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

Second earthquake in two days strikes near Agassiz

A 2.6-magnitude recorded Saturday morning

Province bringing 421 new affordable childcare spaces to Fraser Valley

Supporting early childhood educators and creating spaces go hand in hand, minister says

Aspiring pot-sellers can apply in two weeks to operate stores in Abbotsford

City will accept applications to operate one of four new stores; public consultation to follow

Nine Abbotsford citizens fleeced for over $68,000 by bitcoin scammers

Police warn public about fraudsters who threaten arrest

Comic wins judgment after club owner slaps cellphone out of his hands

Incident happened last summer when Garrett Clark was performing in Abbotsford

‘Presumptive case’ of coronavirus in Canada confirmed by Ontario doctors

Man in his 50s felt ill on his return to Canada from Wuhan, China

People knowingly take fentanyl so make policy changes to reduce harm: B.C. study

Dr. Jane Buxton, an epidemiologist at the centre, says drug users need more resources,

‘My heart is going to bleed’: Bodies brought back to Canada following Iran plane crash

Remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, were identified last weekend

UBC grad and sister killed in Iran plane crash had bright futures ahead, close friend says

Asadi-Lari siblings Mohammad Hussein and Zeynab were two of 57 Canadians aboard downed Flight PS752

Surrey tells Uber to cease operations in city, but company ‘respectfully’ declines

Ridesharing company told to stop operating within the city by 9 p.m. Jan. 24

Coronavirus concerns cause cancellation of Langley Lunar New Year celebration

Close to 1,000 were expected to attend the annual Live In Langley event on Saturday

Second earthquake in two days strikes near Agassiz

A 2.6-magnitude recorded Saturday morning

BCLC opens novelty bet on Harry and Meghan moving to the west coast

Meanwhile, real estate agency points to four possible homes for the family

Most Read