There are therapy dogs and even therapy cats, but one animal recently visited Memphis health centers that many have not heard of as a therapy pet: A llama.
Pearl the therapy llama recently visited Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital, giving patients like four-year-old Journee.
"Her eyes are brighter and she looks like she's feeling a little bit better," says Journee's mother Tracy Anderson, "She's not fatigued or anything. She's actually smiling and she just seems a little more uplifted."
Tuesday afternoon Pearl surprised the visitors at Page Robbins Adult Day Care Center, giving those suffering from strokes and dementia an unforgettable experience.
"Unfortunately, many of our participants simply can't remember, their short term memory is almost nonexistent, but for whatever reason, Pearl's presence here is remembered," says Herbie Krisle, Executive Director of Page Robbins Adult Day Care.
Pearl's handler, Tori Howk, says she loves seeing the moments of patients experiencing breakthroughs when they're with the llama. She recalls one patient, saying, "She had not been very communicative before, but she saw Pearl and she touched her and she said, ‘I remember seeing a llama a long, long time ago when I visited South America."
Methodist Germantown says therapy animals, like Pearl the llama, are proof that pills are not always the cure.
"We can tell that their endorphins are increasing and there's actually some research that shows that cortisol levels – which are associated with stress – are reduced when pet therapy is introduced into the care setting," says Diane Ridgeway, C.O.O. and Vice-President of Methodist Patient Care.
Krisle says with dementia patients, people often focus on what these people have lost instead of what they have left. She adds Pearl gives them a chance to not focus on their conditions.
Howk says, "Being able to take my animal somewhere and help a patient, particularly patients that are not having good days, to give them a bright moment and give them something different to think about."