Llamas raise spirits at Veterans Home


Maine Veterans Home residents Muriel Crocker, center, Betty Freeman, right, back to camera, and Ruth Forbes, left, enjoyed Thursday’s sunny weather and a much-anticipated visit from their llama friends Christy, center, and Staccato, and their owners David and Gail Smith of Sidney. The Smiths visit the home monthly, as well as local schools, community centers and nursing homes.

AUGUSTA — A mother-daughter team has become a familiar sight at the Maine Veterans Home.

On Thursday morning, Gail and David Smith guided llamas Staccato, 15, and her mother Christy, 18, from the trailer they use to make these visits from their home in Sidney. The docile creatures, with soft brown eyes and silky long eye lashes, tiptoed daintily across the lawn and onto the outside patio of the facility. Their ears rotated constantly, responding to the sounds of passing cars, twittering birds, and a lawnmower in a nearby field.

“Notice how easily distracted (they are) by everything they see outdoors,” David Smith said. “They actually can be more relaxed inside.”

The Smiths and their charges walked to Muriel Crocker, Betty Freeman and Ruth Forbes, three residents waiting eagerly for a chance to feed and pet them.

“They’re so pretty,” Crocker said, as she fed them tiny carrots.

The Smiths, who spend an hour at the home each month, guided the pair into the main building, where a group of staff members and residents gathered to greet them.

“They’re just so adorable, and we really look forward to seeing them,” Theresa Fortin said. She and her husband, Gerard, are residents in the home, and they find the llamas visit one of their favorite highlights of the activities program.

The llamas continued their delicate tiptoe through the hallways, stopping to visit residents in their rooms, even in the tightest quarters. Occasionally Staccato would make a low mewing sound, which Gail explained was vocalizing her concern that her mother was walking too far away and almost out of sight down the hallway. The llamas are very closely bonded, she said, and spend all their time together.

Kathy Chase, admissions coordinator at the Maine Veterans Home, said the llamas bring lots of enjoyment to the residents.

“We are so pleased to have them visit, and they are wonderful volunteers,” she said. “It means so much to our residents.”