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Lots of people have heard of therapy dogs, but how many of you have heard of therapy horses? I happen to own one, my American Paint, Yankee. I also have the more usual therapy dog, my late dad’s Shih Tzu, Dogie.
Dogie and Yankee visit patients and residents at hospitals, nursing homes, senior residences, and kids at schools and libraries. They are both certified by Pet Partners as therapy animals. Basically they visit folks to help make them smile, and bring a bit of enjoyment to their lives.
Dogie mainly gets on peoples’ laps or beds and curls up with them. They love petting, stroking, and talking to him. He’s always ready for a visit. When I get his Pet Partners vest out he goes wild, knowing he’s headed out to visit people. He can spend hours going from room to room at the hospital.
Yankee was a rescue after his predecessor, my beloved paint Sizzle, died. He’s turned out to be one special horse. Besides being my riding pardner, he loves his therapy work. He has lots of tricks. He gives kisses and hugs, shakes hands, and gives a great neck massage with his big ol’ horse lips. He also shows people his “big teeth”, and will take a bandanna from my pocket. If I tell him I’m a horse thief, he tries to knock me over. The trick people love most, though, is our “Western Movie” stunt. I pretend to get shot and fall face-down, then Yankee will stick his nose under my ribs and flip me over, then nuzzle and lick my face until I “come to”. It’s a real crowd-pleaser. Then after we’re done with the tricks he gets petted and fed by the people we’re visiting. He loves to put his head in the laps of old folks in wheel chairs and let them pet him. He’s even gone inside one nursing home!
When we’re not doing therapy work, Yank and I are usually patrolling the area state forests and parks as members of the Connecticut Volunteer Horse Patrol. We keep an eye on the trails and assist visitors to the state parks and forests.