Victoria Smith at Visiting Hooves talks about therapy animals.
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*The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
And Welcome to answers for elders radio. Everyone, I’m here with a very special guest, Victorias Smith. She’s a founder and president of visiting hoofs and she’s here with a special friend. We have a therapy bunny here by the name of Topez, and the great thing about what we’re here to talk about is about therapy animals and Victoria, thank you so much for joining us on the program. Thank you so Xan, for having me. You know, it was really fun working with you on the twelve days of goodness. We had our first opportunity to work with you and really to understand how therapy animals can interact with seniors and especially those with memory care, and I can think of so many little moments that we got to witness that were so special and thank you so much for all the things that you did for our program last month. So it was wonderful. I just loved it. Well, we are really looking forward now to obviously talking today about therapy animals. So many of us, you know, we see stories on the Internet of maybe there’s a therapy dog, but did you know everyone here and greater puget sound we have an organization called visiting hooves and they do miniature therapy horses and therapy bunnies. And one of the things that I’m really excited to talk to Victoria about is, you know, how did you get number one, start it in this work and really how can the community support you and what you’re doing? So first of all I want to ask you a little bit about, you know, the background of how did you get started in doing therapy animals? Well, both of my parents passed away within eighteen months of each other and in visiting them in the nursing homes towards the end I would just leave there and tears because there was so many people sitting there in the hallways and in their rooms that no one ever came to visit and they just look so sad. Yeah, and after my parents passed away, I just got to thinking what can I do to help these people? It just I already had miniature horses and I thought, well, maybe I could use my horses to do this, to go visit people. So I actually saw contacted the largest nursing home in Lewis County, down where I live, and ran it past them and they just thought it would be wonderful. So I started visiting there with one of my horses and then I just snowballed from there. Everybody wanted the horses and so I started adding more horses and now I have four the that are actual therapy horses to go out right it. And then I added the bunnies because some of the seniors, especially in memory care, are a little bit intimidated by the horses. They’re a little large. So I added the Bunnies for those people. And and obviously you have to specially train every single one of these animals. Yes, the horses go through about six months of training. I actually do a lot of my training at home. Depot. Do you really and lows and places like that, tractor supply and now why do you choose those locations? Because there’s so much going on. There’s all of the people milling around, there’s dogs coming in and out, there’s people running by with lumber on tray, you know, yeah, things and lots of Distraction, lots of distraction, and they have the area set up with that look like kitchens and living rooms and things, a lot of them, and so we wander through there. So the horses think well, I mean in somebody’s house, because we even go to house visits. My goodness, that’s so interesting. And then, you know, obviously you said they train for six months before they ever do a and a, you know, go out in a formal capacity. And on your on your website, I noticed that you they all wear tennis shoes, which just is the most precious thing I’ve ever seen. How do you get tennis shoes to fit a Horse Hoof? I want to know, girls. They are actually made to Shit Teddy bears. Are they really? Yes, they come in two different sizes and they just lace right on and and they’re like little tinny runners for horror. And then use this and the one you’ve got up on your website. It’s actually one that’s got little bling on it. It is just the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. I can imagine that people look at these adorable miniature horses and think they’re wearing tennis shoes. That in itself has to be incredible. That’s actually the biggest comment that staff here’s after we leave, from the seniors, as always. Did you see those shoes? Well, and really about it’s about, really, you know, what an amazing thing that you get to do every day. I mean it’s like one of the things that you know I came from, you know, media and you know publishing and all those things. I never felt the fulfillment that I’m making a difference, and still until I started working with seniors. And then now that I do what I do, there’s this whole feeling of, you know, I get to make a difference every day, and I’m sure you have that feeling now as well too, don’t you? Oh, it’s just amazing. When I leave a facility I just I just feel so good and well, sometimes I have a few tears to write, but generally it just I feel so good and and it just really makes a difference in so many people’s lives. Well, I think that’s so cool. So, no, you’re based out of Toledo, which is down by Olympia. Right, is that? We’re Toledo is actually it’s halfway between Olympia and Vancouver. So I’m your way south. I’m probably