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Max therapy: MAX THERAPY

October 19, 2018 GMT

Many people have heard of pet therapy involving dogs and even ponies, but Parkway Place, a faith-based, nonprofit senior living community, has a new animal providing comfort to members: a pig.

Max is an American Mini Pig who rides around the community in his red wagon side-by-side with his owner, brightening the day of those living in assisted and independent living, as well as memory care and skilled nursing.

“All residents of Parkway Place, including assisted living residents, enjoy Max thoroughly,” said Dionne DuBose, activity director at Parkway Place. “Several residents reminisce when they play with Max.

“They say he brings back memories of their childhood and living or working on a farm. Max makes some of the residents giggle when they see him go by in his red wagon. Some are even amazed that he is so hairy! Mainly they just love on him because he is an animal, and they love animals. Max really leaves an impact on the residents when he visits, and we love having him at Parkway Place.”

Pet therapy has numerous mental and emotional benefits for seniors, including socialization, mental stimulation, higher comfort levels and a boost in self-esteem.

“Even patients with severe Alzheimer’s will reach out to pet him,” said Nicole McPherson, an administrator with Buckner Hospice.

McPherson knew about pet therapy and had seen how the therapy dogs that visited seniors really improved their mood.

“I wanted to provide pet therapy as well, but I wanted something different, and I chose a pig. After I got my mini pig, Max, I put him in obedience training through the American Mini Pig Association. He has learned to sit, stay and he can spin. We are teaching him to paint,” said McPherson.

The American Mini Pig is a breed that has been developed over the years by combining a variety of breeds from around the world. Health and temperament are the most important aspects of the breed since American Mini Pigs have been developed for the sole purpose of being raised as pets/companions.

A compact, sturdy size of 15-20 inches gives the American Mini Pig a smaller stature than other breeds, which is suitable for indoor/outdoor homes. It’s the perfect size for a pet pig. Weight varies based on the body condition of the pig, with focus on a healthy, robust, athletic build.

Due to the variety of breeds that contributes to the genetics of the American Mini Pig, this breed is one of the most varied in color and markings.

The American Mini Pig Association provides a host of information for breeders, veterinarians and owners, such as nutrition, training, to health care, rescue and more. Its mission is to educate, advocate, protect miniature pigs, improve breeding practices, as well as encourage responsible mini pig ownership, to further the progression of the breed through DNA parentage confirmation and future documentation of ancestry.

The first reaction people have when they first see Max is a huge smile before they say, “That’s a pig!”

Many people ask McPherson what it is like to have a pig, and she tells them Max is just like having a dog.

“He is potty trained. When he needs to go, he goes to the door and we let him out, and he sleeps inside,” McPherson said.

McPherson takes Max with her to Parkway Place about once a month for the residents to enjoy his company. Yet, when they see her at other times, they always ask about, and for, Max. The bottom line is Max simply makes everyone smile, and that, one might say, is the start of a good day.