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article imageNursing home patients visited by loving therapy llamas

By Nancy Houser     Dec 29, 2012 in Health
Bellingham - Llamas have been seen throughout history for multiple uses: pack animals, meat products, carting and driving, or show animals. But two delightful registered therapy llamas are now visiting residents at a Washington nursing home, showing love and kisses.
The nursing home is Bellingham Health and Rehabilitation Center, in Bellingham, WA, a nursing home that has a reputation for its home-like environment. The residents are all recovering from serious illnesses. With most of the patients elderly, they have been there for several years due to much-needed palliative care. Unfortunately, they have very few visitors, which makes the two rare registered therapy llamas highly appreciated.
The two llamas, Marisco and N.H. Flight of the Eagle, visit the home every couple of months full of hugs and kisses for each resident, accompanied by Niki Kuklenski of JNK Llamas. While she was at the nursing home with the registered llamas, Canadian photographer Jen Osborne documented a film for the COLORS Magazine. Her website is "Llama Love."
Llamas are being used as therapy pets for people of all ages, as seen in the article videos. The therapy llama, "Smokey", at Chestnut Lane Assisted Living for the Deaf and Deaf-Blind, and the Rose Villa Nursing Home in Oregon, shows how therapy llamas can show each person much-needed affection.
According to Llamas Are Fun, llamas make excellent therapists because they have an instinct for knowing when to lead and when to follow. When in a herd, each llama has its own responsibility and a defined role, according to George Appenzeller and Sarah Meadows - who use their specially trained llamas to take troubled children and adults outside to pack with llamas. They have worked in the North Carolina Mountains with more than 4,000 youth since 1989.
When a herd leader, the llama watches for danger. Sensing its arrival, the llama will move into a protective stance over its herd. "The trail leader is the llama that the others trust to lead them on the trail, navigating around obstacles or crossing streams. If the trail leader is not in the front, they usually will not go forward."
Different llamas have different roles in a herd:
* The "scientist" (the one who investigates new or strange things in the environment)
* The "spiritual leader" (the one who makes sure llamas behave in a dignified llama-like manner)
* The "jester" (the one who plays jokes on humans and other llamas)
* The "wise uncle" (who mentors younger llamas),
* The "best boy" (who looks out for the others when they are sick or just need a friend to be around)
Observing therapy llamas shows each one of us an example on how to act toward others and in our communities --- all good lessons in life.
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