Paralyzed Alpaca Uses a Wheelchair
Jun 09, 2010
The most unusual animal is wandering around on her own wheelchair contraption. Meet Holli, a 9-month-old alpaca, that lives near St. Louis and is a local hit. After being sentenced as a lost cause twice, Holli the disabled alpaca is stronger than ever.
Her owner, Michelle Zumwalt, has a reputation for rescuing alpacas and obtained her from a farm that lacked the resources to handle the premature newborn. Holli rebounded, but 20 days later she was with the herd when a dog spooked them, and somehow Holli’s spine was damaged in the excitement. She was paralyzed from the waist down, and doctors gave her a prognosis of surviving only a few months. Normally the usual course of action is euthanasia, but Zumwalt chose to fight for the little alpaca.
Therapy began for the alpaca which included acupuncture, water therapy, massages, supplements, and other treatments. Throughout the process, caregivers watched closely for signs of suffering, but Holli responded almost immediately. “We will not ask anything of an animal that is beyond what they are comfortable with,” Zumwalt said. “Our goal was always to try to give her a chance.”
Totaling over $10,000 in treatment, saving the alpaca’s life was tedious and expensive. After being laid off from her job at U.S. Fidelis, Zumwalt held garage sales to help cover the costs. That’s when local people started to pitch in and donate as well. “Little kids would come to visit her and bring a dollar,” Zumwalt said.
Children often come to the farm to visit through schools or scout troops, and Holli is often brought around to nursing homes for therapeutic visits. Alzheimer patients are especially drawn to her as she encourages them to never give up.
One lady, Valerie Smith, was so taken by the animal that she paid to have a one-of-a-kind wheelchair built at the cost of $700 for the alpaca. Holli is held up by a harness and is able to use her front legs for mobility.
Dr. David E. Anderson, a professor of veterinary medicine at Kansas State University, noted that most people become overwhelmed and give up due to the intensive daily care, physical therapy, and muscle stimulation required to give any chance of recovery. According to him, she may even be able to walk again in the future and a future evaluation will show whether Holli is a candidate for hip replacements.
View the complete story with more pictures of Holli the paralyzed alpaca here: