llama love
August 26, 2013 7:02 PM   Subscribe

Of the 10,000 therapy animals currently in use in the United States, only 14 are llamas. Jen Osborne tells the story llama therapy in photos for Colors: Beat Your Intimacy Issues. (via @pourmecoffee)
posted by madamjujujive (11 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Necessary link to Horace Rumpoles recent righteous post Look out, there are llamas, which has some not-to-be-missed in-thread linkage, too.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:18 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is wonderful.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:09 PM on August 26, 2013

Interacting with llamas can be pretty disconcerting if you have a strong sense of personal space, since once they reach a basic level of comfort they want to learn everything they can about you by inhaling your breath at the point it leaves your mouth.
posted by eddydamascene at 9:07 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Only slight more effective than Therapy Badgers.
posted by humboldt32 at 12:03 AM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have encountered llamas twice in my life.

The first time was at the San Diego Zoo. As I was setting up my camera for a photo, the tour bus came by. The driver "whispered" (out loud, over the PA system) "let's not tell him this, but llamas can spit with accuracy for 20 feet." I mugged alarm and carried my tripod "out of range," to the laughter of the visitors.

The second time was at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. It was a "photo excursion," a little after dawn. I was standing in the back of a flat-bed truck, and these llamas approached me. Eye-to-eye. Wow! They are tall! They nibbled carrots out of my hands. They were so gentle. Yet, they had dignity.

I feel that everyone's life would be improved if they could just meet with creatures other than themselves.
posted by SPrintF at 12:08 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

My sister owns a llama farm in Oregon, so I have seen and met more than my share of them over the years.

Driving into her farm is kind of amazing. Its adorably impressive to see about fifty llamas running down a slope towards the fenced trail to escort you in to the property. But when it comes to getting close to, much less hugging, llamas, they also tend to naturally be very skittish, shy creatures. Left to their own devices, you're lucky if you can walk to within twenty feet of them. Some of them will, however, come up to you and take fresh, long grass from your hand and things of the sort... but they aren't socialized to the extent that horses are, so if you can give them a bit of grass and a pet on the side of the neck, you're doing well.

But sometimes... there are some naturally, remarkably sociable llamas. My sister owned one called Rupert, who was young, reddish brown, very fluffy in the neck area, and incredibly social, gently talkative, and affectionate... sometimes gently nudging into you in a way so as to initiate a hug. Relatively socialized llamas can be gently talkative, and you can get a real feel from them on everything from impatience to loneliness to hunger to fear.

They can also communicate with you through how they breathe. Rupert used to, for lack of a better word, snurfle. (Horses kind of do this too, in their own way.) This is different and softer than a fullblown snort, which usually indicates pretty negative feelings. In the case of a llama, a snort is usually "Do not want! Back off!"... which is worth noting, as some do spit. (Not that you will necessarily have a whole lot of warning there. Surprisingly, I have only been spit on about twice.)

Every time I'd visit, Rupert, who was already very affectionate anyway with my sister and her husband, would come up to me, nuzzle, and make gentle "I want attention" sounds, at which point I would pet him and eventually give him a hug around the neck. Very warm, very substantial... and really leaned into by the llama. Rupert would really relax, and make gentle snurfles... and, after awhile, start to make these really relaxed, gentle throat vocalizations.

It's not a common thing for humans to experience -- it's impressive that the therapy llamas have been trained to be as social as they are in the video above -- but between gentle noises and snurfles, llamas are quite capable of telling those that they are close to that they love them... in their own, very, very llama way.
posted by markkraft at 12:46 AM on August 27, 2013 [7 favorites]

posted by snwod at 3:06 AM on August 27, 2013

Will this be an integral part of Oh! LlamaCare?
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:51 AM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

I love llamas as an adult, but when I was about five a llama at a petting zoo ate the (self) belt off my dress. Now I understand it wanted to know everything about me by smelling and tasting my clothes, but that was pretty traumatic to a five-year-old.

I kept thinking about that while I watched the llamas in the video.
posted by immlass at 7:31 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by tuesdayschild at 8:52 AM on August 27, 2013

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