Llamas and alpacas made an appearance Friday afternoon outside the Foyer Saint-Antoine, a 30-bed nursing home in Kent County.
Their appearance was a total surprise to residents and even the rest of her staff, said the home’s executive director Renelle Girouard-Boutilier.
The home has not been able to have any visitors since the region was in yellow phase near the Christmas holidays, she said.
“It’s been a long haul for the residents, so we want to do anything that could brighten their day,” she said.
Owner of Llama-zing adventures, Josée Gautreau, had posted that she would be willing to bring her animals to any retirement home that could use a visit to brighten residents’ spirits and Foyer Saint-Antoine decided to jump at the chance, said Girouard-Boutilier.
Gautreau told the Times & Transcript she had seen an animal owner in Ontario pay a retirement home a similar visit and thought she too could spread similar joy.
Girouard-Boutilier said before COVID, a therapy dog had been a big hit at the home, and she knows many of the residents love animals.
So at 2 p.m. Friday, Gautreau began loading her animals onto the trailer for a field trip.
Sun shining, the llamas and alpacas made their way onto the property about an hour later emerging from a small trailer, surprising a group of staff waiting outside for a surprise unknown as instructed by their executive director.
The nursing home staff and Gautreau’s woolly team made their way around the back of the building where residents were gathered inside in a hall of sorts with windows to see their unexpected visitors.
As the animals approached the windows, an exclamation could be heard from inside. Residents slowly began to make their way to the windows and the animals bounded over a significant snowbank to meet their newest pals.
Through the glass, residents smiled and touched their hands against the glass in delight as Gautreau and her team moved the animals to different windows so different residents could have a chance to get close to the creatures.
A staff member opened the window to ask the animals' names, which are Pearl, Suzie and Heidi.
A side door seems to be a prime viewing area so inside staff helped move residents using mobility devices one at a time to the glass door and animal handlers would bring the animals up close.
One resident, Germaine Mallet, said what a wonderful surprise this all was.
Eventually, it was time for the animals to go home.
Gautreau and her team said the highlight for them was hearing the joy in the residents’ voices when they first spotted the visitors.
Stella Léger, a resident, tearing up, said the wonderful visit from the animals was such a gift.
Fellow resident Jeannine Savoie agreed saying, “I can’t describe how much I really enjoyed it.”
Gautreau said she hopes to be able to make other visits to other nursing and retirement homes soon, but she will keep it a surprise for now where she plans to show up next.
- The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Initiative de journalisme local est financée par le gouvernement du Canada.
Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal