August’s Therapy Animal of the month is ROJO!

Our Therapy Animal of the Month for August is Rojo the Llama!

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Photo courtesy of Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas

Rojo is a 14 year old llama from Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas, located in Brush Prairie, Washington. He’s a local celebrity! He participates in many parades and charity events, and makes regular visits to schools, hospitals, and adult-care facilities. I got to pick the brains of Lori Gregory from Mountain Peaks, and ask her some questions about Rojo. Here is the interview!

 

What first told you Rojo would be a great therapy animal?

Rojo was the first llama that we ever owned, and he was sweet and touchable from the moment that we got him at 4 months old, so we didn’t really know just how exceptional he was until we were around other llamas at the fair, and for parades. When he grew bigger and bigger and never outgrew his wonderful interactive personality and huggableness, we really knew that he had a special gift, and wanted to share him off the farm more, but we were concerned about liability insurance, and where he would be accepted out in the public. We had heard about others that took their llamas into nursing homes, but didn’t know how to go about doing that with Rojo until some folks told us about a local therapy program- the following day, an encounter with a special-needs child confirmed our decision, and we’ve never looked back!

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Photo courtesy of Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas

 

How many people do you estimate Rojo has helped in his lifetime?

Rojo has been doing therapy work for 9 years now, and has gone off the farm over 1,000 times for visits and all kinds of public and charitable events, interacting with at least 50, 100, sometimes 1000 people during each outing. Add that to the additional 5 years of his early life, in which he participated in our county and state fairs, and numerous parades each year-  I’m certain that he has personally touched hundreds of thousands, just in the Portland area during his lifetime to this point.

In addition, since the rise of social media, and so many informational formats via computer, we have received many messages from people that have been moved by Rojo through features about him on TV, and his story that has been featured in a number of books and many news and magazine articles, so I don’t think I could come up with a number that would come close to reality!

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Photo courtesy of Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas

 

What is the usual reaction to seeing Rojo for the first time?

Haha- usually the initial reaction of most people to seeing Rojo for the first time is a look of shock and surprise, followed by BIG smiles, then a little apprehension as they ask if they can hug him (sometimes we have to offer a carrot for them to feed or “kiss” Rojo with, to break the ice), and after that, they go in for the LONG HUG, where their eyes close, and you can just see all their stress and troubles melting away!

Little children can often be pretty scared, seeing such a huge, fluffy, unfamiliar animal for the first time, so they often will hide behind their parents,, but when we offer them a piece of carrot to feed Rojo, that usually helps them to become more brave. Once they see how fun it is to feed Rojo, and how he just tickles their hand with his lips, and how calm and gentle he is, then they don’t want to stop feeding him!  The kids also love petting and hugging Rojo, and often ask if they can ride him (which, unfortunately, they can’t-  llamas have a sharp upper edge on their spine that can’t bear much weight. Many larger llamas can be conditioned to be used as packing animals and such, to bear more weight, and those llamas can actually be ridden by young children, up to 80 lbs or so. However, most llamas are not conditioned to be used for that purpose. Rojo, because he’s shorter and a bit tubbier than the average llama, does not like extra weight on his back.)

Our favorite thing is to see those that are initially very afraid of Rojo, giving him lots of hugs and kisses by the end of their interaction with him!

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Photo courtesy of Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas

 

What is Rojo’s favourite food?

Rojo absolutely LOVES anything sweet or salty- in fact, we just discovered the variety of his palate at the fair last week, as he was challenge for the first time ever, in an “eating contest” against another llama named La Joya Rose. He won by a pretty wide margin! We already knew that he goes crazy for Portland’s own Voodoo Doughnuts!! Check this out:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PLKuzXxBtA

 

What do you think Rojo’s favourite place to be is?

Rojo’s favorite place to be is anywhere he is getting lots of HUGS and CARROTS!! (Well, and now maybe Voodoo Doughnuts!!)  When he is home and relaxing, Rojo has a favorite shade tree that he loves to sit under, and he also enjoys laying in the sun on warm days (photo attached- if you look close, you can see him smiling!)

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Photo courtesy of Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas

 

Congratulations, Rojo!

If you’d like to learn more about Rojo or his friends at Mountain Peaks, please visit:

http://rojothellama.com/

https://www.facebook.com/RojoTheLlama/