Heartwarming Photos of Therapy Llamas Interacting with Patients at a Hospital


Last year, Berlin-based photographer Jen Osborne got a chance to photograph some therapy animals who were brought in to help cheer up the patients at the Bellingham Health and Rehabilitation Center in Washington.

That in and of itself would be pretty cool, but what made this assignment all the more interesting was the animals she was asked to photograph: two therapy Llamas that go by the names of Marisco and N.H. Flight of the Eagle.

Osborne was commissioned to shoot the strange assignment for COLORS Magazine‘s Happiness Issue back in January of 2012, and she readily admits she thought nothing of it. “It seems normal to be surrounding old people with strange, beautiful animals,” she tells Slate.

The resulting photos have now been compiled into a series called Llama Love, which wonderfully captures the joy that these animals brought to the center’s patients:








Jen Osborne for COLORS №83 — Happiness: a survival guide


And if the photos aren’t quite enough, here’s a video put together by Colors that documents the Llamas’ trip to the health center:

According to the COLORS article, of the 10,000 therapy animals currently in use in the United States, only 14 are Llamas, making this a pretty unique opportunity that few photographers will ever get a chance to put down on their CV.

To see more photos from the Llama Love series or browse through the rest of Osborne’s portfolio, head over to her website by clicking here. And if you’d like to read more about the Llama experience, be sure to check out the previously-linked article.

(via Huffington Post)

Image credits: Photographs by Jen Osborne and used with permission

  • Vlad Dusil

    How lovable are these therapy llamas!

    In the stills the llama almost looks like an oversized Steiff plush toy!

  • Alex Minkin

    is this post, we think of an animal and put ‘therapy’ before it.

    therapy…great white shark
    therapy…sea cucumber

  • fast eddie

    How about a therapy camel?

  • ramanauskas

    Therapy llamas?! How in the heck do they train llamas for that? Llamas are vicious. Do they keep them drugged to the eyeballs?

    Every day, I learn something new and astounding. Thanks for the article.

  • Burnin Biomass

    Mike mike mike mike mike… what day is it?

  • Rabi Abonour

    The seventh image is absolutely delightful. Goldmine subject, nice execution.

  • Dan

    There were none wearing hats so I think the people are safe. CARL!!!!!!

  • Vanessa Montes

    aww love llamas, love this :)

  • ElaineJHanson

    Experience is a poor teacher: So, don’t bother and make some handsome earning, go to this site -+- Bay35.cℴm

  • Shayla

    No llama is naturally “vicious.” The only ones that are even remotely threatening are raised poorly by people who know nothing of llamas are therefore abusing them. Llamas need the company of other llamas or they imprint on humans. This is what causes male llamas to spit at or chase people. They think of people as other llamas because they don’t have other llamas to be a herd with, so they treat people like they should treat other llamas. In a proper situation, spitting or charging is only used for a male llama to show to other male llamas that he is dominant. In other words, if a llama spits at or charges you, chances are it is a male who was raised incorrectly and alone. These llamas are usually owned by abusive owners who don’t bother to learn about the animal or how to raise it properly before getting it. Any animal who is abused is likely to become aggressive.

    Llamas don’t actually need training to be used as a therapy animal, provided they are raised correctly. Llamas naturally only use the bathroom in collective herd piles, and they will not use the bathroom indoors unless kept inside until they can’t hold it any longer (about two hours). They are naturally hypoallergenic, so they are better than dogs for places like nursing homes where someone may have allergies. They also are naturally curious and smarter than the average dog, enjoying touching new people and items with their sensitive noses (llama “kisses”) and learning new tricks (such as “kissing” on command) with as little as five repetitions. Normal llamas are slow-moving, sure-footed, and gentle, so they make great therapy animals and adapt quickly to an environment like a nursing home where they must navigate hallways and medical equipment. They also seem to generally understand when a stranger is “special” and know they are not a threat. They tend to be even more gentle around these people and more tolerant of them giving them hugs or making strange noises and whatnot.

    Also, with the exception of adult males who have (dangerously, and again abusively) not had their “fighting teeth” removed, llamas have no upper teeth and therefore cannot in any way bite anyone. They have nails, but proper owners keep them trimmed so they don’t hurt the llama to walk and so they cannot even accidentally scratch someone or cut anything they step on. Llamas are not built to jump or rear back unless exceptionally under duress. These llamas aren’t left to wander – they stay with a trainer and wear a halter. As long as the owner/trainer is holding the lead, the llama cannot lift its head. Even if it gets scared and wanted to, it cannot spit, stomp, or make any other aggressive posture because they all first require the llama to tilt its head all the way back (spitting is actually vomiting on you, and they have to rear their head back to cough it up). Therefore, these llamas are perfectly harmless and great therapy animals. Expect to see more of them. I’ve already met several and will be training more in the future. ;)