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Exotic animals can also be therapists (Figure 5.2). At Green Chimneys School in Brewster, New York, one resident farm animal is Angel, the llama. Susan Brooks, a clinical psychologist at the school, recalled one boy who had lost the only caring person in his life—his drug-addicted father. The boy seemed to be made of stone, refusing to show any emotion over his terrible loss, until the day he sat down next to Angel the llama, buried his head in her thick fur, and sobbed as if he would never stop. Angel stayed perfectly still, allowing the boy to finally express his grief. Perhaps because they are so pleasant to touch, llamas seem able to connect especially well with autistic children. Darlene Meyer, an occupational therapist who works for a public school district in Oregon, sometimes brings her llamas Steinway and MacCloud to work with special-needs children at the schools. One time, she remembers, an autistic child who had trouble making eye contact began petting MacCloud’s side. “He gradually worked his way up toward the front of the llama until he finally looked into those expressive llama eyes,” said Meyer. “Everyone in the classroom held their breath so the magic moment wouldn’t be broken. Who knows? Perhaps that was a first step toward making eye contact with humans.”

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