Many hospitals employ therapy dogs to comfort and uplift patients, but at Calais Hospital in Northern France, a different sort of therapy animal roams the halls. Peyo is a 15-year-old dressage horse who used to compete professionally with his trainer Hassen Bouchakour. Now, he’s soothing patients and family members alike.
“Doctor Peyo,” as he’s known to the hospital staff, seems to have a special gift for detecting the sick or injured. Bouchakour says that even at competitions, Peyo seemed to seek out contact specifically with those struggling physically or mentally. After a few years of research, veterinarians believe Peyo’s brain functions in a unique empathy-rich way.
In the hospital, Peyo goes from door to door in the palliative care center, a facility for the terminally ill. Peyo has been highly effective for reducing patients’ stress and relieving anxiety for their family members as well. According to doctors, they knew how beneficial Peyo’s presence was when they noticed that patients who were regularly interacting with him required fewer intense drugs and pain medications.
Peyo has stayed with many patients right until the end of their lives. One patient, Daniel, was a former equestrian and developed such a connection with Peyo that when he passed away this year, his family requested that the horse accompany his casket to the funeral.
Animals have an innate power to comfort us even during our most difficult times. Perhaps this uplifting story of animal companionship will encourage more medical facilities to look into the healing benefits of animals.
Image source: Mediapart