Goat makes Pet Therapy visits to Mountainside Care Center
Margaretville – Misty the goat is a big hit at Mountainside Residential Care Center.
The dwarf goat has been making regular visits to the long-term care facility since April as part of Mountainside’s Pet Therapy program. Residents have quickly grown to love Misty and look forward to her visits. Misty belongs to Mountainside’s Activities Director Kathy Roberts. Misty was born in April and Kathy first brought in the tiny four-pound goat when her pet was just 11 days old.
The dwarf goat is not the first animal to make regular visits with Mountainside residents. One staff member brought her dog to work for several years and there have also been other dogs, cats and rabbits making regular stops to the delight of residents.
Pet Therapy has grown in popularity because research has shown that patients in hospitals and nursing homes who have regular visits from pets are more receptive to medical treatment and nourishment.
Studies have shown that animals can provide patients with the will to live. In nursing homes, staff members are often surprised to see residents suddenly “become alive” via Pet Therapy interactions. Animals have been found to have a calming effect on humans and can improve one’s mental well being, especially for children and the elderly.
As a result of this research, health care facilities have been relying on Pet Therapy as a valuable aid in reaching out to the elderly, the infirm, and to ill or abused children throughout the country. These animals are trained to be calm, gentle and well mannered. There are no breed requirements — nor, as Misty proves — no limits on the type of animals utilized in pet therapy.
Kathy usually brings Misty to work three days a week. The dwarf goat is nearly full grown at 19 pounds and Kathy tethers her to a cart as she makes the rounds among residents. When she’s let out of the cart, Misty is led around with a leash.
“Some residents don’t ask how I am, they ask how Misty is,” Kathy laughs.
Fits right in
Like most pets, Misty has quickly been spoiled by many residents who love bringing her snacks. She is very fond of cookies and bananas, Kathy noted.
Misty’s popularity has even resulted in residents buying her clothes, including a rain jacket. A typical outfit for Misty includes a small top and diapers.
Kathy noted that when she first began bringing Misty in, some residents thought she was a dog. The fact that she’s a goat doesn’t really matter — Misty’s lovable nature is what has made her so popular.
A number of family members of residents have called Kathy to confirm that a goat is among the Mountainside visitors and Kathy then explains the program to them. She has also developed Pet Therapy guidelines for the facility.
Kathy said the policy for Pet Therapy requires that the animals have had a veterinarian’s check-up and current shots. A mellow personality is also key.
She pointed out that while birds are the only pets allowed for residents, many family members bring in pet dogs and cats for visits.
“It’s sensory stimulation,” Kathy explained. “Most people had pets and they welcome the opportunity for this type of interaction.
Kathy said that state nursing home regulators are very supportive of the benefits derived from Pet Therapy programs.
That point was perfectly illustrated by one Mountainside resident who was visibly delighted to see Misty during her recent visit.
“She’s precious…she’s the sweetest little thing,” the resident remarked as she began petting her friend.
For Kathy Roberts and the rest of the Mountainside staff, such scenes tell the real story of the benefits of Pet Therapy.
Mountainside Residential Care Center is an 82-bed long-term care facility adjacent to the Margaretville Hospital. For additional information, please call 586-1800.