Standlee Spotlight: For The Love Of Llamas
When a therapy llama enters a room, generally people go from being shocked, to grinning from ear to ear. The comment we most often receive is, "You made my day!" At facilities that receive regular visits, residents are all waiting in the lobby when we arrive; clamoring to be the first to garner a kiss! Llamas illicit responses from people that sometimes never react to anything. Upon asking one resident if he wanted a llama kiss, he replied with, "Only if you won't tell my wife." Some residents smile with glee and inform us, "I haven't been kissed in years!" Llamas make people smile.
Registered Therapy Llamas is a group of people with Pet Partners registered therapy llamas and one miniature horse! We are located in Washington State and span as far as Olympia with our handlers. Niki Kuklenski was the first member of this group with her first two therapy llamas Marisco and Eagle. These two intact males were already accomplished show animals with many credentials to their names. Eagle was and is still the top show llama of all time with more wins, titles and national awards than any llama in history.
Our group provides free visits to nursing homes, memory care, schools, home school programs, kids camps (including a Paul Newman Hole in the Wall Camp), Cabela’s, and more recently veterans facilities and hospice. When we visit with a population, time is spent answering questions and allowing people to interact with the llamas. Interactions may include getting a kiss from a llama, hugging the llamas, running a soft brush over them, walking alongside them and much more. Every experience is individual and unique.
Everyone wants to know if the llamas will spit or defecate on the floor. Normal llamas do not spit at people! Spitting is reserved for fights over food, showing they are pregnant or establishing herd dominance. Llamas that spit at people are like dogs that bite them, it just isn't the norm! Llamas are either naturally housebroken or they are what we call "Bad poopers." Prior to being registered, we test the llamas in public situations like parades. We offer to let them go potty prior and after. If they go during, usually they are not good indoors. Llamas use a communal bathroom spot, so a small container of their beans can be brought along to entice them to go. We do not use diapers or other devices of this nature. This would also be a violation of our registration with Pet Partners.
The llamas travel in vans and trailers to events. Prior to visiting, we set up the parameters and expectations of where we will go and what we will do. These are therapy llamas, not petting zoo or service llamas. As such we avoid many of the public relations events we get calls for. It is important to keep the visits fun and interesting for the llamas, so, they enjoy it as much as we do! Our primary focus is to provide comfort and joy to those who need it.
Llamas can be great therapy animals if they are suitable and have the temperament for it. We avoid using llamas who have been bottle raised or that are under age 2. There are males, geldings and females in our group that are registered. Suitability depends on the individual animal and their disposition. Niki has bloodlines that have repeatedly grown therapy llamas. Some of the current animals that are being used for therapy work have parents that were registered before their offspring!
The uniqueness of llamas can be very appealing for therapy work. They have pads on their feet like a dog. Llamas weigh between 275-400lbs usually and are usually 43-46 inches at the withers. They are modified ruminants that chew their cud. Llamas have two toes on each foot with nails that require monthly trimming. There are no breeds of llamas, they are defined by fiber types that include; suri, classic wool (packers), light wool, medium wool, silky wool and heavy wool. Their lifespan is about 18-25 years depending on quality and care. Currently we have over 10 teams working in the Pacific Northwest!
Our motto is, "Putting the Warm Back in Fuzzy!"
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