Alex Peters brought her mini-horse Gunner to Langley Lodge to visit her grandfather Walter Willoughby, to the additional delight of her mother Terry Peters and grandmother Mae Willoughby. (Bob Groeneveld/Langley Advance Times)

Mini-horse visits residents at Lower Mainland care home

Gunner turned a visit with grandpa into a major event for everyone at the residence

By Bob Groeneveld/Langley Advance Times

Nobody expected to see a horse at Langley Lodge.

But Gunner was exactly the right size to bring back memories.

Alex Peters wanted to bring her miniature horse to the Langley intermediate care home where her grandpa lives.

She hoped it would jog his memory, or at least bring him back to happy times.

“He is one of my top male figures in my life,” said Peters of her grandpa. “He has meant all the world to me.”

But Walter Willoughby has changed since he lived in Brookswood with his wife Mae.

“Every day is a different day for him,” Peters said. “He still calls me by name, but I can’t call him on the phone or he doesn’t know who I am. He knows me when I show up in person.”

The dementia that has slowed him down has changed him in other ways: “He was always Mr. Serious, now he’s the jokester, always saying the funny thing.”

Even his appetite has changed. “He used to be the skinniest man in the world. He was picky,” Peters said. “Now he eats anything.”

But Peters was hoping one thing hasn’t changed.

Horses have always been a big part of Walter Willoughby’s life, Peters explained.

“Sometimes people with dementia can communicate better with animals,” she said, as she prepared her surprise visit with Gunner. “He might not understand why the horse is there, but maybe it will connect him to when he was in the barns and with the animals.”

On Monday afternoon, not only was her grandpa enthralled, the Langley Lodge garden was veritably crowded with delighted residents who all had to say hello to Gunner.

Kyle Sanker, who works at Langley Lodge, said that Gunner was the first horse to visit the home, but was welcomed as part of a culture that offers a variety of experiences for residents.

Music, horticulture, and other programs try to involve residents with dementia in a way that help them to connect with something that they loved to do.

“Sometimes,” said Sanker, “they get a nostalgic feeling of being taken back to a point in their life – it comes back in a lucid moment.”

Peters, who is planning to be a healthcare worker, was clearly pleased at the effect that tiny Gunner – he stands only nine hands, “probably the size of a great Dane” – had on many of the Lodge residents.

She got the 12-year-old miniature horse as a resuce from Nanaimo, knowing little about him, except that his feet have been “moderately deformed – not enough to stop him from doing what horses do, but they’re not right.”

His feet certainly didn’t stop Gunner from delighting a 100-year-old Langley Lodge resident into expostulating, “I never thought I’d see a horse again, not in my home!”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19 cancels 2 main Armstrong-Spallumcheen events

Community Excellence Awards, Citizen of the Year, cancelled for 2020; both to return in 2021

Spallumcheen looks to photo contest for wesbite revamp

Residents would submit entries covering the four seasons for use on township website, documents

Vernon golf course to host national event local qualifier

The Rise hosts the RBC PGA Scramble qualifier Sunday, July 26

UPDATED: Interior Health to add 495 long-term seniors care beds

Nelson, Kelowna, Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton to receive new facilities

Boardwalk closures ahead for Vernon cyclists, pedestrians

Next phase of storm rehab project will see closures of up to 20 minutes

B.C. records 62 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths since Friday

Province has just over 200 active cases

Police search for suspect in assault on woman in downtown Kelowna

Kelowna police received a report a woman had been assaulted by an unknown man on July 12

Hotel rooms for B.C. homeless too hasty, NDP government told

Businesses forced out, but crime goes down, minister says

Two positive COVID-19 cases at Oliver farm

The risk of exposure to the general public related to this farm is considered to be low

Oliver Town Hall closed to public as staffer displays COVID-19 symptoms

One staff member at Oliver Town Hall is being tested for coronavirus

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

B.C. government prepares for COVID-19 economic recovery efforts

New measures after July consultation, Carole James says

Horoscopes for the week of July 13

Weekly horoscopes by Morgan Fava

Police keep eye on motorbike gang in Kelowna for poker run

The Throttle Lockers Motorcycle Club Poker Run was to have taken place on July 11

Most Read