Above: After being in the hospital for two months, cardiac patient Greg McMillen enjoys a new experience as he visits with Pearl, a therapy llama with Mid South Therapy Dogs and Friends.
Animal therapy dogs are quite common, but what about a therapy llama? There is such a thing and her name is Pearl. Pearl is an eight-year-old therapy llama who has been a part of the Mid South Therapy Dogs and Friends program for five years. She and her handler Tori Howks recently visited with patients and staff at Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital where Pearl brought a lot of smiles and happiness to everyone she met.
Employees wheeled four-year-old Journee from the emergency room out to meet Pearl. Journee’s mother Tracy Anderson said she was feeling better because her daughter was smiling and not feeling as badly as when they first arrived.
“She loves animals,” said Anderson. “Her eyes are bright. She’s smiling. She seems uplifted.”
Animal therapy is a new program at Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital.
“Studies show simply petting an animal lowers the level of cortisol, a stress hormone, so patients are less stressed” explained Diane Ridgway, chief operating officer and vice president of patient. “Studies also show dopamine, a blood chemical associated with happiness goes up.”
Greg McMillen has been a patient in the hospital for a couple of months with cardiac issues. He was happy to have the monotony of the day broken up by a special visit with Pearl.
“It makes my day a lot better,” McMillen said. “It’s good to be outside.”
Howk, Pearl’s handler says from the time Pearl was a baby, her disposition has always been calm and patient. Pearl is always willing to do what Howk asks her to do such as go upstairs, navigate between chairs, and lay down, tasks that Pearl needs to be able to do in order to be part of an animal therapy program.
“It’s wonderful to see the rapport she has with everyone she meets and how she brings a smile to their faces and makes them happy,” said Howk.
Mid South Therapy Dogs and Friends will visit the Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Campus the second Tuesday and third Saturday of every month.