For an hour each morning, we wander through the building, stopping at rooms and common spaces to sit and chat with the residents. People are charmed by our rabbits sitting snugly in their baskets, and faces break with laughter when our chicken, Tinkerbell, pops her head out to say hello. Because these elders are living with memory loss, each visit is a delightful new surprise, and we are always met with smiles.
“I could just sit here all day petting her!” ~ Silverado resident speaking about her rabbit visitor
Today, the 4th Thursday, we brought the mini horses, Toby and Persephone, along with three rabbits and Gabby the Golden Retriever. We are often moved by the stories we hear, prompted by our furry visitors, and today was no different. Because so many of the people in elder care now are of the generation that grew up on farms, they have an instant and visceral connection to our animals (horses, chickens, rabbits). One woman shared with us about her beloved horse she rode as a child on her parents’ farm, and she lovingly stroked Persephone’s face as if looking into the eyes of her own equine companion.
Across the room, a gentleman relaxing in his wheelchair welcomed a rabbit onto his lap. We placed Chanel (an Angora) in his arms and he immediately began caressing her silky ears, gently studying her long, white fur as he ran it between his fingers. Chanel then started to crawl out of her basket and up his chest, and he cradled her head in his hands. He then bowed his head and buried his face in her fur; he sat like this for several minutes, just breathing her in. Afterwards he beamed and didn’t want to let her go.
He couldn’t stop marveling at how soft and comforting she was.
Some moments with these elders are heartbreaking, some are joyful, and some simply touch us in our souls. Seeing these two together was a reminder that human nature is to love, whether we embrace a family member, friend, or furry creature.