By Mary O’KEEFE
Often as one ages, there are times of seemingly irrational fear. It can be a fear that, 20 or 30 years earlier, would not have even entered the realm of possibility; however, as we age there it is. But at a recent event at Foothill Retirement Care in Tujunga, fear was nowhere to be found.
“I was shocked,” said Toni Williamson, marketing director of the assisted living home, by the reaction by its residents to the visitors she had invited.
Williamson was shocked because the residents of Foothill Retirement Care gladly held scorpions, petted a hairless rat and even let a snake wrap around their shoulders, all while laughing and joking with each other. It was part of the Reptacular event Williamson planned for the residents.
She said she had looked at a variety of events to bring into the assisted living home.
“I looked at petting zoos – they had llamas and sheep – but I thought let’s step this up,” she said.
She contacted Spectacular Parties and Williamson planned her Reptacular event.
Visitors arriving at Foothills Retirement Care knew immediately that something was different when a very large tortoise slowly walked across the front yard. Then there were squeals followed by laughter as the residents saw one exotic creature after another paraded in front of them. Some were hesitant, but most were ready to experience all that Reptacular had to offer.
The representative from Spectacular Parties was very patient as she first introduced the bearded dragon or giant python to her audience and then explained where they are found in the wild and what they eat.
Williamson was as excited as the residents when one after another snake, rat, scorpion or other creature came out to meet everyone.
“[The residents] seem so happy, ” she said, “and are really enjoying this.” But there were a few who didn’t want to handle the reptiles though they were still interested in learning about them. Each time a snake came around to James and his wife, for example, she would say, “No, thank you” while James asked many questions and then held the snake – much to the shock of his wife.
Other residents seemed to love every critter that was brought around. One woman couldn’t wait to pet the red tail boa and smiled as it slithered around the table.
Although the reptiles brought a few squeals and the hairless rat was a little strange, it was the Sun Conure bird from South America that seemed to cause the most “ooohs and ahhs” with most of the residents wanting to stroke the bird’s brilliant yellow and red feathers and even give it a little kiss.