Therapy Ponies Are Bringing ‘Comfort and Joy’ to Dementia Patients

libertygal/iStock via Getty Images
libertygal/iStock via Getty Images

Elaine and John Sangster are proving that sometimes, a pony’s place is in the house, hospital, or nursing home. Together, the husband-and-wife team run Therapy Ponies Scotland, an organization that brings Shetland ponies to homes and hospices throughout Scotland so that dementia patients and other residents can experience the restorative effects of the adorable animals.

“You walk into their bedroom with a pony and their faces just light up,” Elaine told Horse & Hound. “Sometimes you see people who never come out of their room sprinting down the corridor with their Zimmer frames!”

Lyn Irvine, a nurse consultant for Alzheimer Scotland and NHS Grampian (the regional public healthcare board), explained the mental health benefits of spending time with the ponies. “The interaction with the ponies often helps stimulate a positive social response … and minimizes stress and distress. The animals provide comfort, joy, and a sense of excitement,” she told Horse & Hound. It can also boost morale for the patients’ families, and Elaine said that patients' relatives often do plan their visits to coincide with the ponies' arrival.

Elaine said that sometimes a facility's staff isn’t quite sure what to expect of the Sangsters' brood before their first visit, which isn’t totally surprising; managing eight ponies indoors is quite a massive undertaking. But the couple has owned the majority of the herd since foalhood, so they’ve thoroughly trained them to be comfortable and obedient during home visits. They also groom them to perfection.

According to Elaine, the ponies are ”teddy-bear soft to the touch and smell beautiful.” They also attach “‘whoops-a-daisy’ bags” to the ponies’ rear ends, so that they don’t sully their stay with any defecatory disasters. “Every time we go into a care home people can’t believe how well-behaved and calm they are—we are so proud of them we could burst.” Staff members often ask the Sangsters for repeat bookings before the first visit has even ended.

Elaine and John have 15 ponies in total, and usually take eight to each visit. This gives all of the animals enough days off to prance about in their pen as they please.

Are you wishing there was a pony nearby so that you, too, could experience its therapeutic effects? If there isn't one within arm's reach, you could always try petting a cat or dog instead.

[h/t Horse & Hound]

‘Soft and Cuddly’ Venomous Puss Caterpillars Have Been Spotted in at Least 3 States

Wayne W G, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
Wayne W G, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The puss caterpillar is cute, cuddly, and coming to ruin your day.

USA Today reports that the highly venomous creature, also known as the southern flannel moth caterpillar, or asp, has recently been spotted in Florida, Texas, and South Carolina. Underneath its furry coat are tiny, potent spines that break off and attach themselves to your skin, causing excruciating pain and creating a hematoma, a bruise-like wound under your skin where blood has leaked from blood vessels.

According to University of Connecticut entomologist David Wagner, the caterpillar is dangerous partly because the sting of those spines becomes more painful over time. “It builds for a long time in a frightening way. No one expects stings to gain in impact or discomfort, and these will,” he told USA Today. “It packs quite a wallop.”

For one victim in Dade City, Florida, even medically administered morphine didn’t alleviate her agony. “It felt like someone was drilling into my bones,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “I cried and pleaded with God for hours to make it stop.”

puss caterpillar
going on going on, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

If one does happen to inch its way onto you, curb the instinct to flail about or swat at random—trying to brush off the adorable nightmare just increases the possibility of those sinister spines sticking to your skin. Instead, have someone carefully and calmly remove the insect with a twig or a 39-and-a-half-foot pole. Then, take a shower and wash your clothes to minimize further exposure to leftover spines.

As traumatizing as the experience sounds, your chances of meeting one of these fun-sized villains are hearteningly slim. Wagner explains that they’re particularly scarce above the Mason-Dixon line, and not even very common in southern states, where they’re usually spotted.

In short, this is just another scientific reason why you should stick to petting dogs.

[h/t USA Today]

8 Adorable Products You Can Buy for International Sloth Day

Good Luck Socks/Intelex via Amazon
Good Luck Socks/Intelex via Amazon

It’s that time of the year again, folks—the time when we all collectively lose our chill over a slow-moving, two- or three-toed mammal with an adorable squeak and poop that defies physics. That’s right: International Sloth Day is coming on October 20. Here’s a list of must-have coloring books, onesies, and Christmas sweaters that you can pick up to showcase your love of one of the internet's favorite animals.

1. Cuddly Microwaveable Sloth; $23

Microwavable sloth for International Sloth Day.
Intelex/Amazon

Warm your heart and your body with a plush sloth that doubles as a soothing heating pad. The toy is filled with millet grains and dried French lavender, a combination intended to help you get to sleep easier.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Hanging Ceramic Sloth Planter; $19

FattyBee Ceramic Sloth Planter.
FattyBee/Amazon

This flower planter pulls double duty, communicating both your love of sloths and your appreciation for plants. And it makes a tasteful piece of hanging home decor, too.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Sloth Coloring Book; $7

Sloth Coloring Book on Amazon.
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform/Amazon

Sloths themselves are already works of art, but you’d be forgiven for wanting a few more sloth-related crafts in your life. Now you can make your own masterpiece with this detailed coloring book. All you'll need are some colored pencils and you'll be ready to go.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Farting Sloth Coloring Book; $7

Sloth Farts Coloring Book on Amazon.
M & L Coloring Books/Amazon

But maybe traditional coloring books aren’t your thing. You’re in luck: Amazon sells a coloring book for the crowd that both loves sloths and laughs a little too much at farts.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Sloth Socks; $14

Sloth Socks on Amazon.
Good Luck Socks/Amazon

These socks are ideal for people who might not want to wear their love of sloths out in the open but are very comfortable showing it off on their ankles.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Sloth Onesie; $60

Tipsy Elves Sloth Onesie on Amazon.
Tipsy Elves/Amazon

No list of sloth-related products would be complete without a cozy onesie, and this one from Tipsy Elves is perfect for either pajamas or a last-minute Halloween costume. This onesie even comes with zippered pockets and cuddly sloth claws!

Buy it: Amazon

7. Sloth-Themed Ugly Christmas Sweater; $45


Tipsy Elves/Amazon

Why not celebrate the upcoming holiday season with this sloth-themed ugly Christmas sweater? You’re sure to be the hit of any holiday pub crawl or office Christmas party.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Sloth Mug; $13


Mika Mugs/Amazon

Really, what says it better than this mug? You just really freaking love sloths, and there’s nothing wrong with that, so be sure to declare your feelings along with your morning cup of coffee.

Buy it: Amazon

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