THIS LITTLE PIGGY IS A THERAPY PET
By Rebecca DiNolfi ©
My name is Rebecca DiNolfi my potbellied pig Reggie and I are ex members of the Delta Society of, Renton Washington for service animals, and therapy pet partners. We began doing therapy work as pet partners in 1993 and continued until she passed into spirit in Nov 2007.
I am writing this to let you know about the important part potbellied pigs have played not only in my own life but also in other people’s lives over the years. I am considered an expert in that field ,and I contend that Potbellied pigs today are the most sought after therapy pet in the U.S. There are numerous potbellied pig partners in the US and Canada engaged in this kind of public service with amazing results for the patients that have had the pleasure to be visited by one or more of these porcine bundles of joy.
What a dog or cat can’t accomplish a potbellied pig certainly can and does. In all those years Reggie and I have visited over 75 different nursing homes and logged over 600 hrs alone that does not count the hospitals, special needs schools , adult day care centers, March of Dimes camps, schools, libraries, child day care centers ,and anywhere we were asked to visit. We were out doing therapy almost every week day somewhere. Reggie not only helped to heal me from 3 major heart attack but she brought joy and laughter to everyone she met along her merry way. Everywhere we went we were doing therapy..
The following account is about my potbellied pig Reggie and a few of her patients:
Funny Farms Reggie was a very special potbellied pig, and in her amazing life she has accomplished more than most people I know. Ever since she was 7 weeks old I had been taking her around the public. Potbellied pigs are very social animals if they are allowed to be. As the result of this very social upbringing we started doing Animal Assisted therapy at nursing homes, schools for special needs children, and orphanages for abused children, and anywhere we might be needed we try to go.
I am going to try to explain a little about what it means to be a care giver of one of the most dedicated little potbellied pigs in PA.
Hopefully when you finish reading our story you will understand just how important the addition of the potbellied pig can be to any City, anywhere, and how proud you should be to say so.
Allow me to begin by asking all of you to please read this with an open mind, and heart to what I have to share with you about the work that Reggie, and I did.
Please use your imagination to picture the following stories:
It was a wonderful day at the Fireman’s nursing home in NJ where we were making our appearance with many other potbellied pigs from our Pig club. Reggie and I walk around visiting the gentlemen. Then we see a man trying to get our attention.
Just picture a frail man sitting alone in his reclining chair, crippled from a stroke. We walk up to him and I ask him if I can help him move his hand to touch Reggie, and he indicates yes, so I carefully move his frozen hand to Reggie’s out stretched snout, as she gives a little grunt to say hello, a large smile appears across his weary face, and a little tear runs down his cheek because it hurts so bad to move his face muscles, and his arm, but I could tell how much he enjoyed Reggie’s visit.
Next take the little boy with a behavior problem at the orphanage for sexually, mentally, and physically abused children that our pig club put on a circus for. All he wanted to do was walk the pigs, every one, and he did. .
Then there was the little girl with Spina Bifada in a Phila School who left her tiny walker at the bottom of the steps to the stage where Reggie was performing, and crawled on her hands, and knees all the way up the steps and across the stage to the carpet to feed Reggie some treats, and get a piggy kiss.
Potbellied pigs make amazing therapy pets for children with any disability and they are also hypo allergenic ,so when a child can not have a dog or a cat because of allergies they can have a potbellied pig as a companion.
Then there was a young woman with Downs Syndrome who brought her own stuffed pig to our show for Reggie to see…
The little lady named Sally at Pine Run nursing home who tells her friend Reggie loves her best. She always saves a biscuit from her breakfast to share with Reggie as a special treat.
The man named Joe who never missed our show when we came to the Nursing home. He has passed away now, but I know Reggie made the last days of his life on this earth a lot happier, and that means a lot to me.
Then there were the 2 ladies in the nursing home who had been sharing a room for over 2 years and had never spoken a word to each other, After Reggie and I made our visit to them the nurses told me the next month that all they were doing was talking about how wonderful and cute Reggie was.
