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

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

Four air ambulance flights out of Terrace delayed or cancelled

Pandemic precautions caused nighttime closure of service station providing weather data to pilots

Skeena Resources, Tahltan prez excited by purchase of Eskay Creek

Skeena gets full control of mine, Barrick gets 12 per cent of Skeena and a one per cent royalty

Seabridge Gold starts drilling along proposed tunnel route north of Stewart

Twin tunnels will connect the KSM mine to its mill and tailings site

Mother grizzly bear with two cubs spotted on Gruchy’s Beach trail near Terrace

Conservation officers also warning public to stay away from Grizzlies on lower Kitimat River

Recent surge in COVID-19 cases not unexpected amid Phase Three of reopening: B.C.’s top doc

Keep circles small, wear masks and be aware of symptoms, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. NDP changing WorkSafeBC regulations to respond to COVID-19

Employers say reclassifying coronavirus could be ‘ruinous’

Baby raccoon rescued from 10-foot deep drainage pipe on Vancouver Island

‘Its cries were loud, pitiful and heartbreaking,’ Saanich animal control officer says

Statistical flaws led to B.C. wolf cull which didn’t save endangered caribou as estimated

Study finds statistical flaws in an influential 2019 report supporting a wolf cull

Windows broken, racist graffiti left on Okanagan home

Family says nothing like this has happened since they moved to Summerland in 1980s

B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’ charged with sex assault of teenage boys

The man, 75, is accused of assaulting teenage boys he met through Coquitlam-area churches

B.C.’s potential deficit $12.5 billion as spending spikes, taxes drop

Finance Minister Carole James gives COVID-19 outlook

Canadians torn on scaling back COVID-19 benefits to save money: poll

Of those surveyed, 78 per cent said they were worried about the size of the deficit

‘Trauma equals addiction’: Why some seek solace in illicit drugs

Part 2: Many pushed into addiction by ‘toxic stress,’ says White Rock psychologist

Most Read