George Caldwell loves llamas. He believes that llamas are the most sacred animal friend a human can have. In fact, George loves llamas so much that he co-founded an organization with his wife to show the world just how amazing llamas are.
In 1983, after reading an article in a local newspaper about the many benefits of raising llamas, George and his wife were inspired to found Llamas of Circle Home, a ranch in Sonora, California, that is now home to over 29 unique llamas.
“Our mission is to do two things,” George said. “One is to show people how amazing llamas are, how smart they are, how well-behaved they are, how they fit in with society, and also show people that llamas really need to be utilized in the mental health field.”
For the past 35 years, George has provided llama-based therapy programs and services for people all across California. Animal-assisted therapy is beneficial for both our mental and physical health. Touching animals reduces stress, produces comfort and increases happiness levels. According to UCLA Health, interacting with animals can also help lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health.
To raise awareness about the numerous positive benefits of having llamas in our modern society, George hosts ranch tours and brings llamas on hikes, college campuses, holiday celebrations, and other events where people are interested in socializing with and learning more about llamas.
“We do everything from ranch tours where people come to visit the ranch and meet the llamas, and we do some hikes,” George said. “We also take llamas to schools and nursing homes and places where people have open hearts, and they want to meet the llamas and see what is so special about llamas.”
As part of their Llama Medicine Experience program, George brings his llamas and travels to different schools such as UC Berkeley, Stanford, and other educational institutions throughout the Bay Area. He hopes that by interacting with the llamas, students can truly experience the impact of llamas on their mental, physical and spiritual growth.
“Llamas are such great energy and people need to know that llamas can be this beautiful medicine that we need to learn how to utilize going forward because they really help people connect with Pachamama, which is Mother Nature,” George said. “Especially people in cities sometimes get disconnected because they just don’t have the connection to Mother Earth, and llamas really help give that back to people.”
In bringing llamas to different events and places, George hopes to help people relieve stress and expose the world to the many health benefits of llama love.
“Our goal is to show the mental health experts in the world that there’s a medicine they’re not utilizing,” George explained. “That medicine is llama love. We see this is just such a powerful thing where everybody just opens their heart and loves the llamas. When you love like that, love is something that just conquers everything, and to see all these students loving the llamas and clearing their minds of all the troubles they have, the love just erases all that and gives you a fresh slate and a smile on your face.”
Even though taking care of the llamas and traveling year-round can be challenging, George loves what he does and notes the profound impact llamas have had on his life.
“I get to go out into public with the llamas, bringing joy and happiness to so many people,” George beamed. “I get to go out and show people love, and now I get to figure out how to use llamas as therapy animals for the good of people. The llamas have just introduced me to a world I had no idea existed. That’s been the coolest thing.”
I had the privilege of meeting some of the llamas from George’s ranch, when I participated in San Francisco’s annual Questival event, a 24-hour citywide scavenger hunt. I was amazed at how unbelievably soft, friendly, and welcoming the llamas were. As George said, they truly are the some of the kindest creatures I have ever met.
“Kindness is what llamas and people have in common,” George said. “Llamas, just like people, are inherently kind and that’s what makes them such wonderful creatures to be with because they care about you just as you care about them, and they want you to be happy just as you want them to be happy.”
Although Llamas of Circle Home is currently operating as a business, George hopes to continue this work as a nonprofit in the near future.
“What we’re doing is really a benefit for everyone,” George said. “We need to form a nonprofit to make this work something that’s going to carry on long after I’m gone. We feel that long after we’re gone, llamas need to be in a place where they’re cared for.”
Ultimately, he hopes that by showing the world how valuable and magical llamas are, he can create a “llama love network” of community members who are passionate about caring for llamas and inspire others to continue the legacy of his work.
Visit www.experiencellamas.com to sign up to visit the ranch, hike with llamas, or bring some llamas to your next event. You can also get involved with the organization by donating, adopting a llama, or sponsoring a llama. Don’t forget to follow them on Facebook and Instagram for more updates!