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Covering New Ground: Mini at Tufts, part II

Published: 7/12/2012
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Editor's Note:
One visit at a time, Marsha Craig and her miniature horse, Lily, are breaking ground in the world of equine therapy. In two parts, Craig relates the first visits by a horse to major Boston medical facilities.
Click for Part I
Photos by Craig's niece, Cathie Godfrey

By Marsha Craig

We made our way to the Department of Psychiatry and stopped in a large open area.  Usually, Lily does room to room visits but due to some patients being allergic to horses, the open area was the best choice.  
The staff brought in two patients at a time. This gave each person an opportunity to spend more time with Lily.  Patient and staff alike enjoyed getting kisses, shaking hands, and petting Lily.
Many questions were asked and answered.  When each person got a kiss, Jack gave them a card we printed that said, "I got kissed by this horse today, I really did!!"  Jack also carries an album of Lily's baby pictures, her barn, her best buddy Garth (a Belgian who lives at Sleepy Hollow Farm in Dartmouth) and shares the pictures with those interested. 

Cathie took great pictures of each patient and staff member as they visited with Lily. Two hours later it appeared that the visit went well.
We left the main building and crossed the street to have a picture taken in front of the big bear. Each revolving door Lily approached directly and with confidence.  She wasn't fond of the noise from all the buses parked and running, but being a trooper, she handled it very well.
As we were getting Lily ready for the trip home, Tufts security guards came out to meet her. They got the kisses, hand shakes and rearing and they also seemed to be very happy to meet her. The visit took place on Saturday.
On Monday we heard from a Tufts representative via email:

"Hi Marsha, Jack and Cathie, I wanted to write you a quick note this morning to thank you all for such a wonderful visit. It really could not have gone better in any way.
The patients were so happy to be in Lily’s company. As I told you, several of them have been so depressed and despondent since admission. I saw them grinning from ear to ear during the visit.  

My graduate thesis was on the benefits of pet therapy. I believe in it, obviously, but to see it first hand was one of the highlights in my career. We are all so thankful that you spent the time to visit the unit. 
Patients with mental illness are often the most ignored and I know they felt very special on Saturday... "

No visit is complete until we select the best picture of each person.  We print that picture and on the reverse side print facts about Lily that people most often ask, laminate the picture and return all pictures to the facility to be given to each person. 
Each picture serves as a reminder of a happy part of their day.  The best part of this process is to relive and enjoy the visit all over again.
People ask me if I trained Lily and I answer YES.  Truth be known, she had the temperament for therapy work. All I did was work with her every day for a year to gain her trust.  Every visit we do, Lily does something that surprises us and makes us proud.

Lily does visits every Tuesday and every other Saturday.  We'd be lying if we didn't admit there are days we would rather be able to stay home.  But even on those days we marvel at what a great visit it was and how Lily touched lives and all is well with our souls.

Cathie once said, "Lily is a gift." You'll get no argument from Jack or me.  
A dear friend, Meghan Hamilton Yallen, owner of Sleepy Hollow Farm, said: "You changed their whole day!!! Maybe even week!! Simply amazing what you three do! Love it.”

Jack, Cathie, Lily, and I have the best job one could ever hope to have.  Our paycheck is the smile, the happy tear, the story that someone hadn't thought of in years, the Alzheimer patients who can all of a sudden remember pets they once had, the many times we're told "God bless you" as we leave their room.
Best Job Ever!

View Reader Comments:

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7/12/2012 Cherrie
No words necessary....Lily is a gift!
7/12/2012 rhonda almeida
Great Job!
7/12/2012 Kristy
What an awesome article! Love Lily!
2/21/2013 Mary Ryan
How generous of them to share their love and time bringing joy to others!
3/19/2013 Linda Cayer
What an awesome thing you and Lily do. I bet the patients just love her.
4/17/2013 Coco and Jake
Hi Marsha I found this article on a random Google search, but I also visit Tufts with my Abyssinian cat, Jacoby (aka Strollercat)! Nice to virtually meet you and LIly!

"A canter is the cure for every evil" - Benjamin Disraeli, The Young Duke