Charlie lovingly goes about his daily routine at William E. Christoffersen Veterans Home in Salt Lake City. People pet him, hug him, and feed him bottles of milk, and then Charlie hops away to his next duty station. This award-winning animal brings love to everyone he sees, especially the veterans at the home. The odd thing is that Charlie is a red kangaroo.Charlie started
at the home in March 2015 as a baby. He shows love towards everyone he meets. It doesn’t matter what kind of condition or disability someone has, Charlie treats everyone with the same tenderness. His handler, Noralyn Kahn, says Charlie’s love helps bring families together.
The residents of the veterans home love Charlie’s presence as he brightens up the home. He’s one of about a dozen therapy animals that visit residents on a regular basis. The animals love to be held, touched and petted. However, Charlie is unique. He’s the only one that hops.
The kangaroo eases the fears of kids coming to visit relatives. Younger children become less afraid because they can visit with a cool kangaroo while visiting grandma or grandpa. Charlie’s soothing presence works so well that he also visits special education classes and hospice care patients.
Kahn says that Charlie lessens people’s depression and makes everyone happier at the veterans home. The red kangaroo gives veterans something warm and cuddly to focus on at the home. All other concerns at the moment seem to melt away and disappear, which is the point of therapy animals.
Unfortunately, when Charlie grows up and reaches puberty, he is likely to become more aggressive and larger. The kangaroo will go to a ranch to live out his retirement years. In March 2016, the Red Cross plans to honor Charlie with the “Animal Hero of the Year” award for his service to veterans. These awards usually go to dogs. Charlie will be the first kangaroo to receive this honor.
Charlie’s story illustrates that the love shown by animals doesn’t just come from dogs and cats. Any animal can make a difference in someone’s life, including in the lives of veterans who deserve to be happy in their golden years.