Therapy alpaca becomes high schooler's senior project

- An unlikely therapy animal in Idaho is bringing smiles along with big, fluffy hugs.  

Sprite is a therapy alpaca. Her handler, Drew Moffitt explains she’s similar to a llama but Sprite lives a much more active life than the typical a farm animal.

Instead of living full-time in a pasture with her long-necked relatives, she often wanders the halls of retirement and rehab communities in southern Idaho.

Visiting with residents whose day-to-day life become monotonously routine and often mundane, Sprite brings a welcome change of pace to every place she visits. The fluffy-haired farm animal serves as the perfect ice breaker for folks who aren't used to sparking up a conversation with complete strangers.

Moffit started working with Sprite while he was in high school. His senior project at Twin Falls High School was to get her registered as a therapy animal.

“What a unique senior project! To fill the hearts of those who don't get to participate in much in the outside world,” said Oak Creek Rehabilitation Center employee Sherry Poulton.

Through a record-breaking snowy Idaho winter, Drew and Sprite warmed the spirits of residents stuck for months indoors.

“They loved it and they really thanked me because they couldn't leave the facility at all,” Moffitt said.

Before Sprite could become the center of attention though, Drew had to get her warmed up to the outside world.

He began by taking her on field trips to the local D&B Supply Store. He says it took her some time to warm up to things like sliding doors and loud sounds.

But his hard work with Sprite continues to pay off in smiles.

“You’d be surprised. People just have these blank faces and then all of a sudden they see you and they look at you and they're talking to their family and they’re like, ‘Look!’ They're taking pictures so I think that's kind of a therapeutic nature of it, as well. Just people driving around, not expecting it and, next thing you know, there's an alpaca in front of you in a tiny white car,” Moffitt said with a laugh.

By the end of an outing, Sprite is definitely full of her share of sweet treats but it’s the residents on the visitation route left with an experience they'll never forget.

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