As far as pigs on the Vineyard go, Wendy is a superstar. For 10 years straight, Wendy and her brother Homer competed at the Agricultural Fair and every year they brought home blue ribbons. Then, in 2011, after a long and fruitful career, Wendy’s owner, Sue Schwoch decided enough was enough and retired the pig siblings.
“It was just getting to the point where it wasn’t fun for them anymore,” Ms. Schwoch said.
On Wednesday, though, Wendy made another public appearance. And she proved she could still cause quite a reaction. This was farm day at the Alzheimer’s wing of the Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Wendy, along with a sheep named Ida from the Farm Institute in Katama and a litter of newly born kittens, visited with nearly 30 patients.
Since the fall, Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary has been making monthly visits to Windemere, giving patients the opportunity to interact with animals and explore the natural world. Each visit has a unique theme that corresponds with seasonal changes, giving residents a chance to experience the world outside their doors, something many of them don’t get to do anymore.
“It's been great,” said Felix Neck education coordinator Josey Kirkland. “The residents light up. Getting to interact with something soft, something interesting, something you don’t see every day. It’s a really great treat for them.”
As the farm animals made their way around the room, the patients buzzed with excitement, and some let the animals eat out of their hands. The kittens, which were brought in from the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard, drew “oohs” and “awws” as they nuzzled their way into outstretched arms.
Penny Uhlendorf, who has been volunteering with Felix Neck for 20 years, walked around the circle of patients with a collection of plants. One patient named Mary recalled the tomato garden she had once kept in her yard. This kind of flashback is another goal of these therapeutic visits.
“It’s all about starting a conversation and letting [the patients] relate to each other,” said Ms. Kirkland. “Staff get a better idea of how to relate to residents but it’s also about [residents] relating to themselves. Whatever it might trigger, we let them have their experiences and see how it goes.”
To conclude the hour-long event, Ms. Kirkland read aloud Just Down The Road, a poem by Sharon Gulley, and then led the residents in a moderated version of Old McDonald, changed to Old McFelix.
This was the last visit until after the summer, but Felix Neck hopes to return to Windemere in the fall.