IN 2014, GEORGE “Geo” Caldwell of Sonora decided to take some of his llamas to People’s Park in Berkeley to share some llama love with the locals.
When someone from UC Berkeley’s student senate noticed the effect the llamas had on the crowd, they reached out to Caldwell to bring the llamas onto campus for finals week.
“They were a huge hit. My llamas were at the next finals week and the one after,” said Caldwell, the owner of Llamas of Circle Home in Sonora. “And as my good llamas got older, I had to start going out and buying llamas to train to do this.”
University of the Pacific’s housing department invited Caldwell and his llamas to the Stockton campus on Saturday afternoon to comfort the students before their finals. The event, called “Save your Drama for a Therapy Llama,” allowed students to pet, brush, feed and take photos with the llamas.
Devin Thompson, a resident assistant for the North Quads community at UOP, conceived the idea to bring llamas on campus before finals.
“They’re so fluffy, friendly and approachable. I’ve heard of therapy dogs and cats before, but llamas are so cool to hug.”Nathan Bussell, UOP student
“Originally, I was going to do a therapy-dog event. As I started looking into different types of therapy animals, I found this (Caldwell’s) company online,” Thompson said. “It was just amazing because they did similar events at UC Berkeley and in San Jose.”
While UOP has brought in therapy dogs on campus in the past, it was the university’s first time bringing in llamas.
“The midterm season just ended and with the finals coming up, everyone is so stressed. This is a good way to destress and relax a little bit,” Thompson said.
Caldwell brought four of his therapy llamas — Mystical Amigo, 7, Yanatin, 6, Munay, 5, and Yachay, 5 – to the campus.
“They’re so fluffy, friendly and approachable,” a freshman-year Nathan Bussell remarked. “I’ve heard of therapy dogs and cats before, but llamas are so cool to hug.”
Caldwell calls them “God’s gift to people.” He explains that the way the llamas work, is by reading the energy of a person as they brush the llama’s fur. “If you come to my house, these guys (llamas) will come out to you and say — brush me, give me attention.”
Harika Maddala is a photojournalist based in Stockton covering San Joaquin County for Bay City News Foundation and its nonprofit news site Local News Matters. They are a Report for America corps member and a CatchLight Local Fellow.