Although there is great enjoyment in all of our endeavors, the most rewarding is going on therapy visits. In April of 2014, Patrick was evaluated by a group in Louisville, KY to become a registered therapy horse. I had taken online classes over the course of a few months through Pet Partners to learn the ins and outs of therapy work. At our evaluation, there were barking dogs, scary wheelchairs and lots of people to make sure Patrick was completely prepared for all situations he may encounter on visits. Patrick passed with a “complex” rating, which allows him access to school, nursing homes, hospitals and even psychiatric wards.
On our first visit, we went to a facility called the Kindred Healthcare Clinic. The floor that we visited mainly housed patients who suffered from diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and are confined to ventilators. Most of the patients in this unit will never be able to leave the hospital again, and many cannot even talk. The first patient was a man, about twenty years of age, who was restricted to his bed. When we first entered the room, he was very cautious and stroked Patrick’s muzzle with only the tips of his fingers. It was not until we were just about the leave that he leaned over and said “I love you, Patrick. Thank you.” In a few minutes, we had been able to make at least a little difference in this man’s life and bring some joy to his otherwise lacklustre day. When we returned for a second visit, we were able to visit another man who was in the deep grips of ALS. He was paralyzed from the neck down, but when he saw Patrick walk in, a large smile crept across his face. This man apparently had a great love of horses, as he had multiple posters of Friesians, Quarter horses and Arabians hung on the wall of his hospital room. The hospital’s events coordinator, who went with us to every room to help with patients who had physical impairments, said that the patient had been feeling very gloomy as of late, and the staff and his family were losing hope. She said that our visit with him was the happiest he had been in weeks, even months, and that she had to contact his family immediately, to tell them! I was so honoured and humbled to have been able to improve this man’s day.
It can sometimes be a quite daunting experience to deal with those who are less fortunate than ourselves. It is depressing to see those who have no hope of ever leaving the confines of their beds- never to go outside, to laugh with friends, to live, again. The key is to always have hope and always be helpful and happy when you are with them. We must always remember that it is so much more difficult for them than it is for us, and it is our duty to brighten their days, not the other way around. This is why we visit patients- I may be the only bright spot in their lives. All the sadness is worth the pleasure of seeing a smile on the face of a person who has nothing to smile about. Even with all of the happiness that Patrick brings to patients, it is minuscule compared to the joy he brings me every day.
"Patrick was able to go into the resident’s rooms and visit with them as it was difficult or near impossible for most of them to come out. He was gentle and engaging and most of all comforting. His little “horse shoes” did not hurt either. But beyond all of that that he was an experience of the outside world that many residents had not seen in years. Some residents had not been any further than the front door of the facility due to their fragile condition and him being there was a chance to provide them with contact of something wonderful from the outside. The most memorable of Patrick’s visits was interacting with a resident who had end stage ALS and loved horses but hadn’t seen one in years. Patrick was able to come into his room and the resident was able to touch Patrick and interact with him and his wonderful owners in ways he had never engaged with anyone before. Patrick and his abilities are special and very much needed with people that need the comfort that we as humans may not be able to give." -Karrie Kimbrough-Woods
Patrick's heroic work as a therapy horse and ambassador earned him induction into the KY Veterinary Medical Association's Animal Hall of Fame in 2015.
To find out more about animal assisted therapy and how you can get involved, visit petpartners.org
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