Kerry Netherton says the residents of Czorny Alzheimer Centre in Cloverdale love to celebrate, so when it came time for the first birthday of their unofficial ambassador, Netherton said they began planning a party “like you would anybody else for their first birthday party.
The catch? Their ambassador is Rosie – a mini pig.
The residents, staff and family members of Czorny Alzheimer Centre got together Saturday (April 27) to celebrate Rosie’s first birthday. Rosie is the centre’s therapy pig.
Netherton, the program co-ordinator of the recreation department at Czorny, said planning for Rosie’s party began about two months ago, adding that the residents love to celebrate.
— Lauren Collins (@laurenpcollins1) April 27, 2019
“We have seen that she’s been such an asset to our place. Everybody knows Rosie,” she said. “It seemed like it was going to be such a big project, and then we got her and time has flown.”
Getting Rosie, Netherton said, was about a six-month process that involved plenty of research including whether mini pigs are available in Canada, what would it take to care for a pig, could you house them inside and how would staff integrate a pig into daily programming.
“Upon doing my research, I discovered that they’re one of the four smartest animals,” Netherton said. “They’re clean. They’re hypoallergenic. They’re potty-trained. they’re trick trained. You can leash train them, and they’re also capable of emotions, so they’re quite vocal, they’re quite social.”
Netherton said that pet therapy is known for decreasing isolation, increasing socialization and alleviating loneliness in people.
“Not only has Rosie been hugely beneficial to the residents, but our staff, volunteers, families, they’ve all blended together to become a part of her life as well,” she said.
“It can be a struggle to visit people that have advanced dementia, what do you say when they can respond back? This has kind of bridged that when people will bring in the grandchildren now because now they have a purpose, they can bring their loved one down in to see Rosie and Rosie can be a part of that visitation, which makes it that much easier for someone who is maybe struggling with their communication.”
One of those people that’s been impacted by Rosie is Carmen Arndt, whose husband is a resident at Czorny.
“I was quite surprised at the beginning that they were even getting a pig,” Arndt said. “A care home having a pig was actually sort of way out of the ordinary for me. I mean, I’d heard of therapy animals and bringing in dogs or cats, or even horses, but never a pig. Never a live-in pig for that matter.”
But in the past year, Arndt has grown close to Rosie.
“She’s just been awesome to have here. She’s kind of like the ambassador to Czorny. She greets new families and keeps the kids coming back — that’s a big thing. The kids all want to visit her… She just makes the visit a little bit easier. It’s something to look forward to.”
Arndt said she usually visits her husband in the evenings when no one else is around.
“When I come, she’s kind of mine,” said Arndt, adding that staff was “very open” to Arndt bringing Rosie in to visit her husband. “He actually knows her name, which is amazing because he doesn’t really remember too much of anything. When I say, ‘Hey, I’m going to bring Rosie,’ he lights up.
“Part of the reason why I am involved with her is because I do see that reaction, and I know how beneficial it is.”
Rosie also has a Facebook page that Netherton updates: Rosie’s Life.