I’ve been to petting zoos and I’ve seen my fair share of llamas, and believe me, they are anything but friendly. So please forgive my skepticism when reporting on the new therapy llamas used by the Delta Society, a non-profit organization that licenses all pets for therapy.
I’m happy that they license all pets, because that means not only puppies and kittens will get the chance to bring love and joy to sick children in the hospital or the residents at the nursing home. I’m thinking ferrets, chinchillas, hedgehogs (I have a secret fascination with these prickly guys), and even parrots.
Llamas? They spit, they whack you with their heads, they’re sassy as all get out, and their favorite activity isn’t being petted, it’s chewing… and chewing… and freaking chewing.
Regardless, of the 10,000 working therapy animals that The Delta Society boasts, Daily Mail reports that 14 are llamas, and they are apparently very good at what they do. After undergoing special “animal therapy” training, they have a “magical” effect on the patients to whom they’re introduced, according to JNK Llama Farm, based in Washington State.
Colors Magazine did a piece on the morale-boosting effects of llamas at Bellingham Health and Rehabilitation Center, and resident Holly Barto said, “It was heaven. Just emotionally — to be able to touch an animal and hold an animal close. You can give them a nice hug and they’ll even give you a kiss.”
Kate Goudschaal, a spokesperson for DoveLewis, an animal hospital based in Portland, Oregon, tells Daily Mail that llamas are not meant to work with people in such a capacity, but the herd at JNK Llama Farm are “unusually equipped for the task.”
It’s lovely to hear of these big, wooly animals having such an impact on patients, but I’ll just keep a good, high fence between me and those camel cousins. Nooo thank you!