AN unusual four-legged furry duo paid a visit to delighted patients at Haylodge Hospital last week.

Hospital residents greeted alpacas Rory and Pearson, who were VIP guests at the Peebles hospital.

Activities co-ordinator Shonagh Milne, described how the patients' faces lit up when the woolly duo entered the ward.

“Everyone loved the visit, including the staff and it was very emotional for me to see just how happy it made them all,” she said.

Lorna Wilson, who is the charge nurse at Haylodge, praised Shonagh for arranging the visit adding that, not only did it get the patients interacting, it also boosted staff morale.

She said: “Shonagh has arranged many activities but this one has to be the best. She is an amazing, kind-hearted member of staff who goes above and beyond for our patients at Haylodge.”

The gentle nature of alpacas makes them perfect for activity-based visits – with the animals said to be great therapy.

Patricia Finlay said: “It was wonderful and they were so soft, I wanted to keep one.”

Kenneth Logan added: “The alpacas visit was the happiest I’ve seen the patients and staff, everyone was smiling. It was more therapeutic than medicine.”

The four-legged friends are based at Velvet Hall Alpacas and frequently make visits to care and nursing homes throughout the Borders.

Owners Jean and Stuart Macdonald, said they were delighted to bring their boys to Haylodge: “It was such a positive experience for the residents and the staff,” said Jean.

“Each visit is different, but you find if people are animal lovers they adore the alpacas.

“Because their fleece is so soft, it is very tactile for people who suffer from dementia and a great comfort to them. We also find they stimulate conversations between residents and their families.”

And alpacas weren't the only guests visiting the patients last week, the musical talents of local band the Taylor Brothers could be heard from afar as they rocked up to play for an hour.

Shonagh explained: “I love this band myself and I just knew the patients would too. One lady said she remembered dancing with her husband to a particular song they sang, which is just lovely to hear.

"I’m so grateful to the band for giving up their time freely. Everyone enjoyed it and said it lifted their spirits.”

Asked how organising activities for hospital patients makes her feel, Shonagh said: “I love seeing them, smiling, laughing and being happy. I love my job.”