting attention. (Chris Balcombe / Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. What's not to smile about?

    In this 2008 photo, Dolly was living out her golden years in at the Mistley Place Park Animal Rescue Centre in Essex, Britain. After being rescued from the slaughterhouse, she was allowed to live out the rest of her days in style. Who wouldn't smile at such luck? (Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Party pup

    Riley celebrates his second birthday at a party thrown by his owner, Maureen Ravelo. (Maureen Ravelo / Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. You've got to be kid-ding!

    This cheerful mountain goat laughs for a photographer at Mount Evans in Colorado after he and his pals interrupted a photo shoot of the picturesque sunrise. (Dejan Smaic / Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A seal of a good time

    This grey adult male seal displays a happy grin while lying on the beach. (Michael Hutch / SplashdownDirect via Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Under the sea

    Cessol the dolphin smiles and blows a welcoming bubble for the camera. (Yohann Aberkane / Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A happy yawn

    Masha, a female raccoon, shows of her photogenic good looks at the Royev Ruchey zoo in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia. (Ilya Naymushin / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. A laughing matter

    A 5-year-old gorilla named Yakini rolls around playfully in his enclosure at Australia's Melbourne Zoo. (Ian Currie / Newspix via Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. They're mine! All mine!

    Bess the boxer would be the envy of every dog in the world with her collection of 180 rugby balls, but sadly her owners keep returning them. She discovers the balls while walking near the Havant Rugby Club in Hampshire, England and their return has saved the club a lot of money. It also earned Bess her own lifetime membership to the club. (Mike Walker / Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
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