fifty miles south of Olympia, my goodness sakes. So you drove all the way into our studio here in Seattle today and of course you drove all over for twelve days ago and, as she went, even all the way up to Muckleto fore an event that was that was quite a hike and of course with our Seattle traffic, and yet you know, you drive and and it is so incredible. Is, you know, obviously growing your business. There’s such a need out there in the community because I can see, as you know, one of the things that we’ve had Mr Bob Leroy on the show that executive director of Alzheimer’s Association and he says right now in state of Washington a hundred and fifty thousand people have been diagnosed with die with Alzheimer’s or dementia and they are being cared for over three hundred thousand caregivers unpaid. When you think of five hundred thousand unpaid you know providers or people out there that are affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia, you know there’s such a need for what you do to just to find ways of connecting and I am so grateful that you do what you do. It’s so such a needed service for sure. Well, thank you. So we are talking again to Victoria Smith. She is the founder and CEO and president of visiting hoovescom. It is a five hundred and one, see three and Victoria tell us a little bit about some stories of what you’ve experienced. Well, the ones that stand out the most to me. There’s a lady that I’ve been visiting for almost two years, years that’s in memory care and she doesn’t recognize her family anymore. She doesn’t talk, she just she doesn’t really open up to anyone. Yet when I come in with Chicki, who’s her my favorite horse, she will call her my baby, she kisses her, she hugs her everything and one day she’s but this lady is used to seeing the Horse in the memory care section of the facility. Well, one day I came to the front door of the facility and the lady was out in the lobby because they had just brought her back from doctor’s and she was sitting in a wheelchair and she saw us walk to the door and she goes chicky. Everyone around is looked at each other like I don’t believe this. She recognizes the Horse and she hasn’t seen her in a week and it’s in a different location. And there’s how there’s just so many things that have happened. I’ve got one big memory care facility that I visit twice a month that I go in there and people are just sitting there and they’re just in their own the little world, and they’re not really reacting to anybody right and the horse walks up and they light up and some of them sing to the horse. They will attest start telling it little stories, you know, things like that. And if one facility this is really funny. I A we went in there with the horses and this one lady was sitting in her wheelchair and she’s looking at the horse and she goes Tony and and she’s petting the horse and she kept but she wasn’t talking to me at all, but she kept talking tell calling the Horse Tony. Well, two days later I got a message from a lady and she’s wanted to thank me so much for visiting her grandmother and she said that she had gone into see her grandmother that evening and her grandmother kept talking about I saw Tony, I saw Tony, and the lady thought that all her grandmother was doing was reminiscing about a memory from when she was a child and she really thought that Tony had come to visit her. And it was chicky, but she thought it was Tony. But it was so wonderful because the the lady said that her grandmother was so thrilled that’s all she could talk about for days was love that Tony came to see her, and it was this. Things like that happened all the time. So we have you just such important work and one of the things I on your website that is really touched me and I want to put a thing out, is that I know that how important work that you do and you were in need of a cargo van so that you don’t have to haul a huge course trailer and so that you can get in and out of senior communities and parking lots and things like that with your horses much easier, and so you know, I know you’re having a fundraiser on that, but my feeling is if any of our listeners, like maybe some of our churches or things like that that might have a full cargo van that they would be interested in donating, I know that there might be some opportunities to work in conjunction with these therapy animals and we really want to take it upon ourselves on this show to try to maybe reach out and find some contacts for you, because I think this is a really important thing that you have something like that. So if you want to donate or you’re interested and helping with getting that cargo van, go on to visiting Hoovescom and you can either donate either through facebook, isn’t it, or through paypal. Is that correct? Yes, actually, the probably the best thing would be to just a contact me personally. Okay, through the website, okay. So just contact Victoria and and most certainly, I really believe that there there’s going to be some organization out there that has a van that they might be considering getting rid of that is in good shape that we could definitely utilize for just getting these animals to go to and from these different facilities, different communities and things like that. So, Victoria, thank you so much for being on the show with us today. We look forward to talk into you again. Thank you,
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Originally published February 03, 2018