New Llamas Join Herd Before Start of New School Year

August 29, 2022

The herd expands: llamas from a Middlesex County farm
have been given to the children of Green Chimneys.

Thanks to the generosity of a family based in Durham, Connecticut, llamas Sebastian and Jack are now officially part of the Sam and Myra Ross Farm & Wildlife Center.

Having raised llamas for nearly 25 years, the family is skilled at training llamas to participate in human-animal interactions. Sebastian and Jack often interacted with their neighbors, residents of a nearby assisted-living facility. Over the last year, the family realized it was time to downsize their herd. The family researched places where Sebastian and Jack would not only be well cared for but would thrive. Through a series of connections, the family learned of a certain school on a farm in Brewster, New York. After ample discussion, the family—and our staff—grew confident that Green Chimneys is the right place for the pair. Sebastian and Jack will be a great part of nature-based programs for children with special needs.

Sebastian (left) is five years old and very calm. He prefers to take his time and observe people, but then will gladly accept attention. Jack (right) is two years old and is very silly. He loves water and will drink right from the hose if you let him. He is especially curious and will readily walk up to anyone to introduce himself.

Minimizing the stress of being new

Introducing the newbies to an existing herd of three llamas and four alpacas took planning. Thankfully, Program Assistant Danielle Zalewski led the process with great care. Initially, the pair were in a stall of their own. Next staff began leading brief introductions. Then Sebastian and Jack were moved to a pasture adjacent to the herd enabling interaction over the shared fence. Eventually, they were gathered together in the Teaching Barn. In an effort to minimize stress and avoid overexertion, the group began interacting in a smaller space. The cooling fans helped too! With staff oversight, the herd successfully grew by two. A few weeks later, the group can often be found enjoying the large and hilly pasture behind the Teaching Barn. In fact, we have it on good authority that one of the alpacas, Claude, is quite taken with the pair.

Partners in therapy and education

As the new academic year begins, Sebastian and Jack will be incorporated into school programs. “Llamas are really special for us to work with because of how physically expressive they are,” explains Danielle. “They speak a lot with their body language and it can really help us explain peer boundaries to students.” Given the ease with which most llamas respond to training, students are involved in the training process. In addition, students lead llamas through obstacle courses and on trail walks. Animal care, including feeding and grooming, can also be a part of student chores on the farm.

Coping with change

Being the “new kid on the block” can come with challenges. Many of our students can relate to Sebastian and Jack. Transitioning to a new school or class, or adjusting to a different schedule can be stressful for many children. For those diagnosed with anxiety, depression, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or other mental health or developmental disorders, change of any size can be truly overwhelming.

At Green Chimneys School, skilled educators and clinicians are working diligently to ease the strain of new school year transitions and equip students with tools to cope. Sebastian and Jack join the Farm & Wildlife Center’s 300+ animals that help students practice critical coping strategies. Nature-based programs—as part of school, therapy, and recreation—aid students in forming connections with animals and their peers. In the classroom and on the farm, children are discovering new abilities and gaining confidence from their achievements.

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