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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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After a pandemic year, residents take their drama to the Llama at Fairwood Retirement Village in Spokane

By Nico Portuondo The Spokesman-Review

After a long year of lockdowns and isolation, it’s hard to turn down an opportunity to get up close and personal with a furry friend. At Fairwood Retirement Village on Wednesday, residents got to do just that – but with bigger friends than normal.

Esme and Polly, two llamas from the B Bar Z Ranch in Cheney run by Wayne Brokaw and Rita Zorrozua, were there for residents to see and pet. The couple has been providing llamas at all kinds of venues for play therapy, an activity in which people can interact with animals for better emotional wellbeing.

While the llamas weren’t talkative, residents and staff were raving about how great it was to finally get out, pet the animals and socialize after a very hard year.

“We were cloistered in our rooms and couldn’t leave,” said Linda Wood, a resident at the retirement village. “I get all teary now, it’s summer and I’m still here.”

Zorrozua said llamas are especially curious and friendly animals, which make them perfect for soothing away the worries of stressed out people. And don’t worry, llamas only spit on people when they are mistreated or aggravated.

Some residents at the event sold crafts they made during lockdown , including necklaces and wood carvings of wildlife. All of the proceeds went to charity.

Sheri Maier, director of leisure services at Fairwood, said lighthearted events were vital to helping residents get active and move forward. She said having residents outside and socializing, even without llamas, is extremely important to their mental wellbeing, especially after many faced severe challenges during the pandemic.

Colorful decorations, a taco truck and lively music also helped boost the cheerful mood at the event.

“It’s great to have our first event after a long year,” Maier said. “Residents really benefit from these new events and activities.”

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