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Four-legged friends offer comfort during pandemic to those in long-term care facility in Lynden

The organization Animals as Natural Therapy uses horses and other small animals to bring joy and comfort to seniors isolated in long-term care facilities.

LYNDEN, Wash. — The phrase 'you can lead a horse to water' dates back to the 12th century so it’s no wonder the connection between humans and horses is unique.  

For the last 15 years, an organization in Whatcom County has been saddling up with horses and other smaller animals to provide alternative therapy to seniors at assisted living facilities.  

Animals As Natural Therapy (ANT) has always given special attention to at-risk youth and believes animal-assisted education helps build respect, communication and responsibility.  

Visiting isolated senior citizens has been a popular component to their services and during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s become more vital than ever.  

Because of COVID-19 most of the senior care facilities are completely closed to visitors so the team at ANT decided to make the rounds!

"We can’t go in so we just visit guests at their windows," said Jessie Pemble, the assistant executive director of ANT.

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"It’s really emotional. I run the mobile program and we haven’t been able to visit people since February. We have relationships with a lot of these people we visit and it’s been hard not to go in and visit but bringing some of our animals to get smiles through the window is also powerful," said Pemble. 

The team from ANT showed up at Christian Healthcare Center in Lynden Thursday with a couple of horses, a bunny and a chicken.  

Executive Director and co-founder Sonja Wingard admitted even after 15 years of visiting seniors it still makes her cry.  

"To see the heart connection these animals make is amazing. It’s needed more than ever," she said. 

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