Meet Caesar, the therapy llama calming tensions at protests

Portland has been in the headlines a lot lately after waves of protests led to clashes between police and activists. But even amongst the intensity of the unrest, there were pockets of calm around “Caesar the No Drama Llama.”

Caesar is a retired 6-year-old Argentine grand champion show llama that now works as a therapy llama and “llamactivist.” One of his best talents is offering emotional-support hugs, which people line up to give him at protests and other places where Caesar shows up. He’s somewhat of a celebrity llama.

Llamas generally are not known to be cozy with humans, and at 5-foot-8 and 350 pounds, Caesar could appear intimidating. But Caesar doesn’t turn from affection or back away from chaos. When people meet Caesar, they tend to melt in his calm presence, said his caretaker, Larry McCool. “I don’t care how big, how staunch, how intense that somebody is — it could be a big marcher in total riot gear, and he will come up and give Caesar a big hug,” said McCool, 66.

It may sound dangerous for the llama to be at a protest, but his owner is quick to say that he is careful about Caesar’s safety, moving him away whenever tensions heat up. The beautiful thing about Caesar is that he summons the same reactions out of just about everyone.

During a recent large protest in Portland, Caesar and McCool ambled by a group of Portland police officers who were stationed in a parking lot near the unrest. The officers pet Caesar and asked to take photos, McCool said. The same thing happened at the Salem Women’s March this year.

So far this year, Caesar and McCool have attended 10 Black Lives Matter protests in Oregon, including five in Portland’s epicenter, to offer support and a tranquil presence to protesters. In recent years, they have attended more than 50 marches in support of a variety of civil and environmental causes.

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