Animal-assisted therapy now includes – Wallabies?

Animal-assisted therapy now includes – Wallabies?


The William E. Christofferson Salt Lake Veterans Home received a recent surprise guest – a white-haired baby wallaby named Elsa. The 6-month old wallaby was an instant hit as even the toughest veterans have lined up to get a chance to pet and hold the precious animal.

Noralyn Snow, nursing home administrator, is Elsa’s adoptive mom. She told the Deseret News that a nursing home was the perfect place for an animal that was accustomed to being in a warm mother’s pouch all day. Being held by residents helps the wallaby to feel a sense of security as well as the body heat that she would have otherwise missed. Residents also feed her from a special bottle intended just for her. It seems that the nursing home residents may be helping her as much as she helps them.

Animal-assisted therapy now includes – Wallabies? Spending time with therapy animals may also help to improve motivation as well. It gives nursing home residents something to focus on and a chance to break out of their routine.

In her interview with Dereset News, Snow also discussed how having Elsa around helped to give residents and their families a more positive perspective regarding nursing home life:

“When you live in a nursing home, you want it to be as close to living at home as possible. It should contain spontaneity and love, and that's all part of the culture here. No one wants to live in a hospital."

The excitement of the veterans seems to indicate that they may agree. One veteran said that the baby wallaby reminded him of good memories of pets and the home that he had earlier in life.

Many types of animals can be involved in animal-assisted therapy, with dogs being the most common, but the sheer number of canines isn’t scaring off this happy baby wallaby.

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Leo G. Anderson

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