Tiny Visitor Makes Big Impression
Posted on January 31, 2014 by Taylor Rhea
When JJ and Paddy visit Atria Del Rey, it’s nothing short of a magical experience. The two are not your typical visitors. In fact, they are not your typical horses either. They are actually miniature ponies AND registered therapy pets! Their owner, Joyce Banks, is a friend of Engage Life Director Carol Warboys, who has worked at Atria Del Rey for 21 years. Joyce brings her miniature ponies to spend time with residents every month. They’ve been making visits for about a year. “Joyce won't take any money so I make sure she stays for lunch in the dining room each time,” said Carol.
The little horses never go without a meal either! “While we're eating on the patio, JJ and Paddy graze on our front lawn,” she added. According to Health.com, just 15 minutes of bonding with an animal sets off a chemical reaction in the brain, lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increasing production of the feel-good hormone serotonin.
So it’s no surprise that these pint-sized ponies make for wonderful pet therapy animals. Each time they visit, the residents’ faces light up and overflow with excitement. Most miniature horses love being groomed, brushed, rubbed, and scratched. JJ and Paddy are no exceptions. The residents look forward to petting and feeding the little cuties every time they come. “The residents feed them either carrots or apples at the conclusion of their visit,” said Carol. “The mini horses are also potty-trained!”
Carol said that after visiting their independent living and assisted living residents, they go down on the patio and greet all the residents in Life Guidance®, Atria’s internationally recognized memory care program for seniors with dementia. “The smiles are automatic and go from ear-to-ear!” Carol described. The community can’t wait for the next visit from their special little visitors, JJ and Paddy.