Rojo the Llama

April 26th, 2002 – November 6th, 2019

From the day he was born, Rojo the Llama enjoyed being around people of all ages. His handler, Shannon Joy, began training Rojo when he was only 7 months old through the support of a local Llama 4-H Club, and, together, they achieved Grand Champion awards at the county and state fairs in the Public Relations and Handler Class events.

While Rojo was participating at their county fair, a spectator observed his exceptionally gentle temperament, and told Shannon about DoveLewis Animal Emergency Hospital in Portland, as they had an Animal-Assisted Therapy Certification Program, and Rojo would make a wonderfully unique therapy animal that could benefit the lives of many others. The following day while Shannon’s mother, Lori, was taking photos of Rojo with fairgoers, God spoke to her heart when she saw the joy on the face of a young boy in a wheelchair, telling Lori that Rojo had been given to them as a gift that had to be shared. The following day, Lori called DoveLewis, and they were very excited to arrange a time to meet Rojo! The certification process took time, and was a very extensive process, but Rojo passed with flying colors as Shannon and Lori separately took him through the final evaluation on August 4th, 2007, to become the first and only llama therapy teams ever certified by DoveLewis.

Throughout his life, Rojo went off the farm well over 1,000 times into local area children’s hospitals, senior communities, schools, and facilities for children and adults with disabilities, as well as countless community and charitable fund raising events. Rojo still holds the overall “life achievement” point record as the #1 “Beyond the Showring” PR llama in the world, according to the International Llama Registry, of nearly 200,000 llamas that are registered!  

Sadly, in the fall of 2019, only a week after DoveLewis had helped to sponsor a wonderful celebration of Rojo’s lifetime of therapy service at Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland,  Rojo passed away suddenly with health issues that pointed to cancer.  Strong to the end,  llamas tend to not show any weakness when they become ill, as they can be seen as easy prey for predators. Rojo’s final days, and the unexpected blessing of how he will continue to bless many lives, was chronicled in this wonderful article by the Columbian.

The sweet emotional connections and love that is still so often expressed for Rojo by those who were blessed to meet and experience the unconditional love and joy he brought,  continues to fill Shannon and Lori with purpose and excitement to carry on Rojo’s legacy with the rest of their special therapy herd for many more years to come!