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North Cotswolds, Cirencester and Tewkesbury community hospitals each received a visit from a ‘very special guest’ in the run-up to Christmas.

Twelve-year-old alpaca, Cosmo, dressed in his favourite Christmas outfit, popped in to cheer up the patients, put a smile on the faces of the staff and generally spread a little festive cheer.

Cosmo was brought in to the hospitals by his owner and trainer, Ginnie Meakin, from Cotswold Vale Alpacas, near Evesham, because of his “innate ability to cheer people up and make them smile”.

“It’s a well-known fact that animals are great therapy; relieving stress and giving people the feel-good factor. Cosmo brightens people’s days,” said Ginnie.

“I do think he likes all the attention – he certainly appears to pose for the cameras. He’s an unusual alpaca – he’s calm and quietly confident.

“Right from an early stage I realised he was special and had a kind and gentle nature. He doesn’t get worried or spook easily, which makes him perfect for interacting with members of the public.”

On each hospital visit Cosmo appeared in his element as he strutted around the wards, greeting patients and staff.

A patient at Tewkesbury Hospital, Rose Miller, said: “He’s out of this world – he’s beautiful and gorgeous. I would love to put my arms around him and give him a cuddle.”

Squeals of excitement followed Cosmo during his visits. He has been trained from an early age to be walked and handled. He is also very adept at using a lift and is even able to alert his handler when he needs to go to the toilet.

Linda Edwards, Matron at Cirencester Hospital, said: “I have never had such a wonderful afternoon in the whole of my career. The patients and staff absolutely loved Cosmo and the reaction, particularly from patients with dementia and EOL, was so heart-warming and brought tears to my eyes – and Cosmo was so well behaved.”

“We have received many visits to our smallholding, from people who are finding life a strain emotionally, people suffering with stress and depression, and adults and children who have learning difficulties,” said Ginnie.

“We have found that meeting and being with the alpacas is so therapeutic; particularly to our visitors who have autism. They generally arrive apprehensive, but soon start to relax and interact with the alpacas.

“It is amazing to see the smiles on people’s faces when they meet Cosmo – especially the elderly people who are in hospital and missing their own pets. 

Pictured: Cirencester Hospital Matron Linda Edwards with Cosmo the alpaca.