Most people are familiar with therapy dogs, and they’ve become more and more prevalent on college campuses, schools, or even in medical care facilities. Petting a sweet and gentle dog is a calming experience and one that can reduce anxiety and stress. But what people may be less familiar with are therapy llamas! And yet, if you were traveling through the Portland International Airport earlier this week that’s exactly what you would have found.
Leave it to the city whose unofficial motto is “Keep Portland Weird” to choose llamas of all animals to greet weary travelers as they move through the airport to visit friends and family this holiday season. Traveling can be a stressful experience at any time of year, but this is especially true during the holidays. In an effort to alleviate some of this strain and with the spirit of the season in mind, the good folks at PDX decided to take a different approach to their customer service.
The Portland Airport decided to team up with Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas & Alpacas out of Ridgefield, Washington and run by Lori Gregory, to have her pack of furry friends grace the airport this season. And, if you were lucky enough to be traveling through the airport this month, you may have met Beni and Prince. These two ambassador therapy llamas came decked out in their Christmas finest dressed as reindeer with full on antlers, wreaths made of poinsettias, and jingling bells attached to their harnesses.
This isn’t the first time Gregory’s llamas have visited the airport. Two others in her flock, Napoleon and Smokey, were invited to the grand opening of the new Concourse E back in 2020, where they donned outfits made in the iconic PDX carpet print. This year, Beni and Prince took up the mantle, though they’re only able to stay for two hours at a time which means only a lucky few will get to meet them. However, during this time they were greeted by adoring fans, and appeared in numerous instagram posts of delighted air travelers taking selfies with the pair.
You may also be surprised to hear this isn’t the first time PDX has invited therapy animals to their terminals, but in the past this has primarily been dogs or Duke the Therapy Cat. So why llamas you ask? Llamas are naturally gentle and sociable, and their wool coat is incredibly thick and soft—if you've never given a llama a hug, you’re missing out!
All the llamas and alpacas that Gregory uses are officially certified, meaning both the animal and the handler are thoroughly evaluated and undergo training by the DoveLewis Animal-Assisted Therapy Program. They even have to go through extensive role-playing activities to ensure that the llama will be gentle and relaxed with any kind of person they may encounter.
If you’re feeling a bit blue that you missed out on the llamas this year at PDX, check out Gregory’s website to find out about more llama-laden holiday events, or to tour the farm yourself and meet the crew!