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Omaha Animals helping with physical therapy and lifting spirits

Posted: 10:56 PM, Feb 16, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-16 23:56:11-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — As a way to help people with physical therapy, some are turning to animals. You might think of dogs helping with the process, but it's not just man's best friend stepping up. Farm animals are also playing the role of helper as well.

At the Omaha Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, the sound of laughter could not be mistaken. It came from Mike Potter, who is in therapy after injuring his neck from a fall. Potter is getting help from a certain friend during this therapy session. "I brushed him, scratched him a little bit, chatted with him briefly but he didn't answer much," said Potter.

Despite the one-sided conversation, Potter was gaining strength back by brushing Harrison the calf, all while working on his balance to help prevent future falls.

"Sometimes we battle people refusing to come down and when you can present an animal or a different approach you can get them to engage in that session more," said Darin Foster, Director of Rehabilitation at the O.N.R.C.

The farm animals like Harrison come from Scatter Joy Acres. Joy Bartling of Scatter Joy brings the animals to places like this on a weekly basis. Not only does it help the people, but the animals don't mind it either. "It's therapeutic for them because they love being brushed and hugged, they're non-judgmental animals so they love to feel that affection," said Bartling.

Across town, Gus the goat, and Speckles the chicken are busy with an assisted living center. "Animals don't judge and so having an animal there to just be able to be there for the residents I think definitely helps with (depression and loneliness)," said Katie Slade of Country House Residence.

Whether it's mental or physical concerns, we can all use a little help sometimes, regardless if it comes from two legs, or four. "Its helps us focus on something other than our own issues, just a change in our regular routine," said Potter.

To find out more about Scatter Joy Acres visit scatterjoyacres.org