The blind woman who smiles all the time she is hand reading Reggie from end to end, top to bottom. She gets a real kick out of feeling her daisy hat and sunglasses Even though she is unable to see Reggie do her many tricks she can still get piggy kisses, and grunts of hello.
Then there is all the children that come running from the playground at camp to see our pigs as their parents grab their cameras so they can take a picture for their families at home to see.
. We pose for pictures and answer questions everywhere we go. Reggie and Pepper never leave the house without their swine finery on. I make all their costumes for every holiday and special occasions also.
There was the beauty pageant our club did for the opening of the show State Fair at the Miriam Theater on Broad St. in Philadelphia in Dec. of 1995…Mayor Rendell now our fine X Governor was one of our judges. That is where he first met Reggie and me. We are 2 of his biggest fans.
Then there is the little girl that saw us at Core Creek Park one Sat. She asked questions and took pictures of Reggie and Pepper for a project in school. We saw her at our fair a month later and she said that she got an A+ on her project ..She was thrilled, and so were we.
One day we were walking the girls in a local park across from the hospital when we saw a father was caring his little girl on his back, and he placed her beside Reggie, and Pepper so she could touch them then he apologized because he had to go and wash her hands immediately. She had Leukemia and she was dying, but she had a big smile on her face because she was able to touch the pigs.
Then there was the young boy that was so painfully shy and now because he had a pet potbellied pig he can walk proudly into a show ring with his pet, and emerged with a big smile on his face and a blue ribbon for his efforts in training her well.
And last but not least is the little girl who lived in a city who didn’t allow pet potbellied pigs. Who has befriended an abused potbelly her family adopted? She has been diagnosed with A.D.H.D, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, and Manic Depressive. Before this pig entered her life she couldn’t relate to or talk to hardly anyone. Now she rushes home from school to find her new pal anxiously waiting at the door for her arrival. As soon as she gets home she takes him for his walk and along the way she stops to answer each and every question she can about the little pig. She is now able to talk to people that she would never have been able to even look at let alone have any kind of conversation with. She falls asleep on the floor with her pig every night as her Dad caries her to bed her piggy retires to his crate till breakfast time with his best friend.
This dear child lived in constant fear that her beloved pet, friend and companion was going to be taken away from her at any time because of the law that still exists on the books in some cities. This should never happen to any child.
It seems to me that the crime in these cases is not the pig living as a pet in the home. But this little girl losing her best friend and companion…
What I am trying to tell each and every one of you is this. The potbelly pig is a wonderful addition to any community, or neighborhood, Sure they aren’t the pet for everyone, but for the ones of us that want them and love them they are a wonderful addition to our families They contribute so much to our lives, our homes, our children, and our communities. .
Winston Churchill once said’’ A dog will look up to you, a cat will look down on you, but a pig will treat you as an equal.
I have found that whether it is in a park, a campground, a flea market, nursing homes, schools, or even in Mayor Rendell’s office at City Hall. Everywhere I took our pigs I was doing therapy work for the people I meet. They always make someone laugh or smile, and that makes me very proud to have been the caregiver of 2 of the most wonderful potbelly pigs in Penna.
Let me finish by telling you that LIFE MAGAZINE selected Reggie as a Hero pet of the year. She was one of only seven animals honored by LIFE in the May 1997 Hero special edition. She was selected for saving my life. And also for all the wonderful therapy work she did in the past.
I sincerely hope that what you have read here will help you to understand how much these little companion animals mean to the families that have brought them into their homes, and hearts. They make wonderful therapy pets for children and adults alike.
The thing we need the most is to educate as many people as we can about the potbellied pig as a companion and a therapy pet..hey are quiet, clean and extremely intelligent animals..
Someone once said, ““Man is more nearly like the pig than the pig would like to admit.””
International Zoning Consultant & Animal Assisted Therapy Expert,Animal Communicator
http://www.chloesgarden.com/Reggie.htm my therapy pig dedication pages
Office Hrs: 9 to 4 Monday to Friday … Phone: (570)842-8118 firstname.lastname@example.org