Barbara Shaer and “Rosie” with a young fan.
Photos/ Barbara Shaer
By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
When Barbara Shaer would go to visit her mother, Ida Baker, who was living in a nursing home, another regular visitor there was a therapy dog. Since Shaer had recently retired from a career in health care, her brother Stephen Shear suggested that she consider doing pet therapy as well – but with a twist.
“He knew I loved horses so he suggested I do it with them,” she said.
Intrigued, Shaer, who lives in Mansfield, started researching the idea, specifically with a miniature horse.
“It seemed like such a beautiful thing,” she said. “I knew it was something I wanted to do.”
Her search led her to a beautiful little class A miniature silver dapple horse, Rosie, who at the time was living in Connecticut with her previous owner. After buying Rosie, Shaer started working with the organization Pet Partners in order to train and then eventually be certified with Rosie as a therapy team. Assisting her along the way as well was a young friend, Mason Rober, 14.
After becoming certified in July 2016, Shaer tapped into her network to spread the word that she and Rosie were available for visits. And in a year’s time, they have gone to a number of facilities throughout southeastern Mass. and Rhode Island, such as libraries, assisted living and dementia care facilities and daycare for those with disabilities.
“It’s been busy but extremely exciting,” she said. “Everyone loves the idea.”
At every visit, Rosie enthralls all she meets, Shaer said.
“She has a warm, cuddly personality,” she noted. “People just love being in her presence and she loves being with them. She walks right up to everyone, whether they are in a chair, wheelchair or a bed. She will gently just put her head right in their laps so they can get nuzzle with her.”
Rosie has a “bond with all ages,” Shaer said, whether it is a child who wants a ride or to offer a kiss, a mentally or physically challenged teen who lights up upon seeing her or an elderly person who, although unable to communicate, still feels the magic that Rosie brings.
“So many people are trapped inside their own bodies,” Shaer said. “To be able to have that bond with these people and to bring them a sense of joy is so special. It may just be for a day, it may just be for a moment in time, but to offer this gift to them is very special.”
The two will also go to help with many fundraiser events, many times accompanied as well by Mason.
“Rosie is always a draw!” Shaer said.
Rosie has her own Facebook page (www.facebook.com/RosietheMini) where Shaer documents their visits. On it, the photos tell the story of just how much joy this little horse can bring into the lives of all she meets.