Tails from the Field
By Jessie Pemble – Mobile ANT Coordinator
We arrived at Silverado with 3 rabbits, a chicken, and Gabby the Golden Retriever in tow, a rather eclectic parade to see walking the halls of a memory care facility.
We made our way to the Sensory Room and fanned out, scattering the critters around to visit each resident. I brought Carolyn, one of our teen volunteers, and Skeeter the Rabbit over to see *Eileen, a long-time resident at Silverado. Eileen* is always in a happy mood, but never touches or even looks at the animals. She is mostly non-verbal, but very expressive with her face and body language, and we enjoy seeing her when we visit.
Today, Eileen had her hands tightly clasped in her lap, shaking back and forth quite vigorously. Even with the bunny basket in front of her, Eileen did not look directly at the rabbit, me, or Carolyn, and when we spoke to her, she would not make eye contact.
I decided then to gently take one of her hands, and I laid it on Skeeter’s soft back. Instantly her hands relaxed; she looked down at Skeeter and broke into a wide smile that brightened her whole face. Eileen immediately began stroking Skeeter rapidly, but gently, as if making up for lost time. With one hand she held his basket firmly in her lap, and let the other explore Skeeter’s soft fur, his tall, black ears, and his small pink nose. Eileen continued to grin in delight, and even looked up to smile at me and Carolyn.
I mentioned to one of the staff near me that I had never witnessed Eileen so engaged, and she agreed, as surprised as we were. Some days we get to experience breakthroughs like this, and it is so heartwarming!
Finally, after a few minutes of petting the bunny, Eileen (still smiling) gently lifted the basket and placed it onto the table next to her. She then turned to us and began clapping! I think this was her way of expressing how happy she was about the experience with Skeeter. I asked her if she enjoyed herself, and she just smiled bigger and continued clapping! I’m not usually speechless, but all I could do was turn to Carolyn and laugh incredulously – we had finally made a connection with Eileen! It was such a beautiful, special moment.
No two Mobile ANT visits are ever the same, and that’s the beauty of it – animals show up for people in different ways, and they bring whatever a person needs that day. Today, Eileen was finally ready for some fuzz therapy, and Skeeter was there to share that with her.
Take a look at some other sweet interactions from our visit, with Tinkerbell the Bantam hen and Gabby the Golden Retriever. To get involved with Mobile ANT, please contact Jessie to learn more about volunteering! You can also sponsor a Mobile ANT visit anywhere in Whatcom County, to visit a loved one or family member.