Therapy dogs aren’t the only hard-working animals bringing smiles to people’s faces during the COVID-19 pandemic. Two alpacas named Kronk and Kuzco also made the rounds to visit the Boulder Creek Post Acute Assisted Living Center residents in Poway, California. Of course, the alpacas and their handlers practiced their social distancing guidelines. Kronk and Kuzco, who were named after Disney’s 2000 film “The Emperor’s New Groove,” are part of the Helen Woodward Animal Center’s Pet Encounter Therapy program. They went to visit the elderly residents in order to boost their morale.
Program manager, Robin Cohen, released a press release which said, “In the many years I have worked with this program, I have seen the unique gifts each animal can bring to this type of therapy…These alpacas are some of our funniest characters. They make us laugh every day and we knew they’d be the perfect key to inspiring smiles right now.”
The senior residents were able to view the alpaca duo from the dining all window. In normal times, the program has many animals, such as dogs, cats, bunnies, and guinea pigs, which the elderly people are allowed to cuddle in order to lower their stress levels – amongst other health benefits. However, the alpacas are definitely a unique addition to the organization’s therapy animals.
Because of the pandemic, in-person animal visits have been temporarily suspended. As a result, the Helen Woodward Animal Center decided to continue the visits using the large farm animals in order to be able to provide the same amount of joy to residents from a safe distance.
As it turned out, the alpaca visit was so well-received by the residents, that the Helen Woodward Animal Center is working with the Boulder Creek Post Acute facility in order to come up with a follow-up schedule. In addition, they’re also in talks with other assisted living facilities in the area.
Cohen has stated, “This has been a very challenging time for all of us, and it’s particularly hard on individuals who are inside facilities without visits from their regular friends and family members,” Cohen said. “The one thing I know from my work is that animals have a magical way of healing.”
Cohen then added, “I am so happy to be a part of providing a little bit of their magic.”
Nice to see Kronk and Kuzco working hard to make elderly people in lockdown smile.
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Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.