Therapy llama spreads cheer in Portland

llama alpaca woman pet 040813
A woman pets Napoleon the alpcaca who visited her in a hospital. He's a therapy alpaca from Mtn Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas in Vancouver. (April 8, 2013)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Napoleon and Rojo spread goodwill whenever they visit people in the hospital. They’re big, hairy ambassadors with a special gift to make people smile.

Napoleon is an alpaca. Rojo is a llama.

“I never realized the power animals have to bring healing and joy to people like this,” said Kelly Schmidt, a social worker at Providence Child Center. “I truly believe they are given a purpose more than just entertainment.”

Most people don’t interact with alpacas and llamas. As such, there is a natural, unique response to these unique animals.

Rojo and Napoleon light up every hall they glide down and every room they enter in the hospital. They even take the elevator to get to different floors, with Rojo being “the old pro” at making things “all better.”

“I think Rojo has the sense of how special our kids are and he loves them,” Schmidt said at Providence Children’s Center. “He just brings a smile to absolutely everybody that’s there, so it’s a very contagious spirit to have Rojo around — because its just so unusual.”

He’s always been a huggable llama. Once, at a fair, someone suggested he should be a certified therapist. And that’s how it all began for Lori Gregory.

She’s the owner of Mtn Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas in Vancouver, Wash. Gregory gets as much from sharing her dolled-up hairy gentle giants as anyone who is visited by them.

“That’s why it started giving me chills and that’s when it kind of became an addiction,” she told KOIN 6 News. “When you realize that they have this amazing ability to create a natural response therapeutic-wise to get people to do things they normally wouldn’t do.”

Now there’s more than Napoleon and Rojo. There’s also Smokey, Beni, Eduardo and Jean-Pierre.

Who knew gussied-up, fluffed up, four-legged carrot-munching mammals could bring so much joy?

“Everybody has their gifts that they’re given,” Gregory said. “And I believe our llamas are our gift that we share with the community and world.”

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