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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

2 therapy alpacas spread smiles at senior facility in San Diego

On Tuesday, two alpacas by the names of Kronk and Kuzco arrived by van and surprised residents outside the dining hall window, bringing big smiles to seniors.
Credit: Helen Woodward Animal Center

SAN DIEGO — Amid the coronavirus pandemic, hospital and special care facilities have been closed to visitors, including Helen Woodward Animal Center’s Pet Encounter Therapy (PET) animals.   

On Tuesday, two alpacas by the names of Kronk and Kuzco arrived by van and surprised residents outside the dining hall window, bringing big smiles to seniors at Boulder Creek Post Accute.

According to Helen Woodward Animal Center, the adorable duo are not PET regulars. They usually spend most of their day greeting children as two of the center’s education ambassadors.

The program, known as "cuddle therapy," helps bring the tactile benefits of animals to people inside a variety of health care facilities, including skilled nursing facilities, children’s shelters, hospitals and psychiatric units.  

The center said farm animals, like alpacas, aren't typical go-to choices for therapy due to the close contact that's involved, but with patients unable to cuddle with the regular PET dogs and bunnies -- the idea to make Kronk and Kuzco honorary PET members was a perfect solution considering the current climate.

“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,” explained Robin Cohen, PET Manager. “Cockatoos are wonderful with clients dealing with paralysis because they can sit on a shoulder and nuzzle and talk. Mini horses are wonderful for children because they are right at eye level. 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 residence is a 149 bed short-term rehabilitation facility for clients recovering from such injuries as a broken hip, or knee replacement, and also a long-term residence for clients that need nursing care for the rest of their lives.

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