Therapy Alpacas Visit Seniors During Pandemic: 'Animals Have a Magical Way of Healing'
The fuzzy animals, named Kronk and Kuzco, visited an assisted living home in California earlier this week
Leave it to alpacas to bring a smile to people's faces during a pandemic.
On Tuesday, residents at the Boulder Creek Post Acute Assisted Living Center in Poway, Calif., got a visit from a pair of the animals, separated by a safe social distance, of course. As part of the Helen Woodward Animal Center’s Pet Encounter Therapy program, the duo of alpacas — named Kronk and Kuzco after the 2000 Disney film The Emperor's New Groove — traveled by van to help boost the elderly humans' morale.
"In the many years I have worked with this program, I have seen the unique gifts each animal can bring to this type of therapy," said program manager Robin Cohen in a press release. "... These alpacas are some of our funniest characters. They make us laugh every day and we knew they’d be the perfect key to inspiring smiles right now."
The seniors viewed the animals through the dining hall window. Alpacas aren't the typical animals enlisted for the program, which allows people to cuddle with pets like dogs, cats, bunnies, and guinea pigs to help lower their stress levels and provide other health benefits.
Since the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has temporarily ended in-person therapy pet visits, Helen Woodward Animal Center decided the larger four-legged farm animals would bring joy from a distance.
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories
RELATED VIDEO: Doctor Reunites with Dog After Weeks of Being Separated From Working on Frontlines Against Coronavirus
According to the Helen Woodward Animal Center, the check-in was such a hit with the residents and staff at Boulder Creek Post Acute that they are working on scheduling a followup, as well as stops to other facilities in the area.
"This has been a very challenging time for all of us, and it’s particularly hard on individuals who are inside facilities without visits from their regular friends and family members," Cohen said. "The one thing I know from my work is that animals have a magical way of healing."
Added Cohen: "I am so happy to be a part of providing a little bit of their magic."
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.