Kangaroo Jumps At Chance To Be Therapy Animal

When Noralyn Snow found out she could turn a kangaroo into a therapy animal, she hopped at the chance.Ten years later, she’s still jumping for joy, despite going through seven separate marsupials.Snow is an administrator at the Salt Lake City branch of Silverado Senior Living, a chain of rest homes specializing in seniors who suffer memory impairment problems, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

In the past, she has used dogs, cats, birds and even goats and sheep as therapy animals that help improve the physical, social, emotional and/or cognitive functioning of a patient.Snow decided to add kangaroos to the mix one day while driving past an exotic pet farm that housed the jumpy critters.She couldn’t exactly put one in her pouch, but she did bring a 6-month-old kangaroo, Joey, to the rest home, where it quickly leaped into the hearts of the patients and employees. So much so that there is always a kangaroo on staff to fill the needs that only a kangaroo can.Currently, the staff ‘roo is Theodore, and he has a strict job description, according to Snow.

“Theodore’s job is to be loved,” she said. “The patients feed him, and he lays in their arms.
Baby kangaroos are very affectionate.”He also serves as an icebreaker for children who visit the facility.”The kids aren’t as afraid to come to the facility because of the kangaroo,” Snow said. “Sometimes, kids are intimidated by wheelchairs and the other aspects of the rest home, but they love Theodore.”

But Theodore’s job isn’t a 24/7 gig. Snow takes him home at nights and on weekends so he can hop around on his own time. That’s a good thing, because while baby kangaroos are affectionate, they are as independent as cats and do things on their own terms.Since potty training isn’t an option, Snow buys Pampers and punches a hole for Theo’s tail to stick through.Theodore is the seventh kangaroo that Snow has used as a therapy animal. Each ‘roo spends between a year and 18 months on the staff before being returned to the farm from which he or she came.Theodore recently replaced Oscar, who started getting a little too jumpy for the job.

“Around the age of 18 months, the hormones kick in, and they become rebellious teenagers,” Snow said. “They start nipping and kicking, and they need more room to hop.”Sometimes, Snow runs into the ‘roos and they do recognize her, but she says it’s not the same “even though they love me.”Although she said her rest home has gotten good results from having a kangaroo on staff, she doesn’t recommend it to everyone.

“It’s a commitment, like a child,” she admitted, adding that her car’s license plate is “Roo Mom.” “I have to hire a baby sitter when I leave. It takes a lot of time.”Still, no matter how much time she spends hopping around after her kangaroo kid, Snow says they are easier than the other exotic animal she tried.”We had a pot-bellied pig here. The patients loved it, but when it got to about 2 years of age, it started wanting to put mudholes everywhere, so we had to send him to a petting zoo.”



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