If your grandmother mentions she had a visit from a llama and an alpaca decked out in flowers and ribbons at her senior community, don’t worry: It may not have been a delusional slip. For seniors, hospital patients and rehab facility residents in the Pacific Northwest, therapy visits from a team of cheery camelids is a distinct possibility.
Since 2007, when Shannon Hendrickson and Lori Gregory of Mtn Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas completed their first intensive animal-assisted therapy certification with their beloved llama, Rojo, the team has made over 650 therapeutic visits with a menagerie that now includes three llamas and three alpacas. Visiting senior communities, hospitals, rehab facilities and schools, the silky crew has had a wonderfully profound effect on the people they encounter.
"We have seen people that haven’t verbalized or been responsive to other types of therapy treatments in months, attempting to speak, and trying to sit up and reach out to touch Rojo or Smokey," the team writes on their website. “Others that don’t usually want to leave their rooms, eager to come out when they know we are there; tears of joy when we make in-room visits, bringing our llamas right into the “living rooms” and along the bedside, of those who are no longer able to walk to the main meeting room. The surprise and delight they bring to these wonderful seniors has been rewarding beyond words!”
National Geographic reports on llama-assisted therapy and other animal therapy in the video above.