If you live in or around the Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA area, you might have heard of Rojo the Llama. Rojo was born in April 2002 and was a gentle, loving llama for his entire life. When he was five, Rojo and his handlers, Lori Gregory and Shannon Joy, completed the Animal Assisted Therapy Training with DoveLewis in Portland; in fact, they became the first-ever llama team certified by DoveLewis! Since then, Rojo and his handlers have made hundreds of visits to local hospitals, senior communities, schools, and many other facilities. He’s also been a part of parades and he was even the Grand Marshal of the 2013 Junior Rose Festival Parade!
Rojo recently had a retirement party in downtown Portland’s Pioneer Square after 12 years of living up the therapy llama life and hundreds of people showed up to celebrate this amazing llama. During his time as a therapy llama, Rojo brought smiles and love to hundreds (if not thousands) of people. National Geographic even featured Rojo in an episode of “Unlikely Animal Friends”! The episode is titled “Doggie Deerest”.
Sadly, Rojo’s health started to decline recently and he passed away peacefully this morning. He was being cared for at OSU and given the utmost care and love. It’s thought that a hereditary defect or cancer caused fluid to build up in his chest and his handlers decided that his quality of life was worsening. He passed away naturally this morning, with one of his owners by his side.
Rojo will live on in many ways. Shannon Joy even wrote a couple children’s books starring Rojo! One such book is “Rojo: The Perfectly Imperfect Llama”. And in a way, Rojo will live on. The plan is to have him taxidermied and he’ll have a permanent place at the Washington State School for the Blind’s Sensory Safari Exhibit. Rojo visited the school several times during his life and the Sensory Safari offers a tactile museum experience. Shannon Joy wrote about the decision to have Rojo be a part of this exhibit in a recent Facebook post:
“For years we had discussed how incredible it would be to have Rojo added to the WA State School for the Blind’s wildlife safari room. AND THEY’RE DOWN!! Not only are they so excited, they want Rojo to be front and center. Morbid? Creepy? Nah – he will forever live on for the students to come who want to know what a llama is like.”
If you want to keep following Lori Gregory and Shannon Joy and their work with other llamas and alpacas, they do have a website for their therapy animals, Mtn Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas. They also have a Facebook page and Instagram account for Rojo, where you can find updates straight from Shannon. Additionally, they have a GoFundMe campaign to help with costs.
It does make me so sad to hear that Rojo has left us and crossed the ‘carrot bridge’, as his owners have lovingly said. Rojo was a very special llama and was the embodiment of what an Animal of the Pacific Northwest is. He brought joy and love to so many, myself included.
Sending all the llove to Rojo’s family today. ❤️