When I was in the rehab unit last February, a therapy dog came to visit twice a week. It was a beautiful standard Poodle, but by the time he reached me, he didn’t seem that interested in offering comfort; he just wanted to go home.
If only I’d been in France. Then, maybe I could have been visited by Peyo, a 14-year old stallion who has a particular aptitude for offering comfort. Accompanied by his owner, Hassen Bouchakour, Peyo vists hospitals and nursing homes. There, the stallion is given “free rein” to visit the patients of his choice, often choosing rooms where people are the sickest or dying and then nuzzling or licking them. Of course, since I wasn’t that ill, perhaps he might not have chosen to visit me.
The handsome chestnut is able to create a connection with the patients that is magical — patients become more verbal, more relaxed and happier. The horse has always been drawn to injured and sick people, even seeking them out at competitions.
Bouchakour worked with Peyo for several years to make the horse comfortable in unusual places — such as elevators and hospital rooms — and by housebreaking him. To prepare him for the visits, Peyo is prepped to make him as sanitary as possible: his mane and tail are braided, his hooves are greased and an antibacterial lotion is applied to his entire body, and he’s covered with a blanket.
What’s the most unusual therapy animal you’ve had contact with? Last week when I was vacationing in Florida, my daughter and I came across a man with a therapy dog who helped alert him when his oxygen levels were low. He told us that his German Shepherd Dog was very sensitive to several illnesses and would sometimes react to people that she met, alerting them to a potential medical problem. My daughter and I were relieved that she wasn’t very interested in us!