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Drive-thru pet therapy at Helen Woodward unites animals with Alzheimer's patients

Alpacas, sheep, and dogs greeted patients from Alzheimer's San Diego

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Therapy animals have always provided comfort to people during difficult times, but with social distancing guidelines, it has been hard for them to interact with the public.

On Wednesday, the Helen Woodward Animal Center came up with a creative way to bring together therapy pets and Alzheimer’s patients.

They held drive-thru pet therapy sessions.

"Animals don't care what we look like. They don't care what condition we're in. If we give them a smile and a pet, they're 100% our best friends," said spokesperson Jessica Gercke.

Alpacas named Kronk and Kuzko, joined several other animals, including a sheep named Oreo, and a lizard named Sebastian, to bring joy to eight vehicles carrying patients and caregivers.

"These are all animals that love human touch, love human friendships," said Gercke.

Each patient sat in their vehicle, while staff brought the different therapy pets to their vehicles. They also brought cards with information about each animal.

Through the windows, you could see patients clap their hands and smile.

News 8's Marcella Lee, brought her mom.

Took my mom to Helen Woodward Animal Center for her very first outing in 10 weeks!! They set up a special Critter Drive-in session for Alzheimer's San Diego families 🙏🏻❤️ I had a super busy day with work projects and almost decided not to attend the event, but as my mom’s primary caregiver I know I need to make time for her, and she hasn’t left the house in 10 WEEKS! (except for neighborhood walks) So I took my mom and my kids ... and I am SO THRILLED we went! (BTW: Fong is part of my Chinese name and is what my mom calls me 🥰) SHE may not remember this day for long, but I will forever cherish the laughter and smiles this day brought my mom... in the moment 💖 That’s really the only way those of us who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s CAN live.. in the moment ❤️ . . . . . . . @cbs8 @thecwsandiego #alzheimers #dementia #alzheimersawareness #caregiver #alzheimer #seniorcare #endalz #dementiaawareness #caregiving #dementiacare #seniorliving #elderlycare #alzheimersdisease #love #eldercare #alz #caregivers #seniors #mentalhealth #family #mom #momdaughter #sandiego #pettherapy #pet #pets #therapypet #rescueanimals #rescueanimalsofinstagram

Posted by Marcella Lee on Thursday, May 28, 2020

"Pet therapy is such an important thing," said Alzheimer's San Diego spokesperson Eugeina Welch. 

"This quarantine, being home for these 10 weeks, creates extra stress. So an opportunity to get out and see something new and different, it's not every day a llama walks up to your car window," said Welch.

Last month Kronk and Kuzco were a hit, visiting Boulder Creek Post Acute in Poway. Through the window, they brought smiles to seniors.

"Right now joy is so necessary," said Gercke. "We're all in a unique situation that's stressful for a lot of people." 

"We really try to teach people about living in the moment, making most of what you can and living with Alzheimer's. And so this is an example of living with it. Just because you don't remember it later, doesn't mean you won't get enjoyment now," said Welch.

Helen Woodward offers pet therapy sessions via Zoom. For more information click here.

RELATED: 2 therapy alpacas spread smiles at senior facility in San Diego