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Therapy animal service hurting amid coronavirus shutdowns

Visiting Hooves had planned hundreds of visits to care facilities in 2020, until the pandemic hit. #k5evening

TOLEDO, Wash. — UPDATE: Visiting Hooves is hosting a benefit walk on Sunday, April 11 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Seedpod Farm in Centralia. For more information on how to attend or donate, visit their Facebook Event Page.

Three to five times a week, Victoria Smith would bring miniature horses and therapeutic rabbits into nursing homes, memory care centers and senior living quarters.

Her organization, Visiting Hooves, has made people smile, laugh and sing from Seattle to the Oregon state line.

She had planned hundreds of visits this year. Then came the coronavirus epidemic.

“Everything suddenly just stopped,” Smith said. “All of my clients canceled.”

Her clients donated to Visiting Hooves every time they made a visit. No visits mean no donations.

“We have our ongoing bills to keep the nonprofit going and we have no income coming in from donations,” she said. “So it is scary for us.”

On her Toledo farm, Smith and her husband have four miniature horses outside in a pasture and eight rabbits who share a bedroom.

“They get the best food, the best hay, the best pellets,” she said.

All that hay and medication adds up. There are also insurance and car payments.

Smith and her husband are paying about a thousand dollars a month out of their own savings.

With all that weighing on her, Smith said her biggest concern is for the people she can't visit.

“Especially the Alzheimer's residents,” she said. “They don't have a lot of family visiting them often. They get very sad and lonely. Lots of them won't reach out to people."

 “Then we come in with the animals and they light up and smile and if it's a bunny they hold it on their lap and cuddle them and pet them and sometimes they will sing to them, and they will do the same thing with the horses. They will hug them and kiss their foreheads,” said Smith. “Like I said, I love it. I think it is my purpose in life.”

Credit: Visiting Hooves

In the meantime, to ward off worry and cabin fever, Smith is teaching her pony Angel to play a portable keyboard.

So when things do get back to normal, she'll have a musical treat for her friends.

If you'd like to make a donation, visit the Visiting Hooves Facebook page.

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